Dimebag Darrell Lives—In His 11 Greatest Guitar Moments

Pay tribute to Pantera’s guitar powerhouse with this kickass playlist

On December 8, 2004, Dimebag Darrell Abbott fell prey to a murderer’s bullets on stage in Columbus, Ohio. That wretched event stands as a defining tragedy not just for heavy metal, but also for music and humanity.

The six-string sorcerer who founded Pantera with his drummer brother Vinnie Paul all the way back in 1981 lived a life far too short.

What’s also obvious, though—to headbangers, to guitar devotees, and any sentient being with at least one working ear—is that the legacy Dimebag left us in the form of his recorded music will live (and slay and shred and kick ass and rock) forever.

Just as it’s impossible not to weep over Dimebag Darrell’s grotesquely untimely demise, it’s even more impossible not to feel his spirit, his passion, and his wicked joy every time one of his songs come blasting out of any speaker, anywhere.

It’s time to celebrate the lives of Dimebag Darrell—both his mortal existence that ended how and when it did, and his immortal musical being that rages gloriously unto eternity. Here, now, are Dimebag Darrell’s eleven greatest guitar moments.

  1. “Domination” – Pantera (1990)

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    Dimebag Darrell dominates via “Domination” in the way he blazes out of the gate at full blare… and then he makes us wait. That fast riff is uncut adrenaline, and then he cuts it. It’s a scorching exercise in building anticipation, followed by delivering even more than anyone could ever want—maybe even more than anyone can really fully handle.

  2. “F—k You” – Damageplan (2004)

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    The Damageplan dynamic is potently self-contained in “F—k You.” From the obscene insult title, to the squealing lead that drops a devastating riff en route to a shock-and-awe solo, to the unmistakable power dynamic of the Abbot brothers barreling through what they do best, “F—k You” could serve as Damageplan’s table of contents. If only they’d gotten to create more chapters….

  3. “Revolution Is My Name” (2000)

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    The first single from Reinventing the Steel, the last Pantera album, gets hurls upward from Dimebag’s riff and never stops soaring. His solo sounds like ’70s Southern rock run through a bone-stripping machine and then rocketed back out, with all the bloody chunks included.

  4. “I’m Broken – Pantera (1994)

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    “’I’m Broken’ was a sound check riff,” Dimebag Darrell said of the supercharged, Zeppelin-esque monster that kicks off the song and then rains down pure Pantera. “[It was] one of them ones where I’d walk in with a hangover from ripping it up night after night with everyone in every town. That’s where a lot of the best riffs I ever wrote came from.” Who could argue with the master himself?

  5. “Light Comes Out of Black” – Pantera with Rob Halford (1992)

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    If anyone ever sounded like he was just waiting for someone to invent groove metal, it was Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford. Small wonder, then, that Halford immediately championed Pantera upon first listen and that, just a few years later, he’d front the band on this groove metal masterwork. Dimebag controls the song’s tightness and tempo flawlessly to support Halford and Phil Anselmo’s electrically intertwined vocals. As always, then, with Dimebag, when it comes time to light it up, just listen to him burn.

  6. “5 Minutes Alone” – Pantera (1994)

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    Dimebag’s riff swallows you from note one. It’s like the ’50s fright flick monstrosity The Blob, only its oozing and leveling and absorption and destruction comes as a result of the guitar player’s intricate construction and instinctual execution. Regardless, as they sing in that old B-movie, “Beware of the Blob/it creeps and leaps/and slides and glides….” Approach Darrell’s guitar here with the same caution.

  7. “This Love” – Pantera (1992)

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    No one could mount a sneak attack like Dimebag Darrell. “This Love” starts slow and spooky, with a progressive chorus riff weaving a hypnotic spell that leaves the mind utterly defenseless when the war comes. And, oh, does it come—with General Abbot spearheading the charge. “This Love” is a ballad that bites your heart out. Dimebag Darrell’s fingers function as the teeth.

  8. “Cemetery Gates” – Pantera (1990)

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    “Cemetery Gates” is the sound of Dimebag Darrell spreading his black wings out in full for what feels like the first time. The sprawling, tone-and-tempo-shifting song is Pantera’s finally aiming for an epic and masterfully making it happen. Darrell’s fleet fretwork incorporates and communicates ideas and emotions new to the band, exposing a deeper dimension than even their most dedicated admirers might have expected. “Cemetery Gates” spells out that there was more to Pantera than mere rage. Of course, the song rages like unholy hell, too.

  9. “Floods” – Pantera (1996)

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    Dimebag Darrell uncages the seven-minute mind-ripper “Floods” as a spindly spider that crawls up your spine and sinks its fangs into your brain stem. Each chord is like an arachnid leg drilling into you, deep and dire. All you want, of course, is more. That’s when Darrell fills those ditches with molten stop-and-start six-string hellfire, liquefying anything and everything you’ve got inside. When Phil Anselmo ends the onslaught by singing, “Wash away man/take him with the floods,” all you can do is float off into oblivion.

  10. “Cowboys From Hell” – Pantera (1990)

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    So here’s where it really begins. “It” being the full-blown Pantera in general, and, more specifically, the shocking, unprecedented power of Dimebag Darrell with a clipped groove riff, a tsunami solo, and a flawless song in which to let each run maniacally rampant. As with the entire album that shares its name, “Cowboys From Hell” very specifically announces that Pantera has arrived, so just sit back and accept the pummeling they’ve got coming your way. Or go apesh-it insane while it’s hammering down on you. Either reaction works.

  11. “Walk” – Pantera (1992)

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    Two chords. That’s all there are in the riff of “Walk”—the riff that forever rewrote metal in its wake. Two chords and one genius.

    “Walk” is a quantum, even apocalyptic sonic leap forward in extreme rock guitar. It stands on par with “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by the Stooges, “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones, “Eruption” by Van Halen, and “Hit the Lights” by Metallica.

    That’s to say that, in the manner of those milestones, nothing—absolutely nothing—sounded like “Walk” before it and that, for all the countless riffs and solos it’s since inspired, only “Walk” will ever truly slam your soul with wrecking ball force with the same impact. Any time. And every time.

    Truly, that’s Dimebag Darrell for you.

Mike McPadden is the author of the book "HEAVY METAL MOVIES: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever!" (Bazillion Points, 2014).