After years of talk, Billboard is reporting Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown will tour North America in 2023 under the Pantera banner. As the only surviving members following the passing of founding guitarist 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, we're assuming the full lineup is already in place. But who will it be?
Billboard reports that Anselmo and Brown have signed a deal with Artist Group International to book their North American tour dates. “We are thrilled to be working with such an iconic band and bringing their music back to the fans,” said agent Peter Pappalardo.
The first name that springs to mind as the possible guitarist for this reunion / tribute has to be Zakk Wylde – Dimebag's good friend and a man who has gone of record in the past to say he'd be open to it.
“Of course, I was a pallbearer for him — I laid him to rest — so, of course, I’d say, it would be a beautiful way to honour him and stuff like that," Wylde told Artisan News as far back as 2013 about his willingness to participate if a tribute ever happened. "And to celebrate all things Pantera and what they achieved.”
But there's a sticking point; in 2021 Rex Brown seemed certain Wylde would not be in contention. "It’s going to come up, and it wouldn’t be Zakk Wylde, I guarantee you that," the bassist told Eon Music. "I’ve just put it out there so we can get on past it."
Ouch. But while he was alive even Vinnie Paul mused that Wylde was the man for the job, despite not being in favour of any kind of reunion. “If [a Pantera reunion] ever were to happen, [Wylde] would be the guy [to fill in for Dimebag],” he told Dallas radio station The Eagle in March 2012.
For his part, Phil Anselmo is a Wylde fan, but appeared cautious when speaking on the subject in a 2016 Q&A session you can watch above.
"Zakk is such a badass f--king player," noted Anselmo, " but I just think he's a different player, man – different style," explained Anselmo, who then added, "You gotta remember, tonality comes into it; he has a different tone than Dime, you know? So there would be, I guess, so many things to tweak about what [Zakk] does to not fill [Dime's] shoes but actually play Pantera parts. Cause there ain't no filling them f--king shoes."
Who else could take on the challenge? There's no shortage of able guitarists, and painstakingly replicating Dimebag's feel and tone doesn't have to be the number one priority here because that's an extremely tall order.
Then there's an often overlooked element. Pantera had one of the all-time great rhythm sections of metal, and Brown will look to lock in with someone who can at least carry the technical finesse of Vinnie Paul.
Anthrax's Charlie Benante is a longtime friend of Pantera and his name is already being thrown around the rumour mill – to the degree it might be a done deal. He's already has some prep with Rex here…
Lamb Of God's Chris Adler is a player we'd be interested to see in that chair too. But he's someone who advised Vinnie Paul not to reform Pantera when he was alive.
"Not that my opinion mattered but I encouraged him, 'Please don't'. It's not right," Adler revealed on the Talk Is Jericho podcast in As much as I love Zakk or whoever might be able to do it it's celebrated by the fact that it's over. It's celebrated by the fact that we all remember it well, with the appropriate pieces to the puzzle."
But some don't remember it; because they weren't alive or old enough to be there. While there's no getting around the issue that this is like metal's Van Halen – without the chemistry and genius of Alex and Eddie – but framed as a tribute, allowing a whole new generation to enjoy Pantera's legacy of songs together at shows? The appeal is undeniable.