Don't Even Start Saying Pantera Are Terrible

They called him a "cry baby," a "pussy," "whiny" and a whole assortment of verbage using the word "fuck" as an adjective and a verb. Pantera fans' response to LA Weekly's recent article "It's Time to Talk About How Terrible Pantera Are," although not near the backlash the writer Nicholas Pell expected from Pantera's nearly 9 million fans, all reiterated one common theme: "What the fuck are you talking about, Mr. Pell?"

"Dimebag can shred the panties off your mom doesn't mean you get to tarnish one of the greatest metal bands. Ever!" one Pantera fan frantically typed.

"Opinions are like assholes," wrote another. "Everyone has one, and they stink. Pantera rocks period."

Pell's opinion of the Grammy-nominated, Arlington-based groove metal band was summed up in the opening of his "Unpopular Opinion" column: "I fucking hate Pantera with the burning fury of 10,000 white-hot suns." He then proceeds to spend the next 500 or so words making the case for his hate, one that he claims is not based on former singer Phil Anselmo's tendency to throw up a Nazi salute, but one that can be summed up in two simple points but not explained by the rationale behind them.

Pell's first claim for hating the band: Dime's guitar technique is boring. He ignores the fact that Dime won nearly every guitar competition across North Texas in the early '80s precisely because his technique was never boring. Or that he never shied away from throwing the interval of a major 3rd into his riff and lead playing, or that his playing embraced symmetry, alternative dyads instead of standard power chords and a penchant for harmonics. No, readers never learn why Dime's playing bored him to tears.

Pell's second point of argument, that the band sold out when they gave up their glam metal roots, is easily defeated by the ignorance of his youth. Pantera changed its style in the heyday of glam metal in the late '80s when bands like Cinderella, Motley Crue and Poison sexed up the charts with big hair and sex-infused songs. Sticking with glam metal would have been the safer bet financially for the Southern boys.

The late 1980s were a depressing time for mainstream music, when music legends like KISS removed their makeup, Ozzy Osbourne ate a bat onstage and Whitesnake birthed White Lion. Thrash metal had just climbed out of a California mosh pit and roared through the amplifiers and speakers of garage bands across Texas. Pantera took thrash metal's raw aggressiveness and merged it with the technical ability of hard rock bands like Iron Maiden and Van Halen, shedding their glam-rock image at a time when club owners wanted bands in spandex with big hair playing cover songs like Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Trading in big hair and spandex for black T-shirts and Converses, Pantera spent the next six years perfecting their outlaw sound, dropping albums such as 1990's Cowboys From Hell and 1992's Vulgar Display of Power before perfecting their style with 1994's Far Beyond Driven, an album that topped the charts and garnered four Grammy nominations for the band.

In his article, Pell claims Pantera's newfound power sounded like "a room full of chimps trying to bang out Skynyrd jams," an analysis that could hold true, depending on the amount of acid you dropped at the time you pressed play on The Great Southern Trendkill.

"Phil Anselmo's pain was not burning in [his] black, little heart"� when Pell started high school as a freshman. But it was, he claims, blazing in hearts of the meatheads who terrorized him that year. The bullying, however, doesn't fuel his hatred, he says.

"No, I do not hate Pantera because New England's equivalent of rednecks listened to them and made me sad when I was 14," he writes before dropping a three-sentence deflection that ends with thanking the "young dickheads of America." 

What is obvious from an academic's standpoint is that his Pantera-lovin' New England redneck tormentors still haunt him after all these years. It's the only logical explanation for his seething hatred that's "hotter than 10,000 white suns" for a band who haven't dropped an album in 20 years.
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.