In the rock world, December 8 tends to be remembered as the day that Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon in the back four times outside of his apartment building in New York City, killing the former Beatle and ending a musical era. But fans of heavy music hold today as the anniversary of an equally senseless tragedy. On this day in 2004, former Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was shot and killed while on stage playing guitar with his band Damageplan in Columbus, Ohio. The shooter, a guy named Nathan Gale who also killed three other people at the venue, was shot and killed by police at the scene. It’s uncertain what Gale’s reasoning was for the attack, though investigators later found that he was a paranoid schizophrenic whose journals suggested that he was deeply disturbed and was convinced Dimebag was stealing his thoughts.
The legacy of “Dimebag” Darrell cannot be understated. As a founding member of Pantera, he shed the band’s initial glam metal sound and married good old-fashioned Sabbath stomp with a swampy hint of Southern rock and a bit of Texas hardcore, resulting in a stew of buzzsaw guitar riffs and psychedelic solos. Abbot’s guitar work — combined with the band’s rhythmic stomp and singer Phil Anselmo’s primal growl — made Pantera an extremely popular and highly influential pack of headbangers. Starting with 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, they created a body of work that was top-notch, right through their breakup in 2003. Just listen to the savagery contained within songs like “5 Minutes Alone” and “Revolution is my Name” for a peek into the world of one of metal’s greatest bands.
For more on “Dimebag” Darrell, you should check out the excellent (albeit unauthorized) biography Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott. As a tribute to Abbot on the fifth anniversary of his untimely passing, here is Pantera’s “Walk,” an absolute stone-cold classic.