Body Bag

Sympathies flooded the Web shortly after guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was shot and killed during a December 8 Damageplan concert in Ohio. Frenzied metal message boards were filled with tearful statements from rockers prominent and obscure.

Some called Abbott’s murder the metal 9/11. Korn played a “tribute solo” at a Dallas concert, and boozy ax-man Zakk Wylde insisted that Dime was “right up there with Eddie [Van Halen] and Randy [Rhodes] and [Jimi] Hendrix.” Even pop tart Michelle Branch cooed that the grubby guitarist “was one of the sweetest guys.” But the loftiest accolade came from Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, who called Abbott’s murder “as tragic and unbelievable as [John] Lennon getting killed.”

OK, wait. Hold the phone. Let’s get some perspective here. It was a horrific moment, sure. But we are talking about Dimebag Darrell, right? The guy who was playing to a couple hundred headbangers in a tiny club the night of his death? To compare John “give peace a chance” Lennon to Dimebag “Confederate-flag guitar” Darrell isn’t merely overstating the case — it’s sheer lunacy.

Abbott’s original band, Pantera, sold millions of records, earned Grammy nominations and was one of the greatest metal bands of its day. But the quartet never lived up to the promise of its early-’90s work and spiraled into a tar pit of drug abuse, lackluster albums and shitty shows.

Abbott’s post-Pantera project, Damageplan, sold about 160,000 copies of its debut — respectable for a burgeoning indie act but hardly the stuff of major-label rock gods. Had Abbott not died in such a dramatic fashion, Damageplan likely would have been dropped by Elektra and faded into obscurity, a rock-history footnote.

Instead, Abbott is lionized as a guitar legend who was worshipped by millions and went out in a blaze of glory. That Abbott was beloved by the metal community is without question, and he certainly died with his boots on, but the only thing legendary about him was his drinking habit. Dimebag Darrell worshippers are suddenly a dime a dozen, but one has to wonder: Where was all this adoration when he was still alive?

Categories: Music