Rants & Essays
On the Death of Dimebag Darrell
By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Bad enough our brothers and sisters are dying needlessly
overseas in a bloody conflict that has lost its identity. Bad enough ordinary
crime claims countless lives on our home turf. Bad enough cancer, AIDS and
another disease, drunk driving, rob vital lives before their time. At least the
romanticized Joplin and Dean version of a righteous death seems to
have fallen out of favor. Yet how to make sense of a sensational, cruel
massacre that ropes in a highly respected metal performer?
Not since the death of Cliff Burton has the passing of a
heavy metal notable been so widely publicized. Unfortunately for the
contingency of Pantera and Damageplan fans, their cliques have inadvertently
gone to the head of the pack in front of Slayer disciples for the title of Most
Psychotic Fans, sorry to say. Im sure this distinction was something
nobody ever expected or wanted.
As we wait to unravel the mystery behind the unexplainable
rampage in an Ohio nightclub on December 8th that claimed the lives of five
including Dimebag, the puzzling questions arise: Was it revenge? Was it
temporary insanity? Was it a drunken rampage? Or was it simply a
disenfranchised Pantera fan who couldnt hack the fact that his life was
hopelessly intertwined to a well-loved but currently defunct band? Whatever the
excuse, it is nothing more than a goddamn cop-out. Murder is
Ironic that the irrational shooting spree by 25-year-old
Nathan Gale came on the anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon,
another musical figurehead whose slaying shocked the world. Shudder to think,
was this a copycat killing on the anniversary of John Lennons death?
Not to say that Dimebag Darrell should be cast in the same
light as Lennon, not by any means. Nonetheless, this brutal act of selfishness
parallels Lennon in the fact that an unbalanced individual felt obligated to
greedily steal a celebrity from the rest of the world. Whether you were a
Pantera fan or a Damageplan fan or neither, Dimebags death should be met
with the outrage it deserves.
With the same twisted self-esteemism that compelled John
Hinckley to take a shot at Ronald Reagan or Turkish activist Mehmet Ali Agca to
attempt an assassination upon Pope John Paul II, or the vainglorious snidery of
Mark Chapman when he hypocritically asked for the autograph of John Lennon
before pilfering his life, Nathan Gales killing of Dimebag Darrell, for
whatever possible reasoning, is nothing more than a base, arrogant gesture of
In a year of mostly positive news in the metal world,
Dimebag Darrells killing not only reveals the darker side of the genre in
ways its practitioners could never fathom, but a lack of closure that further
stigmatizes the tragedy of the event. How are we to feel? Did Dimebag instigate
Gales actions, or was this a random act of senseless violence by a
desperate voice seeking attention in a world full of lost voices?
I wont begin to posture any further. I never had the
chance to interview Dimebag, so I cant begin to empathize as closely as
his friends and comrades can. However, I will continue my thoughts, not through
the eyes of a journalist, but a fan.
The memory I will take of Dimebag Darrell is the fleeting
glances of an enthusiastic guitarist in a high-octane band just reinventing
itself from its secretive glam metal beginnings. This was on the Cowboys From
Hell tour with Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus. I lost my glasses during the
show, but the blurry images from a highly active mosh pit were overcome by the
metallic bellow gorging from the stage. That outrageous blare told me Pantera
was very likely going to take over the metal world at whatever cost, and they
made good on it. Like them or hate them, Pantera kept the metal spirit alive
while the genre was dying from the grunge dagger that pierced the original
scene. In many ways, the few bands that survived the nineties, Metallica,
Slayer and Megadeth owe part of their continued success to the popularity of
While grunge paved the way towards a leaner, grittier sound
in hard rock, Dimebag angrily wailed on his frets in protest, invisibly waving
the metal flag from the neck of his guitar, saluting the diehards that followed
him and Pantera through the mostly stale music scene in the 90s. Their legacy
carried over into the new millennium, testament by their widespread influence
in todays bands.
Sad that Pantera couldnt continue on for its loyal
legions, but even sadder is the possibility that a fan with a grudge felt
obliged to share his pain with the rest of the metal community. So, in true
metal spirit, I say fuck you, Mr. Gale. We all have pain, weve all been
wronged and weve all felt the temptation to lash out at other in anger.
What separates us from the mongrels is that we rise above it.
Peace be to Dimebags family, peace be to Gales
family as Im sure this will bring undeserving repercussions upon their
household (and I urge all metal fans to show some class and leave the Gale
family be in their suffering; spewing your anger upon them is the same as
blaming Ozzy, Priest and Manson for suicide). Most of all, peace be to the
brothers and sisters of the metal community. This was a butt-ugly statistic we
Courtesy of Pivotal Rage (www.pivotalrage.com).