Earlier this year, the guitar world looked on in anticipation when it was confirmed that Pantera’s surviving members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown would be reuniting for a 2023 tour.
That anticipation heightened when it was later announced that Black Label Society electric guitar titan Zakk Wylde had been drafted in to fill the place of the late Dimebag Darrell, with Anthrax’s Charlie Benante also coming on board to play drums in place of the late Vinnie Paul Abbott.
Wylde’s appointment was praised by many, given the guitarist’s close relationship with both Dimebag and the band in general – not only does the former Ozzy Osbourne player include regular tributes to the Abbott brothers on Black Label Society setlists, he jammed with Pantera back in the day and was a regular for Dimebag’s post-Pantera project, Damageplan.
Despite Wylde’s close personal and musical connection with Dimebag, it’s no surprise that playing guitar in a Pantera lineup comes with its own set of unique challenges – chief among which is the not-insubstantial task of learning and interpreting Dimebag’s innovative playing style.
But, as Wylde revealed to Guitar World for a forthcoming interview, a true replication of Dimebag’s world-beating approach to guitar playing isn’t just hard, it’s nigh-on impossible, likening it to the challenges Randy Rhoads would have faced had he attempted to tackle an Eddie Van Halen track.
“No matter what I do, it's going to sound like me,” Wylde responded when asked about the biggest challenges in playing Dimebag’s parts. “I can practice all I want and stay as faithful as I want, but I am never going to escape that.
“It's like if Randy Rhoads were to play Eddie Van Halen's Eruption,” he continued. “No matter what he did, it would sound like Randy playing, not Eddie. You're never going to mistake Randy for Eddie or Eddie for Randy, and it's the same thing here with me playing Dime's stuff.”
In an effort to compensate for the differences in playing styles, Wylde said he will embrace the challenge and use it to his own advantage: “I am going to go in, learn the parts, be as faithful to what Dime did as possible, and just be me.
“I'm gonna have fun with it, knowing that I am not expecting myself to sound like Dime, and no one else should either, which is how it is when I play with Ozzy or whatever else.”
One thing that will help Wylde’s cause, though, is the fact he will be using gear from Dimebag’s own collection. Though Wylde is coy on what exactly he’ll be using for his Pantera rig, he does reveal it may include “some of Dime's heads, pedals, or the cabs”.
“I'll be using my guitars, effects, and pedals, a lot of the pedals that Dime actually gave me, and yeah, I'll definitely be using some of Dime's pedals and stuff, too,” Wylde explained. “I'm still working out how it'll all come together, but I am looking forward to seeing how it all flows once I do.
“Dime's tech, Grady [Champion], is gonna be coming down too, which is great. I've got my tech, but it'll be great to have Grady here to help pay tribute to Dime.”
The first Pantera tribute shows are slated to take place next month, with the band set to feature on three of Slipknot’s South American Knotfest dates on December 9, 11 and 18 in Bogotá, Colombia, Santiago, Chile and São Paulo, Brazil, respectively.