Shockwaves hit the metal world on Wednesday (July 13th) when it was reported that singer Philip Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown would be touring as Pantera in 2023. The thought of a Pantera reunion without guitarist Dimebag Darrell and drummer Vinnie Paul seems far beyond reason, but if handled respectfully, with the right personnel on board, it could serve as a proper tribute to the late Abbott brothers.
Dimebag was tragically slain onstage in 2004 while performing with the band Damageplan, but he left behind a legacy that firmly cemented him as one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time.
Vinnie, who died in 2018 of heart failure, masterfully kept the beat for the band that put the “groove” in groove metal, and his infectious personality made him one of metal’s most beloved musicians.
Filling in for either brother is no easy task, but there are a number of candidates who fit the bill — when considering their skills, their playing style, their availability, and their status as legendary musicians themselves.
While no musicians can ever truly take the place of Dimebag and Vinnie, we’ve come up with a list of six guitarists and six drummers who we think would do an admirable job (with one very noteworthy honorable mention).
Update, July 14th: Billboard reports that Zakk Wylde and Charlie Benante will fill the guitar and drum slots, respectively, on the Pantera tour. That said, you can still see who we picked as our top candidates below.
1. Zakk Wylde
The name that has been mentioned the most throughout the years as to who could fill in for Dimebag has been Zakk Wylde. Of course, Zakk was great friends with Dime, and he’s certainly got the skills and the stage presence to do justice to Pantera’s discography. Wylde himself has addressed the possibility in interviews, saying he would be honored to do it, but in a 2021 interview with eonmusic, Rex Brown shot the idea down, saying, “It wouldn’t be Zakk Wylde, I guarantee you that. I’ve just put it out there so we can get on past it.” As far as availability, Wylde is the touring guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band as well as the frontman of Black Label Society. It might be tight fit, especially if Ozzy gets back on the road in 2023.
2. Kerry King
Slayer played their last show in November 2019, and the members have remained relatively quiet since then. Guitarist Kerry King has mentioned in the few interviews he’s done since Slayer’s final concert that he does have a new project, and it is had been reported that fellow Slayer members Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph are involved, with a rumor that none other than Philip Anselmo was on board, as well. Could it be that King’s project was actually tied in to the Pantera reunion? We’ll see.
3. Gary Holt
After admirably filling the shoes of the late Jeff Hanneman in Slayer, Gary Holt is back with his longtime band Exodus. He’s one of the most respected guitarists in thrash metal, and rumor had it that he was involved in the aforementioned Kerry King project with Anselmo. Exodus have tour dates lined up through mid October of this year, but after that, Holt’s touring schedule is clear. With Slayer hanging up their instruments a few years ago, Holt could easily fit in a Pantera reunion amidst his Exodus duties.
4. Andreas Kisser
Pantera may have been the pioneers of groove metal, but Sepultura were right up there with them in the ’90s, churning out classic albums like Chaos A.D. and Roots. Andreas Kisser has been the band’s lead guitarist since 1987, and remains an active member of the Brazilian group. Sepultura released their latest full-length, Quadra, in 2020, so there might be a chance that Kisser is done with the album touring cycle in time for the Pantera tour.
5. Nita Strauss
As a member of Alice Cooper’s band for eight years, Nita Strauss proved to be one of rock’s most dynamic guitarists. But just a couple days before the Pantera reunion was reported, Strauss announced that she was exiting the shock-rocker’s band. Rumor has it that she’ll be playing with Demi Lovato on the singer’s upcoming tour, but she would definitely be an intriguing choice for next year’s Pantera outing.
6. Marty Friedman
As a member of Megadeth for the entire decade of the ’90s, Marty Friedman was a contemporary of Dimebag, with both considered among the best shredders on the planet. A few years back, Friedman was almost brought back into Megadeth, but it didn’t work out. If anyone can do justice to Dime’s masterful solos, it’s Friedman, a guitar virtuoso whose skills are difficult to match.
1. Mike Portnoy
Former Dream Theater member Mike Portnoy can play just about any style of metal as one of the most skilled drummers of all time. His love for Pantera is no secret, having credited them as the “only band to really carry metal through the ’90s.” While he’s always involved in several projects, including an upcoming tour in which he’ll play drums for fellow Dream Theater founder John Petrucci, we’re sure Portnoy would drop everything if he got the call to perform alongside Anselmo and Brown in Pantera.
2. Gene Hoglan
Known as “The Atomic Clock,” Gene Hoglan would be an amazing choice to sit behind the kit for Pantera. He recently left his longtime gig in Testament, with scheduling conflicts listed as the primary reason. Could one of those scheduling conflicts be the Pantera reunion tour? It also doesn’t hurt that Hoglan bears a bit of a resemblance to Vinnie Paul. While he may have commitments coming up with the resurrected Dethklok, it would be a no-brainer for him to hit the road with Pantera in 2023.
3. Charlie Benante
While it appears that Anthrax are back in full swing, with a tour set to kick off later this month and a new album finally on the way, one of the first names to be rumored following the Pantera reunion announcement was Charlie Benante. Blabbermouth reported that Benante and Zakk Wylde were the prime candidates to fill the drum and guitar slots, respectively, although no confirmation has been made from any of the camps. That said, Benante was very close with Vinnie, once saying, “He was a lot of the brains and the glue that held that band together and, basically, pushed that band.”