It was clear Pantera‘s days were numbered long before they played their final concert on Aug. 26, 2001, in Yokohama, Japan, bringing one of metal’s most explosive sagas to an unceremonious end.
The Texas metal quartet had spent the prior two months storming arenas across North America with Slayer, Static-X, Skrape and Morbid Angel in support of its latest album, Reinventing the Steel, released in March 2000. The album debuted at a respectable No. 4 on the Billboard 200 but petered out at gold status, becoming Pantera’s first major-label release (starting with 1990’s Cowboys From Hell) to fall short of a platinum certification. But the relative underperformance of Reinventing the Steel paled in comparison to the exhaustion and dysfunction plaguing Pantera.
“The tour seemed to go on forever,” bassist Rex Brown wrote in his 2013 memoir, Official Truth, 101 Proof. “The financial offers were great, but because we felt like we were in a marriage that was going south, that just didn’t matter anymore. Something had to give sooner rather than later.”
Brown pinned much of the blame on singer Phil Anselmo, whose drug use had escalated precipitously. Anselmo had suffered from degenerative disc disease for years, and rather than break for surgery, he continued to numb the pain with booze, pills and heroin, even suffering a near-fatal heroin overdose in 1996.
“I suppose the writing was on the wall as early as preproduction for the tour,” Brown recalled. “Phil was out of his mind a lot of the time, and there were moments in rehearsal where [guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott] and I would look at each other and say, ‘Dude, he’s singing a different song than we’re playing.'”
Despite the excess and band infighting, Pantera made it to Yokohama for the Beast Feast festival, sharing a bill with Slayer, Sepultura, Machine Head, Static-X, Biohazard and several other bands. They soldiered through an 11-song set that included classics such as “Cowboys From Hell,” “Mouth for War,” “5 Minutes Alone” and “Walk.” Slayer’s Kerry King joined the band for “Fucking Hostile,” and Biohazard singer Evan Seinfeld lent his talents during an encore performance of “Walk.”
Watch Pantera Play ‘5 Minutes Alone’ at Final Show, Aug. 26, 2001
Beast Feast wasn’t supposed to be Pantera’s final show. They had flown to Europe in mid-September to begin the next leg of their tour, but the trek was scrapped in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before they played a single date. Anselmo went on to release albums with Down and Superjoint Ritual in 2002, while Dimebag and his brother and Pantera bandmate, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, formed Damageplan in 2003.
Any hopes of a Pantera reunion were dashed when a deranged fan shot and killed Dimebag onstage in 2004. A partial reunion became even less likely after Paul died in 2018. In recent years, Anselmo has honored his fallen bandmates by playing full Pantera sets, dubbed “A Vulgar Display of Pantera,” with his solo band, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals.
“I learned a while back dealing with Dimebag’s death that I could muck around and stay in the past and wallow, but it’s not healthy,” Anselmo said in April 2021. “And in turn, when I play these songs, for me it’s all about celebrating the life of Dimebag and Vince. I have to do the best I can for my brothers who have fallen and for all of our fans. I have to do the best I can and look at the bright side.”
Neither Anselmo nor Brown have ruled out the possibility of reuniting to pay tribute to the Abbott brothers, with whom they forged one of the greatest success stories in heavy metal. “If Rex and I had a show to play and we were ever gonna be onstage again together, I would welcome it with open arms,” Anselmo told the Inside With Paulo Baron podcast in 2021. “I love Rex, and he’d be the same way. We’re still brothers forever. So playing onstage together or doing some shows together is not out of the question — it could happen.”
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