“Pantera: Screaming Black Messiahs (Unauthorized)” is a DVD
chronicling the history of a Texas band that reached the height
of fame during the 1990’s. In my opinion, Pantera and Slayer
represent the heaviest of the “well-known” bands.
This informative, 66-minute documentary was released during
2008, and featured interviews with Pantera band members,
along with people who either worked with them, or knew them
well. However, it is not a concert film! Therefore, those expecting
to see footage of Pantera in concert may be disappointed.
Originally formed in 1979, Pantera started out in the “glam-rock”
vein, plying their trade as a successful cover band. Tommy Bradford,
their bass player from 1979 to 1982, contributed a lot of the
information about these early years. Vinnie Paul and Darrell
Abbott were brothers who played drums and guitar, respectively,
and were Pantera mainstays throughout the band’s existence.
Their father, Jerry, was initially their manager. Pantera was formed
while they were still in high school, and Darrell was in his mid
teens. He soon developed into one “helluva” guitarist.
In 1981, Pantera toured for the first time, opening for major bands,
such as Judas Priest and Ozzy Osborne. By 1986, they had released
three albums. The following year, they were joined by Phil Anselmo,
and released their heaviest album yet, “Power Metal.” Pantera
originally featured two guitarists, but by this time, Darrell was their
sole guitarist. He was originally nicknamed “Diamond Darrell,” but
was now known as “Dimebag Darrell.”
Shortly after the release of “Power Metal,” the band was signed by
ATCO Records, and their 1990 release of “Cowboys From Hell,”
ushered in a new era for the band. Gone were the days of “glam
metal.” Driven by songs like “Cemetery Gates,” Pantera now played
with an ultra-heavy style in the thrash vein, which soon became
known as “Groove Metal.” In 1992, they released “Vulgar Display
of Power,” following it with the 1994 release of “Far Beyond Driven.”
Each album seemed heavier than its predecessor, and according
to most aficionados, Pantera was at its “purest” during these years.
Phil Anselmo’s over-the-top vocals assisted the insane intensity
of their stage shows. Unfortunately, Anselmo had drug problems,
and a rift manifested between him and the other band members.
The schism escalated, reaching a point whereupon Anselmo
recorded his vocals in his hometown in Louisiana, while the remainder
of the band recorded their parts in Texas. The final mixing was
then done in Los Angeles.
In 1996, Anselmo collapsed on stage, from a heroin overdose. He
further distanced himself from Pantera by engaging in side projects
with his band, “Down.” Meanwhile in 1997, “Cowboys From Hell,”
“Vulgar Display of Power” and “Far Beyond Driven” all went
platinum, and the band’s fame reached its peak. After three more
albums, including a “live” album, they basically called it quits
Vinnie and Dimebag Darrell formed a new group, “Damage Plan,”
and at one of their concerts in 2004, Darrell was fatally shot by
a fan. In fact, he wasn’t the only person killed on stage that night!
As a result of this violence, any fan hopes for a Pantera reunion
were put to rest.
This documentary was dedicated to the memory of Dimebag Darrell,
and the last several minutes of it discussed the horrific
circumstances of his untimely demise. He was one of the genre’s
greatest “axemen.” When it was mentioned that one of his longtime
heroes, Eddie Van Halen, spoke at his funeral and placed one of
his own signature guitars in Darrell’s coffin, my eyes actually
welled up with tears.
Some of the post-1990 Pantera albums received “Parental Advisory”
cover labels. They were uncompromising in their music, and never
cared about trends or critics. Their concern was forging their own
brand of “metal mayhem,” and their fans loved them for it. This
“Unauthorized” DVD tells their story quite well. Bonus features
include text biographies of more than 20 people who were either
involved with and/or interviewed for this film. I recommend it for
Pantera fans, and those “metal in their blood!”