The 2004 murder of Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott is a story most people in the metal scene have heard about. But it wasn't until very recently that I took the time to research this event in depth. As with most big news stories (and this was mainstream news for a few days), reports were full of exaggerations, lies, contradictions, and slants to serve certain interests. But overall, it's pretty hard to dispute the basic story - as there were many witnesses. Without going over the details too heavily, the generic version goes something like this:
Abbott brothers and Phil Anselmo begin to have a highly publicized rift. Pantera breaks up. Drummer Vinny Abbott and brother/guitarist Darrell Abbott form Damageplan, while Phil continues with other various projects. On December 8th 2004 at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, OH, a couple minutes into Damageplan's set a "crazy fan" came onto the stage. He shoots Darrell Abbott dead at point blank range 3-5 times in front of a shocked crowd. A few individuals tried to take the shooter out and paid with their lives. Within about 5 minutes, a cop sneaks up on the shooter and blows his head off with a shotgun.
Darrell Abbott was the first Heavy Metal Rock star to ever be shot and killed onstage during a performance. It's been called "the worst day in metal history."
This event occurred on the 24th anniversary of John Lennon's death.
John Lennon was also murdered by a "crazy fan" with a gun, within the same hour of the evening, also attacked from behind.
On December 8th, 1984 - the 4th anniversary of John Lennon's death, Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley (Hanoi Rocks) died in a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera, driven by a drunk Vince Neil (Motley Crue), which had struck another car on their way to buy more beer.
According to Tommy Bradford (original Pantera Bass player), the band was named after the car before they actually knew what the word meant. He says this in an interview contained in the documentary film "Planets of Destruction."
Nathan Gale (Darrell Abbott's murderer) was the same age as John Lennon's murderer when he shot him (25).
Nathan Gale was born on 9/11/1979. According to Chris Armold's book written about the shooting, Gale weighed 11 lbs 11 oz when he was born.
The night of the Damageplan shooting began with a band called 12 Gauge. The night ended when Nathan Gale's head was blown off by a 12 Gauge.
"CAN YOU FEEL IT BUILDING/DEVASTATION IS ON THE WAY/FEEL THE HAIR ON THE BACK OF YOUR NECK AS THE RUSH BEGINS" - First verse of Damageplan's opening song that night "Breathing new Life." Nathan Gale allegedly grabbed Darrell by the hair from the back before fatally shooting him.
Mary Clark, Nathan's alleged Mother, has been quoted by many media sources and even appeared in WE's "Secret Lives of Women" in 2009. However none of these interviews or the TV episode seem to be available anywhere anymore.
Mary Clark initially bought the gun for her son as a gift, but Nathan (killer) had to pick it up in person and do a background check, which he apparently passed despite having a criminal record.
The only info we have on Gale's biological father and brothers are contained in the book written on the subject by Chris Armold. None were interviewed, the brother's names were changed (to "protect their privacy"), and all went virtually unmentioned in media reports.
Nathan Gale was allegedly diagnosed "paranoid schizophrenic" while serving in the Marine Corps shortly before being honorably discharged. However, the Marine Corpse has never confirmed this publicly citing privacy reasons.
Nathan Gale was dragged off the stage at a DAMAGEPLAN concert in Cincinnati eight months prior to the Alrosa Villa shootings. Although he caused $3,000 worth of damage to equipment, the band did not press charges and he did not appear to have a weapon that night.
Gale was spotted pacing outside the Alrosa Villa during the opening band's sets looking suspicious, according to a security guard. He was told twice by the same security guard he could not park in the first couple spots that he attempted to park. According to the Rolling Stone article, owner of the club Rick Cautela stated "One of my guys who helps to set up the bands eventually told him to leave."
Although there is much speculation on what drove Gale to kill that night, police investigators constantly maintained that "we may never know the motive."
Many people in the audience apparently thought the shooting was part of the act initially, including the owner of the club who kept pouring drinks as the first few shots went off.
Since Dimebag's shooting, mass shootings have been on the rise in America despite increased "security measures" all over the country.
According to www.schizophrenia.com about 1% of the US population has schizophrenia. Of that 1%, between 10% and 50% are suicidal.
"People with schizophrenia are far more likely to harm themselves than be violent toward the public. Violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia. News and entertainment media tend to link mental illnesses including schizophrenia to criminal violence. Most people with schizophrenia, however, are not violent toward others but are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone."
Suicide numbers are known to be much higher among schizophrenics than those associated with homicide. If suicide among schizophrenics is between 10%-50%, it would be generous the say 5%-10% are homicidal. To slice things even thinner, according to one study about 20% of schizophrenics live independently. Nathan Gale allegedly lived alone at the time of the shootings, although his mother did not live far away. So when we are talking about a full blown homicidal paranoid schizophrenic who lives alone, we are talking about a very rare type of person within an already extremely rare segment of society (closer to 0% than .025% of the population).
