photo & text by nacrowe
its funny now, but i remember that summer in 1996 when METALLICA's LOAD (ELEKTRA, 1996) was released. people forget now, but those five years between THE BLACK ALBUM (ELEKTRA, 1991) and LOAD were fairly consequential. NIRVANA and ALTERNATIVE ROCK in general had exploded and METAL was feeling a bit tired and antiquated in comparison. forget HAIR METAL, which was effectively exterminated post-1991, for it seemed like huge METAL bands of the past either followed suit and limited their guitar solos and dressed differently (cough, cough, cut their hair) or just broke up altogether. there was just one band it seemed that was flying the flag for METAL at the time: PANTERA.
in NIGERIA when i was in middle school there were a fair amount of older METAL heads from basically everywhere. places like VENEZUELA, LEBANON, GHANA, UNITED KINGDOM, SOUTH AFRICA, etc. it felt like pre-LOAD everyone was split down the middle between PANTERA and METALLICA being the best METAL band on the planet. post-LOAD everyone conceded that METALLICA were effectively over and PANTERA was it by default.
just compare LOAD and THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL (EAST WEST, 1996), or rather there is no comparison. it is almost embarrassing.
arguably that claim to being a heavyweight first started with PANTERA's major-label debut album COWBOYS FROM HELL (ATCO, 1990). yes, i know about the self-releases and nobody cares about them. PANTERA effectively began as a cultural entity in 1990 when COWBOYS came out. at the time singer PHIL ANSELMO was very much in his ROB HALFORD phase with the screaming falsetto's on songs like "SHATTERED" and the "THE ART OF SHREDDING." he had yet to discover his the lower octaves of his voice and his own inner HENRY ROLLINS/MIKE MUIR which became his persona and sound thereafter. "CEMETERY GATES" is an orchestrated, epic multi-part standout ballad (and a sly reference to the similarly titled SMITHS song). who knew that ANSELMO was a closet admirer of MORRISSEY? i sure didn't at the time.
the real star of the show however is DIMEBAG DARRELL, or rather DIAMOND DARRELL as he was known then, and his insane guitar work and solos which were both technically proficient and had feel for days. to my ears his grooves are like ZZ TOP on methamphetamines. listening to this album just induces headbanging. it could even be described as danceable. its addictive, contagious and really creeps up on you. case in point are my two favorite tracks "DOMINATION" and "PRIMAL CONCRETE SLEDGE." it absolutely crushes, even by today's standards.
i remember when LOAD came out just how much of a let down it was. what i dont get is how anyone compared THE BLACK ALBUM favorably with COWBOYS FROM HELL, which came out within a year of each other (PANTERA coming out first). in my mind, METALLICA backed out long before 1996. but hope springs eternal i guess.
if you arent familiar with PANTERA, COWBOYS is a great starting point. i'd also point you to VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER (ATCO, 1992) and FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (EAST WEST, 1993) which took their sound to even more extreme heights. seminal records by a seminal band. rest in peace brothers in METAL, DIMEBAG and VINNIE PAUL.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
the VICE subsidiary NOISEY which produces content on its YOUTUBE channel dedicated to largely underground aspects of global MUSICAL CULTURE did a deep dive a few years ago with their seven-part series NOLA: LIFE DEATH & HEAVY BLUES FROM THE BAYOU (NOISEY, 2014) into the origins and legacy of SLUDGE METAL and its LOUISIANA origins.
in essence this series investigated specifically that music of DOWN members and proud LOUISIANANS JIMMY BOWER (EYEHATEGOD), KIRK WINDSTEIN (CROWBAR), PEPPER KEENAN (CORROSION OF CONFORMITY), and PHIL ANSELMO (PANTERA, SUPERJOINT RITUAL) as well as members of ACID BATH and GOATWHORE among others. in essence these musicians were heavily influenced by their surroundings. rural living and laid back southern vocal affectations manifested in rhythm tempos that were decidedly relaxed and slower in cadence. this tempo shift is in direct opposition to the concurrent strains of THRASH METAL and DEATH METAL that took place in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. in case you find this a little jarring, its important to consider that JAZZ, another LOUSIANA contribution to the AMERICAN musical tradition, was rooted in the STORYVILLE red light district of NEW ORLEANS where musicians would shift their tempos to the rhythms of a brothel's occupants in lieu of securing a tip.
SLUDGE METAL is a thick, brutal METAL sub-genre which traces its roots to bands like THE MELVINS (from rural WASHINGTON state) and particular BLACK SABBATH (famously from the industrial wasteland of the MIDLANDS in ENGLAND), but it is hard to argue that it found a true home in LOUISIANA. again, interesting to see how landscape, location and even linguistics impact art and music. when you consider that SLUDGE METAL has influenced the likes of the even more extreme and sonically stretched-out explorations of modern DRONE METAL and POST METAL which revel in the nuances and textures of space and distortion, it is intriguing to consider what spices have been added to that gumbo. who knows where its all heading next which is pretty exciting.
in summation, this documentary is well-constructed and worthy of further investigation if you are so inclined.
