Founded in 1981 in Arlington, Texas, as a glam-rock cover band, Pantera became one of the nation’s most popular heavy metal groups of the 1990s. The quartet, known for its “groove-metal” sound, released five major-label studio albums and was nominated for several Grammy awards before disbanding in 2003.
The band’s original lineup included drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, his brother and guitarist Darrell Abbott (known as “Diamond” Darrell and ultimately as “Dimebag” Darrell), guitarist Terry Glaze, bassist Tommy Bradford, and vocalist Donnie Hart. Hart and Bradford left the band shortly after its formation, and Glaze took over on vocals. Bassist Rex Brown (known for a time as Rex Rocker) replaced Bradford and remained with Pantera thereafter. During its early years, the band produced three independent albums, recorded at Pantego Sound Studio, the recording facility of Jerry Abbott, father of Vinnie Paul and Darrell. Metal Magic (1983), Projects in the Jungle (1984), and I am the Night (1985) were rooted in glam-rock but also evolved increasingly toward a heavy metal sound.
In 1986 Glaze left the group, and Pantera shifted decidedly away from glam-rock toward heavy metal, trying out a variety of vocalists until settling on New Orleans-native Philip Anselmo in 1987. With Anselmo as its new lead singer, the band released Power Metal in 1988, an album that introduced elements of thrash metal to their sound. Pantera signed with Atco Records the following year and began work on Cowboys From Hell (1990).
While recording Cowboys From Hell, Pantera developed its signature sound, often referred to as “power groove,” which was a blending of thrash metal and groove metal. This sound, which catapulted the band to international acclaim, featured rather hard-edged vocals by Anselmo, complex guitar riffs from “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, and high-energy drumming by Vinnie Paul Abbott. The album would eventually be their first release to go platinum. The group continued to perfect the “power groove” sound on 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power, an album that debuted at Number 44 on the American Billboard charts, and gave Pantera widespread radio airplay. The band’s success continued when Far Beyond Driven (1994) debuted in the top spot on both the American and Australian Billboard charts, giving Pantera its first Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for the song “I’m Broken.” Some critics have credited the influence of Pantera, rather than the ascension of grunge, with causing the decline of glam metal.
Despite such success, Anselmo, who was suffering from a heroin addiction, distanced himself from the rest of the band after they returned home from their international tour in 1995. This continued during the production of The Great Southern Trendkill (1996), for which Anselmo laid down his vocal tracks in New Orleans, while the rest of the band recorded in Texas. The album met with limited success, and Pantera opted for a four-year hiatus. They were a mainstay, however, at Ozzfest in 1997 and 1998, and Pantera composed the fight song for the NHL’s Dallas Stars during the team’s 1999 Stanley Cup run. The group returned to the studio in 2000 to record its final album, Reinventing the Steel, which debuted at Number 4 on the Billboard Top 200 and gave the band its fourth Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for the song “Revolution is My Name.” The group toured internationally until late 2001, but a feud between the Abbott brothers and Anselmo caused Pantera to disband in 2003.
Following Pantera’s breakup, the members went on to form other groups. Anselmo split his time between two bands, Super Joint Ritual and Down (accompanied by Rex Brown), while the Abbott brothers formed Damageplan in early 2004. Tragically, on December 8, 2004, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was killed onstage when a gunman shot him during a Damageplan concert in Columbus, Ohio. Despite the band’s troubled history, Pantera made a lasting impact regionally, nationally, and internationally and is often considered a major influence on late 1990s alternative-metal bands, such as Korn and Fear Factory.