The first time I heard Pantera’s “Revolution is my Name,” I fell in love with the song immediately. Dimebag’s riffing was at its sludgiest, and his soloing at its dirtiest. Lyrically, Phil Anselmo struggled with the conflict of old world views versus new world views, walking the fine line between “revolution” and “forever.” Throughout Pantera’s back catalogue, Anselmo often dealt with similarly heavy topics such as death, acceptance, respect and, of course, dealing with anger. But it was never anger for anger’s sake; there was always a strong message behind the anger, and an underlying lesson on how to deal with it without hurting others. This is Pantera’s legacy, and continues to be one of the reasons why they are a shining star in the metal community.
Anselmo did not shy away from these topics when Pantera was dissolved either; he has continued his lyrical musings in bands like Down and Superjoint Ritual. I had the opportunity to catch Down at last year’s edition of the Montebello Rockfest, and what struck me most about Anselmo was that for a man of his level of fame and notoriety, he seemed to be such an every-man. He was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, and from the stage all the way up to the beginning of Down’s set he would talk to and laugh with anyone in the crowd who caught his attention. Ditto for his backstage behaviour; anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, whether black, white, brown, purple, pink (as people at heavy metal festivals tend to portray multiple colors) who approached Anselmo was met with a big hug and a “How the hell are you!?”
Anselmo is currently being crucified by the mainstream media and metal community for performing a Nazi salute and shouting the words “white power” to the crowd, something he has apparently done on multiple previous occasions. I do not condone these actions, and while I think the world at large is right to be offended by them, and that Anselmo should be forced to make amends for his faux-pas, I think that the level to which he is being villainized is almost farcical. I think back to other famous names who have been given a similar reputation by the media in relation to their actions in recent memory; Bill Cosby RAPED MULTIPLE WOMEN. Ian Watkins MANIPULATED MOTHERS INTO HELPING HIM MOLEST THEIR OWN CHILDREN. Phil Anselmo made a bad joke, and the band wagon is charging full steam ahead.
Now of course, musicians in lesser-known metal bands are attacking Phil Anselmo simply because it will force a little more traffic towards their own bands’ pages. The Civic Center in New Orleans, Louisiana announced the cancelation of a planned Down show on February 8th, but they made the announcement AFTER Anselmo had ALREADY announced that he was leaving Down in order to avoid further backlash toward his bandmates. All of these announcements read like, “Look how accepting I am of everyone! I’m a much better person than Phil Anselmo.”
Again, you have every right to be offended by what Anselmo has done, and I would be worried if you weren’t. I, as well, am duly offended. But I do not believe the man is a racist. A product of his environment? Maybe. An alcoholic with multiple personal demons to battle? Definitely. But if someone as well-spoken and as rational as he has often proven to be can turn out to be an ignorant moron, well then, color me surprised. Moreover, I urge people to do their research before believing any hype and exaggeration being thrown at them by social media articles and videos. Robb Flynn’s video may be just, but people forget that Robb Flynn also has a huge mouth and his been criticized for similar actions in the past. No, he has never (to my knowledge) made a racist remark. But the man has a reputation for attacking other bands in the metal scene because to him they aren’t…well, put bluntly, they just aren’t metal enough, and to me this is just as prejudiced, and he is SERIOUS when he does it.
My final question is this: Why, in a community as famously tolerant and open-minded as the metal community, a tolerance and open-mindedness that Anselmo and his multiple musical projects have HELPED to cultivate, would he knowingly call out and distance himself from an entire segment of that community?
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson