By the time Pantera unleashed Far Beyond Driven in 1994, they were the most popular metal band in the land, as the frenzy surrounding that Billboard chart-topping album testified. However, the band began to self-destruct around this same time as well. Drug abuse certainlyplayed a role, with lead vocalist Phil Anselmo ODing on heroin at one point, for instance, and tensions within the band also playing a role in its ultimate, acrimonious dissolution. The final nail in Pantera's coffin came during the early to mid-2000s, when Anselmo began engaging himself in a multitude of side projects and when, very sadly, guitarist Dimebag Darrell was bizarrely murdered on-stage in late 2004. This much-publicized murder shone the spotlight back on Pantera for a brief moment, and amid all of the emotional outpours and media commentary, a consensus arose: Pantera had indeed been a landmark band, somewhat undervalued during their reign, with practically every contemporary metal bands of the time openly paying tribute to their legacy.
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When Pantera returned in 1996 with their next album, The Great Southern Trendkill, quite a bit had changed. They'd begun experimenting with their sound, slowing down their tempos and moving away from the relentless heaviness of Far Beyond Driven. The album also featured a very bitter, reactionary tone, with a heavy use of vocal overdubbing. (Anselmo's vocals were notably recorded at Trent Reznor's studio, and are quite demonic at times.) Moreover, Anselmo wrote quite a bit about drug abuse in songs like "Suicide Note" and "Living Through Me (Hells' Wrath)," no doubt alluding to the personal demons and tensions that had begun pulling the band apart. Partly as a result of such experimentation and personal abandon, Trendkill may indeed be Pantera's most curious album. In any event, reactions from fans and critics were mixed, and sales fell.
It would be four years before Pantera released another studio album, releasing a stopgap live album in 1997, the fierce Official Live: 101 Proof. During this long interim, rumors swirled and Anselmo further distanced himself from the band, participating in various side projects, among them Down, with which he experienced quite a bit of success. Pantera did reunite, however -- one last time -- for Reinventing the Steel, which was released in 2000 and, like The Great Southern Trendkill, didn't come close to matching the impact of Far Beyond Driven. By this point the band's following had dwindled, and the metal landscape had undergone serious changes with the emergence of alt- metal bands like Korn and Tool, not to mention the likes of Marilyn Manson and Limp Bizkit.
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Following the release of their debut album, New Found Power, and some club shows, Damageplan met a tragic end on December 7, 2004. That night -- 24 years after John Lennon's shooting to the day! -- a homicidal fan shot Dimebag at a small club show in Columbus, OH. The band hadn't gotten more than a song into its show before the murderer breached security,jumped on-stage, and shot the guitarist numerous times at point blank, murdering a few othersin the process. The tragedy was big news in the States, grabbing headlines everywhere the day afterward. For a sad moment that day, the spotlight shone once again on Pantera, arguably the greatest metal bands of the '90s and, no doubt, one of the greatest and most influential metal bands ever.
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