Question: what was the best gig you ever went to? For me it was just over 11 years ago when Texan rednecks Pantera played the now sadly defunct Marquee Club. The few hundred people there that night were the luckiest, and by the end of the evening, sweatiest people in London as Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, Rex and Vinnie Paul ripped the place apart with their adrenalised heaviosity and stagedivers launched themselves from anywhere they could, including one chap from the top of the PA. You had to be there to understand that this was a perfectly sensible thing to do under the circumstances.
Given Pantera’s breathtaking live shows and often superb recorded output (peaking in the no-filler classic of A Vulgar Display Of Power, which set a blueprint for brutal metal that many would imitate but seldom improve), it’s a shame that they petered out with a wimpy whimper when Anselmo decided to spend more time with his “other” bands, Down and Superjoint Ritual. He really ought to have informed his Pantera band-mates of his decision…
Still, you can’t keep musical dawgs down, and so brothers Dimebag and Vinnie Paul “have a new plan”, aka Damageplan, with two suitably bearded and hard-looking members in tow: the delightfully named Bob Zilla on bass and Pat Lachman on vocals.
Unsurprisingly, “new” is a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to the music that Damageplan peddle. There’s a heavy dose of Pantera roaming around these parts but that’s definitely no bad thing, especially when it comes from the originals.
In addition to the subtle-as-ever song titles (F**k You, Explode, Cold Blooded and Blunt Force Trauma being indicative), Dimebag and Vinnie are on typically prodigious form, with the former showing that he truly is the Guitar Riff-Meister General, and his big bro’ that there’s precious little that he can’t do on a drumkit.
The newbies are no slouches either, and Lachman displays an impressive vocal range that veers from his more common modus operandus – the larynx-scraping variety (Wake Up) – to some powerful, tuneful singing (Pride and Soul Bleed).
Song-wise there’s plenty of quality on offer. Breathing New Life begins with some masterful 180 beats-per-minute bass drum pedalling before exploding into a blaze of riffage and a cool chorus. New Found Power feels like a call to arms and boasts some immense guitar chugging. Pride sees a great switch from downbeat singing to a big chorus lodged in power chord heaven while Dimebag’s guitar solo even “borrows” from that in Anthrax‘s monumental track, Only. Meanwhile, Reborn is a groove-tastic metallic affair and Moment Of Truth has some huge, doomy, sludgy riffs that, dare I say it, Anselmo’s Down would be proud of.
Of course, Anselmo doesn’t escape being the source of much vitriol through the lyrics. This is best heard in F**k You, a song you won’t be hearing on Radio 1, but which is a pulverising, supercharged hardcore / thrash beast that takes Pantera’s F**king Hostile to a new level and features the self-explanatory lyrics: “F**k your power trip and f**k your attitude and f**k your bloated ego too / F**k your history, your tragedy, your misery but most of all… F**k you!” That’s him told then.
Since Damageplan so obviously value honesty, I have to say that New Found Power is a few too songs long and that some of the individual songs are too. Nevertheless, it’s got plenty to commend it and is at least up there with Pantera’s post-Vulgar Display offerings. If they can transfer their recorded power to the live arena, then Dimebag and Vinne may just have the last laugh on Mr Anselmo yet.