BOOK REVIEW | "OFFICIAL TRUTH: 101 PROOF - THE INSIDE STORY OF PANTERA" BY REX BROWN WITH MARK EGLINTON
photo & text by nacrowe
its been over 15 years since DIMEBAG DARRELL's murder, but he's seemingly been omnipresent in the METAL community in spirit ever since. OFFICIAL TRUTH 101 PROOG: THE INSIDE STORY OF PANTERA (DA CAPO, 2013) is PANTERA/DOWN bassist REX BROWN's attempt at making sense of his former band's legacy and laying bare the warts-and-all narrative of how their insatiable drive to succeed over time alienated themselves from each and ultimately led to their estrangement and break up. the bizarre, unforeseen shooting of guitarist DIMEBAG by a mentally ill midwestern fan in DECEMBER 2004 only further heightens the loss felt by fans for this once indomitable juggernaut of a band that basically single-handedly maintained METAL as a cultural entity in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK doldrums of the 1990s.
in essence, BROWN promotes his perspective that PANTERA fell apart due to over touring over a 15 year career that found them rarely taking extended breaks. initially this was due to their commitment to each other to make it in the business, but later it seemed they were worried about maintaining their lifestyle and appeasing fans worldwide. the narrative forwarded by fans in the years after DIMEBAG's murder there has been much blame and consternation being forwarded singer PHIL ANSELMO's way for his issues with heroin and dalliances with DOWN, SUPERJOINT RITUAL and various other side projects. BROWN counters this line of thinking arguing that the reality was that they needed a break and the brothers ABBOT (DIMEBAG and drummer VINNIE PAUL) by the end did not have communication with ANSELMO enough to come to that sort of conclusion.
its funny how many people mocked METALLICA for their documentary SOME KIND OF MONSTER (THIRD EYE, 2004) in which they hired a group counselor to work through interpersonal issues, but they had the last laugh as they are still together performing almost 20 years later. for all their macho, alpha-male posturing, PANTERA couldn't look each other in the eye and admit they needed help reevaluating their business choices in light of physical and mental health concerns.
speaking of which, one repeated line of criticism for this book are the shots BROWN takes at VINNIE PAUL for his immaturity and stubbornness. nobody argued that such were untrue, just that they didn't see the point in kicking a guy down after a family tragedy. i disagree, if anything BROWN comes across as a pretty relaxed, even-keeled and not particularly emotional narrator. i found him to be pretty reliable, but what do i know? his criticism of VINNIE PAUL was done in order to relate accurately the internal dynamics of the band and how there was a clear dividing line between the brothers and BROWN and ANSELMO. what comes across glaringly is the idea that BROWN served as a middle man in PANTERA. a middle man between the band and management, accountants, lawyers and even feuds between members themselves. lots of tough choices that needed an unemotional adult participant often found their way to BROWN, which was ironic given that he rarely talked in interviews, leaving the rest of the band members to give off the impression to their fanbase that they were in control.
this book is sort of his take on everything, and given ANSELMO's reluctance to speak on the issue and the recent passing of VINNIE PAUL years after his brother's murder, this book will likely be the final take on that issue by an actual band member.
tragic story about a great band that i really enjoyed as a teenager. its well-written and overall comes off pretty level-headed. if you are a fan of PANTERA or a lover of METAL in all its forms, SLUDGE METAL, DEATH METAL, THRASH METAL, NWOBHM, DOOM METAL, BLACK METAL, METALCORE and beyond, this book is worth your time.
somewhere along the way, legendary guitar player SCOTT IAN of THRASH METAL icons ANTHRAX learned he had a real gift for storytelling. his obvious mentor in this regard was HARDCORE frontman HENRY ROLLINS of BLACK FLAG/ROLLINS BAND fame who has maintained a longstanding second career as an in-demand spoken-word artist.
given his stature, IAN has seen things over his 30+ year career and his second memoir ACCESS ALL AREAS: STORIES FROM A HARD ROCK LIFE (DA CAPO PRESS 2017), which he penned himself, maintains his acerbic wit, cadence and voice. reading through this it is not hard to imagine him standing beside you performing each narrative as a spoken-word routine, which is definitely a compliment. there is a reason why most musicians don't write their own memoirs, and IAN proves himself a highly capable narrator. his style is very much utilitarian in that he doesn't get too wordy or overly clever with descriptions, which in a way describes his iconic no-sense rhythm guitar work and that of his musical idol, MALCOLM YOUNG of AC/DC.
obviously i don't want to give away any of the stories, but i will say that they deal with his outside pursuits regarding professional poker, moonlighting in tv shows like THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES, relationships and of course touring. highlights include stories that include the pranks of legendary PANTERA guitarist DIMEBAG DARRELL (R.I.P.), hanging out with MADONNA and the wardrobe choices of the immortal LEMMY KILMISTER (R.I.P.) of the almighty MOTÖRHEAD.
IAN comes off as a hardworking musician more than aware of how fortunate he is to have his career and the respect of his peers and this book, along with the previous I AM THE MAN: THE STORY OF THAT GUY FROM ANTHRAX (DA CAPO PRESS 2014), seem to be a celebration of that community of musicians. a celebration of how they touched his life, so in that regard i hope he keeps writing.
also keep a look out for the dude in concert. just learned he's touring with MR. BUNGLE in 2020. MIKE PATTON and SCOTT IAN sharing a stage. man, life certainly does not suck.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
dallas' POWER TRIP is just a great, no-bullshit, throwback metal band that splits the difference between SLAYER and PANTERA.
if you are into metal, this will be a real treat. badass riffage, loud incoherent lyrics about brutality, group shouted vocals, you know, the works.