Pantera was an American heavy metal band from Arlington, Texas, formed by the Abbott brothers, Vinnie Paul (drums) and "Dimebag" Darrell (guitar), then known as Diamond Darrell, in 1981. Bassist Rex Brown would join in 1982 and in 1987 Phil Anselmo would become the group's lead vocalist, completing the band's most successful lineup that would remain together for 16 years.
Although initially influenced by 1980s glam metal bands such as Kiss and Van Halen, Pantera's style would change by the late '80s, showing a greater influence from thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Exodus and Metallica, as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Pantera subsequently became a key formulator of the post-thrash subgenre of "groove" metal. It would not be until nine years after forming that Pantera saw its first piece of commercial success in its 1990 major label debut, Cowboys from Hell. From there, Pantera became one of the most celebrated heavy metal bands of the 1990s.
Despite the generally cold reception of the band's first four albums from the 1980s, critics have lauded Pantera's style thereafter; Jason Birchmeier of Allmusic.com states that "there was no greater metal band during the early to mid-'90s than Pantera." The band has received accolades such as ranking 45th on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" and fifth on MTV's "Top 10 Greatest Heavy Metal Bands of All-Time."
Pantera began to suffer from mounting tensions between band members in the mid-1990s, largely due to Phil Anselmo's rampant drug abuse. Anselmo, having been nagged by a painful back injury for several years, explored the option of corrective surgery, however he was not comfortable with having to take an extended break from Pantera to recover, which could have taken up to a year. Instead, Anselmo began using heroin as a painkiller and as a result his behavior became erratic and volatile, his performances suffered and he began to distance himself from his bandmates, who were initially unaware of his addiction.
In 2001, the band went on hiatus and was never able to successfully reunite, with the Abbott brothers unable to communicate with Anselmo, who was immersed in several side-projects, chiefly Down and Superjoint Ritual. Pantera officially disbanded in 2003 and a war of words ensued, with Phil and Vinnie Paul trading inflammatory comments and blaming one another for the break-up of Pantera via the media. Any hope of the band members ever reconciling their differences and possibly reuniting was lost in 2004, when "Dimebag" Darrell was shot and killed on-stage at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio by an obsessed Pantera fan while performing with his and his brother's new band, Damageplan.