After two years of Ozzfest excess, Pantera will play leader this year with the upcoming Extreme Steel Tour, the band's own metal festival, sans the hip or the hop. With Slayer, Static-X, Skrape, and Morbid Angel scheduled as the appetizers and Pantera as the main dish, there's a distinct absence of Korn or Bizkit additives in the recipe. This trend-defying Texas-based band doesn't dignify the enormously successful rap-meets-metal scene.
"We will always do our thing no matter what trends go on around us, that's why we've lasted 12 years at this level," says Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul. "We've outlasted all bands and phases to this point and fully expect to outlast hip-hop, rap metal."
For the past decade, Pantera has been doing more than surviving. Born out of a common love for unadulterated, in-your-face metal rock, Philip Anselmo (vocals), Dimebag Darrell (guitar), Rex Brown (bass), and Paul live life like they play music — hard. From their 1990 breakthrough disc Cowboys From Hell to last year's Reinventing the Steel, the band hasn't wavered in its commitment to unrelenting heavy grooves and dark, brooding vocals.
Yet, as far as their lifestyle is concerned, Pantera has mellowed to some degree.
"I'd say we're all lucky not to be dead," says Paul. This statement takes an even greater significance considering that lead singer Anselmo came as close to death as possible from an overdose of heroin a few years back.
"Four years ago, he got sidetracked and for some reason wanted to go into some heavier stuff," said Paul. "Everybody knows the story — he wound up OD'ing and he was actually dead for five minutes and it was a hard lesson to learn for everybody, but it was a good lesson to learn. When we party, we party … but it ain't none of that cocaine and none of that crap. It's strictly what I would consider recreational where you wake up the next day and you might have a little headache and you continue doing what you do."
What Pantera does is rock, in the most bare-boned sense of the word. The band is the heir apparent to the pre-MTV Metallica. If today's Metallica is all about the rags-to-rock-star lifestyle, Pantera is the group's stubborn bastard child, with an open container and the pedal floored.
The members of Pantera are at a point in their career where redundancy is a constant threat. That is, while the band remains committed to black-and-blue metal, the act must walk a fine line between keeping it real and just keeping it going.
Commenting on an Anselmo quote, "We are the kings of heavy metal," Paul says, "That is our place in music and we proudly carry the torch high. The only pressure we feel is to not let ourselves or our fans down." — John Benson
EXTREME STEEL TOUR DATES: