Judge Bill Gibron believes that this fabulous former guitarist for Pantera deserved better than to die at the hands of some psychotic fan. Thankfully, we have this entertaining tribute to remember him by.
Time to party—posthumously—with the Pantera Guitar God.
By all outward appearances, Pantera were not a bunch of happy, fun-loving guys. Sure they were obsessively devoted to their fans and made metal that cut through the crap to talk about purpose, pain, and politics, but their musical persona in general was like sitting center stage during the bombing of Britain. Brutal, angry, and, most importantly, heavy, their dense, dark matter noise almost defied description. Thanks to new lead singer Phil Anselmo's tortured vocals, the band broke through after years of being hard-rock wannabes. In fact, earlier versions of the band make Pantera appear like Mötley Crüe copycats rather than the ballsy, brooding bad-asses they'd become.
Over the course of five stellar LPs, from 1990's Cowboys from Hell to 2000's Reinventing the Steel, Pantera made all other metal seem dated and delicate. Yet it was that same unfiltered raw power evident on each successive release that finally fractured the already tenuous bonds among the members. Anselmo's desire to explore a solo career (as well as some noted battles with drugs) tore the group apart, leaving lead guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, his drumming brother Vinnie Paul Abbott, and longtime bass player Rex Brown without his signature shredding shriek. Calling it quits, the siblings set off to form their own side project—a new band called Damageplan. In one of the most bizarre incidents ever to occur in the history of rock, Dimebag was gunned down by a crazed fan during a live performance. It was December 8, 2004. He was only 38 years old.
More of a sloppy celebration of a free-spirited rocker's rebellious downtime than a homily to a fallen friend, Dimevision: Volume 1—That's the Fun I Have is a scrapbook collection of material accumulated over the entire life of this enigmatic man. One look at the content here and you can tell that Dimebag Darrell absolutely loved life. Sure, he kicked it in the teeth every once in a while and taunted and tempted it with stunts both scary and stupid, but put him on stage with an electrified guitar in his hand and he simply screwed the holy spit out of existence. For anyone who needs a reminder of the man's amazing axe handling skills, Dimevision has several sensational solos, some gleaned from as far back as the mid-'80s. When you see him in home video from the early part of this decade, Darrell looks like a hillbilly-gone-horror film, with a hellbent-for-leather wardrobe accented by devilish facial fur. Back during Pantera's hair metal days, Darrell sported a 'do that would make Grand Funk Railroad's Don Brewer jealous. In either guise, Dimebag could absolutely dominate those six strings. During the Greed decade, his influences are more obvious. There is a lot of Eddie Van Halen in Darrell's riffs. By the time we see him touring with Damageplan, Dimebag is experimenting with sonics. In one particularly gripping moment, he holds up his trademarked razorbacked guitar to the amps. But instead of creating feedback, he lets the vibrations from the speakers "strum" the strings, creating an eerie, almost apocalyptic sound. Such innovation was part of Darrell's design and we see it frequently in the concert footage.
If there is another consistent theme here in Volume 1, it would be fireworks. Dimebag loved him some bottle rockets—and roman candles—and sparkler shower fountains. He especially loved to let them loose on passed-out members of his personal posse—who, by the way, where usually splayed upon his living room/rec room floor. There is a real Jackass feel to this material, a look at how daredevil individuals with little concern for their personal safety cheat death and danger for a momentary thrill. Unlike that Johnny Knoxville showcase however, Darrell and his pals don't plan and rehearse their bits. When a friend decides to squeal their tires and do donuts on his lawn, Dimebag just laughs even as tread tears off and the lawn becomes a war zone. He even gets in the passenger seat and pushes his pal to shred the tires completely. After all, the rims make for excellent sod slashing. Among the various sequences of gunpowder play, we get glimpses into Dimebag's home, a look at photos from all aspects of his life, a visit to brother Vinne's Cinco de Mayo party, and an in-store appearance with rabid fans showing their love. The fact that he died at the hand of someone who supposedly loved his work makes these moments all the more meaningful.
Equally effective is a single sit-down segment where Dimebag (fresh from the shower) delivers an insightful monologue about why he makes music. Arguing that Bob Dylan's singing style is unimportant—it's the songs and the emotion behind them that validates the voice—Dimebag eloquently espouses on the very reasons people pick up and play. It's not always about the perfect chord progression or the right lyrical analogy. It's about the sound—and the sentiment behind it. Dimevision is a perfect illustration of this principle, since it focuses on this amazing guitarist's craftsmanship—and his equally kinetic, crazy love of life.
As with any collection of varying stock elements, Dimevision: Volume 1 is a mixed media bag. The 1.33:1 transfer is made up mostly of camcorder material, and while some has the clarity of post-modern digital technology, a lot of this is VHS quality. Thankfully, there is very little flaring, bleeding, or ghosting during the presentation. In addition, fans should be pleased at all the early Pantera material included here (just remember, this is all pre-Anselmo) as well as the Damageplan appearances. The 73-minute movie also offers a great deal of inside joking (in the form of text subtitles along the bottom of the screen) and comic asides. During one strange sequence, an animated Dimebag pops up and laughs as a pal plays at being a soldier. On the sound side, the collection contains good, if not great, aural elements. It is unclear, at least to this critic, if the compilation was remastered in Dolby Digital anything, but it's obvious that the two-channel mix is clean and clear. There are no bonus features offered, either. This is a bare-bones disc meant to provide fans of Dimebag with a video elegy of his amazing creative life.
Hopefully, over the course of the next few Dimevision volumes, we will get more moments where Dimebag philosophizes and focuses on concepts and concerns that interest him. When he's not sticking firecrackers up a pal's pants, he's an eloquent and electrifying presence. He is definitely missed as a member of the metal community, and as part of Pantera, his music will always live on. And now, thanks to Dimevision: Volume 1, so will his amiable, anarchic persona.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Big Vin Records
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