The only thing that matched Pantera’s live prow­ess was their abil­ity to party. Don’t be­lieve us? Ask the bands who had to share the road with them

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Pantera -



The fact is, no band em­bod­ied me­tal in the 90s like Pantera. It was there in the records they made, of course – no one else came close to the ti­tanic punch of Vul­gar Dis­play Of Power or Far Beyond Driven. But their al­bums were only part of the story. An equally sig­nif­i­cant foun­da­tion for the Pantera leg­end was the band’s stel­lar live shows. For much of the 1990s, they were the great­est band to grace a stage – a four-man hur­ri­cane of en­ergy, fu­elled by al­co­hol and right­eous fury.

Sepul­tura toured with Pantera in 1994, and gui­tarist An­dreas Kisser would jam Walk with them ev­ery night. “When they got on­stage, it was sen­sa­tional,” he re­mem­bers. “They were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and the sound would shake you to your core. I’m go­ing to keep those mem­o­ries in a very safe place, with a lot of love.”

By the time Phil Anselmo joined in 1986, the band al­ready had five years sweat­ing it out in the stink­ing back­room clubs and cow­boy bars of Texas un­der their belts. Orig­i­nal singer Terry Glaze re­calls a typ­i­cal show.


“I re­mem­ber one gig, we drove out to Abi­lene, Texas and played a gig be­hind chicken wire,” says Terry. “It was like a scene from The Blues Brothers, with cow­boys. We’re these lit­tle kids wear­ing span­dex, play­ing ZZ Top mu­sic. But we were good and we won ’em over.”

Those early sink-or-swim gigs honed Pantera into a fear­some live propo­si­tion, but it was the ad­di­tion of Anselmo that took them to an­other level. Ex­o­dus singer Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza re­mem­bers tak­ing Pantera out as sup­port band just as they re­leased Cow­boys From Hell.

“We thought they were a poser band, a glam band,” says Zetro with a laugh. “I called my man­ager and said, ‘Have you seen these guys? They’re gonna get tor­tured!’ And he said, ‘No, no – they’ve changed their mu­sic style, lis­ten to the record.’ Then we see them get big­ger suc­cess than Ex­o­dus ever achieved.”

For­mer Skid Row singer Se­bas­tian Bach first saw Pantera in their orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion in Forth Worth club Savvy’s in 1986. Five years later, he in­vited them to sup­port Skid Row on the US tour in sup­port of their Num­ber One al­bum, Slave To The Grind.

“I stood there at the side of the stage, watch­ing Pantera at the height of their power and tight­ness and I was, like, ‘I have to fuck­ing go on­stage after that?!’ Oh my god, it re­ally wasn’t easy.”

It wasn’t just on­stage where Pantera were build­ing their rep­u­ta­tion. Be­fore and after the shows, their tour bus and dress­ing room would be ground zero for any­one want­ing to party. Te­quila, beer, the in­fa­mous Black Tooth Grin – two shots of Sea­gram’s 7 whiskey, two shots of Crown Royal and a splash of Coke – would be lined up, beg­ging to be drunk. It all helped build up the myth of Pantera as the ul­ti­mate good-time band.

“Oh man, there was no myth,” says Se­bas­tian Bach. “That’s who those guys were. On­stage, off­stage – it was a 24/7 party. But the par­ty­ing never got in the way of the gig. Up there, they could have taken on any­body.”

Through­out the 90s, Pantera notched up show after killer show, tour after land­mark tour. They opened for Ju­das Pri­est and Skid Row, and played the land­mark Mon­sters Of Rock fes­ti­val in Moscow. In 1992, they sup­ported Me­gadeth. “Oh, we fuck­ing crushed them,” re­called Phil of the lat­ter. “We played with a chip on our shoul­der ev­ery sin­gle night. All the years be­ing bogged down in the fuck­ing clubs most cer­tainly fu­elled me.”

At a time when me­tal was in dan­ger of flatlin­ing,

Pantera kept its pulse beat­ing. In 1996, just be­fore nu me­tal rein­vig­o­rated the scene, they teamed up with White Zom­bie for a co-head­lin­ing US tour. The shows were a huge suc­cess, but the dark­ness that had been brew­ing be­hind the scenes spilled over. Phil’s phys­i­cal ex­er­tions had grad­u­ally caused the discs in his spine to dis­in­te­grate and he turned to heroin to kill the pain. On July 13, after a tri­umphant home­com­ing gig in Dal­las, he OD’d.

“When I turned to heroin, that was me clos­ing the fuck­ing door,” he later said. “That was me say­ing, OK, I’ve had enough, fuck off and let me suf­fer. Just let me suf­fer. I’ll get to these fuck­ing gigs by hook or by crook and I most cer­tainly chose the crook.”

Post-over­dose, Phil cleaned up his act, al­beit tem­po­rar­ily, but it marked the start of Pantera’s de­cline as a pow­er­house live band. By the time of 2000’s Rein­vent­ing The Steel, the writ­ing was on the wall. When they re­turned to the UK that spring, they were a shadow of their for­mer selves, a slug­gish and in­co­her­ent Phil crip­pled by back pain and what­ever he was med­i­cat­ing him­self with to get over it. Within a year it was over, fiz­zling out with a whim­per.

But that wasn’t Pantera, not re­ally. The real Pantera was the band who’d ex­ploded from the dives a decade ear­lier to drag me­tal kick­ing and scream­ing into the 90s, bend­ing au­di­ences the world over to their will as they did it.

“Pantera were fuck­ing mon­sters on­stage,” says Se­bas­tian Bach. “There’ll never be an­other live band like them.”

his par­ty­ing Dime never letof his play­ing get in the way

Se­bas­tian Bachand Dime­bag in 1993. Pos­si­bly alit­tle tipsy… Phil on­stage on March 18, 1990, long be­fore heroin crip­pled him

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