The probability of a rock star being shot and killed onstage before Dimebag was about 0%. This is based on the fact that there is no example of this before Dimebag's unfortunate shooting occurred. And as far as I know there is no instance of it happening since then either. Therefore, the possibility of a rock star being killed this way is about as close to 0% as you can get without being 0%.
When we factor in the rarity of Nathan Gale's condition combined with the rarity of this type of homicide, it is nearly impossible that the Dimebag shooting occurred the way we were told, according to the numbers.
"It was like a real bad movie. None of it seemed real whatsoever. None of it." - Vinnie Paul Abbott
One of the questions that comes up constantly regarding the Darrell Abbott murder is "why?" Some of the more popular answers are:
1 - The shooter was crazy and we can never truly know what his motive was.
2 - The shooter was angry about the breakup of Pantera.
3 - The shooter thought that Pantera stole his lyrics and didn't give him credit.
4 - Phil Anselmo's negative comments in the press about Darrell Abbott somehow drove Nathan Gale to shoot him.
1 - The first explanation is the main one which was repeatedly enforced by the media and the police investigators who made statements to the press. It is based on the assumption that Nathan Gale was paranoid schizophrenic, which may have been true. However, this was never officially confirmed by the military (who allegedly diagnosed him before honorably discharging him) or police investigators. It was "confirmed" by author Chris Armold through his own personal research and by his alleged communication with Gale's mother, a communication nobody can confirm but the author himself. Not saying it didn't happen, but we are basing an awful lot on his word alone. None of the other interviews with Mary Clark seem to be available anywhere at this time, other than a brief clip of her taken from a WE television broadcast which does not appear to be downloadable any longer. Part of the explanation as to why Mary Clark has been invisible to the public is that angered fans would likely want to hurt her or worse given what her son did and that she allegedly bought him the gun. But the fact she agreed to appear on a television documentary about "The Secret Lives of Women" seems to contradict this explanation.
2 - The second "why?" makes very little sense, because shooting the Abbott brothers eliminates any possibility of a Pantera reunion! Therefore, it's not an action consistent with being upset about the band's breakup because it makes the matter worse, not better. And if we are to believe Gale survived bootcamp in the Marines and had the foresight to plan 2 separate attacks on Dimebag, he probably was together in the head enough to realize killing the band members would not help bring the band back together. Of course, there is always the convenient explanation that the shooter was simply nuts and "we may never know the motive." That pretty much works for any scenario. But it doesn't mean we should close the book and stop looking for consistency and logic. Everyone does things for a reason, even if it is too obscure to see from the outside.
3 - The third "why?" doesn't make sense either because Phil wrote all the lyrics. Gale allegedly listened to "Vulgar Display of Power" over and over and anyone who does that knows that the lyrics are 100% Phil Anselmo. So if stolen lyrics was his beef, he'd be hunting down Phil, not the Abbott brothers - who only wrote the music.
4 - Last theory also doesn't work because Gale attempted to attack Damageplan once before the infamous Phil Anselmo interview ran where he said Dimebag "deserves to be beaten severely." Of course, there may have been others out back then that Gale may have read or heard, but this begins to stretch things beyond reasonable limits.
WHO BENEFITS, WHO LOSES?
Maybe it's time to ask different questions. There's 2 basic questions that I have not seen asked anywhere.
Who benefited from the shooting of Dimebag?
Who was most damaged by the shootings?
Obviously Nathan Gale did not benefit from the shooting as it ended with his own head blown off. He went in with over 30 rounds which shows at least the possibility of intention to kill many people besides just ex members of Pantera, further complicating the alleged motive. It also shows that he intended to have a shootout and he can't have been so "crazy" as to think he would get out alive. So to figure out who benefited from the shootings, we need to expand our view outside of Gale, because he clearly had little to gain other than a moment of possible satisfaction before a violent death.
There were a few news stories which highlighted the fact that the Alrosa Villa had no metal detectors that night and that there were no security cameras. So theoretically, this event benefited the cause of those companies who manufacture security/surveillance equipment. It also stirred up the conversation about gun laws - further contributing to the argument that "people shouldn't have access to guns so easily." So in this way, the agenda to disarm Americans and erode the constitution has benefited. Also, the fact that Nathan Gale was not on his meds came up as a main motivating factor in his decision to carry out the shootings. Therefore, the pharmaceutical industry gets a good plug there. In short, the control structure in society that aims to keep civilians in check benefited from this event. Whether that was by design or by accident is not the point here, simply that these are the beneficiaries of the horrific event, if any can be named.
