Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rock Gets a Shock

"Dimebag" Darrell killed onstage by gunman

I don't really know what to say. For those of you who don't know, "Dime" was a majorly influential thrash-metal guitarist who played with Pantera and later Damageplan. Pantera rose to prominence in the midst of the grunge-dominated 1990's and managed to appeal to both the metalheads and the Gen Xers. When Pantera broke up, Dime continued on by helping to form Damageplan. If you haven't clicked the link above, please do so; it explains the circumstances surrounding his murder much better than I can. He was 38. Ironically, he died on the anniversary of John Lennon's death.

Although I don't claim to be a die-hard fan of Pantera, I can tell you that Dime was one of the most influential guitarists of his day. He and fellow metalhead Zakk Wylde were once considered to be the last of the rock guitar heroes for their technical proficency and musicianship. The trend is starting to reverse thanks to newcomers like Los Lonely Boys guitarist Henry Garza, but that doesn't diminish Dime's contribution in the least. Think about this: Pantera was actually Grammy-nominated at one point. They weren't exactly your average metal band.

Some people who don't like metal probably wouldn't see the big deal here. I hadn't heard a Pantera song until I listened to "Cemetery Gates," which may be one of the best modern rock tracks ever recorded. It's not as abrasive as the title would suggest; rather, it starts as a fairly mellow ballad that turns into a blistering anthem that rocks as hard as a melodic song can. That, and it holds your interest for seven minutes. I strongly encourage you to listen to it if you enjoy a virtuosic guitar performance.

As a guitarist and aspiring rocker myself (I do have other interests besides journalism, believe it or not), the weight of this completely shocks me. I didn't know it had happened until about 9:00 tonight. I was suspicious, however, when I saw a sign reading "R.I.P. Darrell Abbott" over Dime's photo on a Damageplan poster at local campus hangout The Den. I didn't ask the clerks about it (thinking it might have been the owner's weird sense of humor), but I went home and starting looking through the Web. I realized I hadn't looked at Drudge all day, which is where I found the AP article. Considering that being at Dime's level has long been a dream of mine, this is a major wake-up call for me and a motivation for other musicians of all styles to pick up where he left off.

For his sake, I am at least glad that he went out doing what he loved the most. MTV has a much better story than the AP article, in which one man's account talks of fans surrounding Dime, "kissing his hands and his feet and trying to give him CPR." That alone should tell you how much Dime will be missed by his fans. His life was short, but I'm sure he did more living than many people twice his age.

R.I.P., Darrell Abbott.


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