The former Pantera frontman’s rise, fall, and redemption
There really are few people in metal who can talk with more authority than Phil Anselmo.
The intense, beefy frontman led Pantera out of the Texas underground in the early ’90s to become one of the biggest, most influential metal bands in history. Pantera’s riveting Behind the Music episode traces the band’s meteoric rise and tragic fall (essential viewing for anyone who’s ever set foot in a concert venue.)
“We were the most confident, youthful, tight, fucking energetic package, especially in a live situation,”
Anselmo recently told DigBoston from his New Orleans home. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt that kind of chemistry and power, other than just standing up on stage with that group of guys. They were such top-notch talent. I miss it very much.”
Anselmo, who went on to front stoner metal titans Down, laments Pantera’s breakup, which was marked by ugly in-fighting as the singer struggled with a nasty and debilitating opiate addiction. He says he’s never really come to grips with losing not only the band, but his friend-ship with brothers Vinnie and Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott, who formed Damage Plan after Pan-tera’s demise. Dime, one of metal’s greatest guitar heroes, was infamously slain on stage in 2004. Pantera bassist Rex Brown played with Down for years before leaving last year.
“I miss Dime. I miss Vince and I miss Rex. I miss those days terribly,” Anselmo said. “I’m very fortunate and humbled by the fact that people still acknowledge Pantera and keep us in the history of heavy metal when, really, our time was so short …
“Had Dimebag not been murdered, I do believe we would have buried the hatchet a long time ago,”
he continued. “I believe that we would have toured. I believe we would have perhaps done another record. I do believe that in my heart … I’ve got to keep moving forward and keep doing good things, positive things in life. I made a lot of young mistakes but now I see them for what they are.”
Part of his plan to move forward has been to periodically lay a wallop on the metal world via Down, a supergroup that includes both Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein and Corrosion of Con-formity’s Pepper Keenan on guitars, and Eyehategod’s Jimmy Bower on drums. Brown was re-placed last year with Pat Bruders, formerly of fellow New Orleans hellions Goatwhore.
“It’s really, really fucking good, man,” Anselmo says of the state of Down.
“As far as relations go, and everybody being on the same page and chemistry and all that, it’s very good. It’s the best it’s been in a very long time.”
The band’s new Purple EP is a massive slab of muscular, groove-packed stoner metal. “Witchtripper” and “Levitation” are powerful, grinding, and riff-filled, fitting in seamlessly with Down classics like “Bury Me in Smoke.” All six tracks on the new EP could have easily been on the band’s vintage 1995 NOLA album.
“There’s no real reason for us to make rocket science out of something we’ve been doing since 1991,”
Anselmo says. “The way we approached this record was very old-fashioned for us. We didn’t over think anything. We just let the songs come to us.” Anselmo also runs his own New Orleans-based label, Housecore, and is finishing up a solo album with guitar virtuoso Marzi Montazeri. His past mistakes haunt him, but he says he’s finally put his self-destructive ways in the rearview. “I’m a more even-tempered fellow these days. I’m actually in a really good place right now.”
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