As far as who was most damaged by this event, on the top of the list would be the victims and their loved ones. Secondly, the bands and their fans were most affected by the shootings. And since Damageplan was still very new, Pantera and their fans would be the more obvious target, if one had to be named. This shooting successfully destroyed Pantera for good, further cemented the rift between Vinny Abbott and Phil Anselmo, and traumatized metal fans everywhere. So symbolically speaking, we can be sure this was an attack on the band Pantera and their fans - as well as heavy metal fans in general. This at least plays into the idea that Nathan Gale was angry at the band. But was there a larger hatred of Pantera than we even know?
"I have a devoted following that would do anything for me. Anything I say." - Phil Anselmo
In the 90s Pantera was a dangerous band. And Phil Anselmo was a very dangerous man. But not to you and I, the average fan. In fact, the band tended to empower their fans. They were not dangerous to their listening audience. But when they reached the top of the billboards, they became a danger to those in control of American society.
They were "Cowboys from Hell." And what young boy, and even many young girls, haven't put on a cowboy hat, imagined themselves on a horse, and held out fake guns and uttered the words "stick em up?" The image of the outlaw cowboy or the heroic lone Ranger who takes out criminals, or robs a bank...a freedom fighter who is above the law. Most of us have a deep childhood connection to such an image. Pantera tapped into that very American archetype and their southern pride and made their fans feel like they were part of it regardless of where they lived. "Don't mess with Texas." "Gimme back my bullets." "We're takin over this town."
The use of cannabis imagery became prevalent in their merchandise, well before it was legal. Again, tapping into the rebellious, free spirit of Americans and metal fans worldwide. The criminalization of cannabis has been well documented, as have its health benefits been. The only reason our leaders do not want us on cannabis is because it encourages free/alternative thinking. The promotion of cannabis was another reason Pantera was a threat. Only after years of constant struggle has cannabis become legal, and who knows for how long?
The use of the confederate flag brought Pantera, at least symbolically, into the political arena for real. Although many younger Northern metalheads may not have understood its history, the association with racism probably started right about there, not with a Phil Anselmo rant. I don't personally feel the band was seeking to promote racism in any way, the confederate flag is simply a symbol of southern heritage. However, given the history behind the flag it's always a slippery slope when brandishing it, and Phil Ansemlo himself has distanced himself away from it for this reason. But again, another reason Pantera was viewed as dangerous.
Phil Anselmo collaborated with Norwegian Black Metal musicians and even recorded some black metal of his own with Viking Crown and Eibon. The Norwegian Black Metal scene had a highly publicized controversy in the early 90s involving church burnings, murder, and a downplayed effort to promote nationalism. Although the key players involved were quickly detained and the movement smothered, the combination of Phil Anselmo and Black Metal was surely one that did not go unnoticed by "the powers that be."
The music video for "Mouth for War" is mostly composed of Phil Anselmo screaming at you in a manner extremely reminiscent of a boot camp drill sergeant. Of course Phil's message is not the same as the one delivered in the Marines, but the result can be comparable. The goal of the drill sergeant is to break down the new recruit and build him back up into the machine needed for the tasks passed down from above. When "regular people" start playing "drill sergeant" and delivering orders from an independent source, this is a threat to the power structure. Because if people begin to unite under an independent cause they can challenge the system and make a change. No change can occur without the consent and/or control of "the powers that be." This is the reason Americans are so divided today, because any movement that grows to a certain size gets taken out or co-opted.
When "Far Beyond Driven" hit to top of the billboard charts, this showed that the band had a very large audience. Bands, actors, politicians, or anyone who has a large following has an influence on society. Therefore, if that influence is not consistent with the "status quo" it is ALWAYS checked in some manner.
John Lennon was also perceived as a threat to the power structure when he compared the Beatle's popularity with the popularity of Christ. In fact, President Nixon tried to get him deported from the US more than once. Jim Morrison was also a threat to the power structure. "Break on through" meant "defy the status quo." People were listening and that made him a threat. Hendrix wrote "Machine Gun" against the Vietnam war. All these men died under strange circumstances. Even if we buy the stories told to us by the media, the after effects of these deaths tell us something loud and clear: if you challenge the control structure and people start listening, you WILL get taken out or somehow reduced in stature. It might come in the form of a crazy man with a gun, a tragic suicide, an unexpected overdose, or a public crucifixion of character by way of some form of controversy and/or scandal.
With all of this in mind, we come back again to Dimebag's murder on December 8th, 2004 and recognize the date of the anniversary of John Lennon's death as a very deliberate message. It's the message from the same killer, leaving his mark and showing us that he is still paying attention and reminding us of who's in charge. This is no crazy man with a gun, this is the devil himself. And some day we're gonna have to pull aside the movie screen and stare him down.