Pantera bassist Rex Brown will miss the remainder of the band’s South American tour after contracting Covid. After taking ill before their 11 December show at Knotfest, in Santiago, Chile, Brown flew home to isolate, with Cattle Decapitation’s Derek Engenmann taking over on bass guitar.
Brown’s absence was originally put down to “health issues” but in a social media post explained that everything was okay, just a mild case of Covid, and the necessary period of isolation until it cleared.
“I caught a very mild strain of Covid, but because of our own protocols, I simply do not wanna risk getting my brothers or the crew sick,” he wrote. “I’m feeling better and am on my way to a speedy recovery. Merry fcking christmas and see you all next year!”
Brown will miss the band’s two shows in São Paolo on 15 and 18 December, the latter another Knotfest date with Slipknot. He will have to wait until 26 May for the next Pantera date, when they hit the Armeets Arena in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Despite this setback, which leaves the band with just frontman Phil Anselmo as the only returning member of the band, the reunion shows have been well received. For Wylde and Benante stepping up the project, and filling the spots of the late Dimebag Darrell and his older brother Vinnie Paul, the gig took a lot of preparation – and in Benante’s case, a little “metal meditation” onstage to get him through.
“If I say I wasn’t nervous I’d be lying,” Benante said on Instagram. “The excitement, the fear, the emotions, the love and the work that went into doing this all played a part of what was in my head.
“When I got up there it had all seemed to disappear…I looked at [Phil, Rex and Zakk] and felt the connection. Bam!! [A] New level started and we were off. I kept looking down at my set list and was getting hyped up for the next song.
“I had some moments up there where I felt like I wasn’t there, I went to some other place. I think I was Metal meditating, don’t laugh… I’m serious.”
At least Wylde has had experience of learning another iconic player’s set when he was hired by Ozzy Osbourne to replace Jake E Lee in 1987, and then had all of Randy Rhoads’ tracks to learn as well. This was no different.
But learning Dimebag’s parts was one thing, performing them was another, and Wylde admitted to Ola Englund that he needed to add some items to his pedalboard. And for the first time in his career, he had to buy a noise gate to play with that amount of gain and keep things audible.
“I got my rig, and obviously Dime used stuff that I don’t use,” he said. “Obviously, his noise gate. If you’re gonna be going [hums Cowboys From Hell verse riff]. There is an art to controlling it. Ask any guitar player, if they’re not used to playing with a distortion pedal on – any of our buddies that just play without one – they’re like, ‘Bro, how do you play with that thing?’ Even with my rig, to me it’s not even that dirty but with Dime’s stuff you’ve got to have a noise gate on for sure. So now I am a proud owner of a noise gate as well! [Laughs]”
For some players, a noise gate is used out of an abundance of caution, just to make those staccato metal guitar chugs a little tighter, to bring down the noise floor of the rig. But with the amount of gain required to replicate Dimebag’s chainsaw electric guitar tone, a noise gate is an essential.
“With Dime’s stuff, Dime would have two distortion pedals on at the same time!” said Wylde. “I remember, he goes, ‘Zakk, what pedals do you use?’ Like I said, one of my Berzerker pedals, one of my overdrives. He had one of those on his ‘board. I said, ‘Dime, it’s probably not even adding anything ‘cos you’ve got so much overdrive on there.’ But for him there wasn’t enough gain. He loved it.”
In other Pantera news, Brown recently sat down with Gibson TV for its Icons segment, and talked about the history of the band, how they worked in tandem with Terry Date create one of the most uncompromising and biggest selling metal sounds of the ‘90s, and explained why he thought the band’s final studio album, Reinventing The Steel, deserves to be considered alongside the seminal Vulgar Display Of Power.
Check it out above.