“THEY WERE FUCKING MONSTERS”
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
“WE THOUGHT THEY WERE A POSER BAND”
BUT EXODUS WERE PROVED WRONG WHEN THEY TOOK PANTERA ON TOUR
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.
WORDS: DAVE EVERLEY
“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