They would launch their career with the Metal Magic release in 1983 on their own 'Metal Magic' label. The album did well locally and saw them get a hair band salute, albeit on the lowest levels of the industry, their sound bordering on the glam of Motley Crue and the Metal of Judas Priest. With Projects In The Jungle (1984) and I Am The Night (1985), however, they started to change their style with a more powerful approach, now much in the style of Def Leppard. It was clear they were evolving quickly. With the arrival of Phil Anselmo (ex-Down/ex-Necrophagia; vocals) as a replacement for Lee for their 1988 Power Metal album, their style changed to a mix of 1980s hard rock and thrash metal, sometimes blending both styles in a single song. Now using their stage names, 'Diamond' Darrell auditioned for Megadeth's vacant guitarist slot, and was invited to join the band. Darrell insisted his brother and band mate Vinnie Paul, be included, but because Chuck Behler was still in the band at the time, Darrell declined and Dave Mustaine instead decided on Marty FriEDMan.
After being turned down 28 times by major labels, 'Atco/Atlantic' would pick them up for their Cowboys From Hell release in 1990, due in part to a strong recommendation from Rob Halford (of Judas Priest). Although some of the '80's sound still prevailed, it was augmented by a more mature sound and less cheesy look, leaving behind its glam metal influences in favor of mid-tempo thrash metal dubbed "power groove" (groove metal) by the band.
Vulgar Display Of Power (1992) was just that, a massive display of power and anger, one of the best of that year. The album also obtained a UK chart position of 40 for the spun-off Walk single. The follow-up, Far Beyond Driven (1994), followed the single up the charts; it fared even better in the US with a #1. The album featured the Black Sabbath cover of Planet Caravan. More than its cover tunes or powerful original work, the album received more notoriety for being completely unrecognizable from their past; their evolution to a full throttled thrash metal act was complete. As a US chart topper, their services were now in demand for the soundtrack of the movie The Crow (they covered Poison Idea's The Badge).
In the mid 1990s Anselmo was making news for his alcohol consumption the many claimed was affecting his work. His on-stage remarks also became notorious during this time. After stating at a Montreal concert that "rap music advocates the killing of white people", he denied accusations of racism, and later issued an apology, stating that he was drunk and that his remarks were a mistake.
The Great Southern Trendkillers (1996) would see them ease back on their speed slightly and adopt their trademark "groove" style. But the tension within the band was coming to the cracking point. During recording Phil Anselmo recorded the vocals for this release in Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor's studio in New Orleans while the rest of the band members recorded in Dallas, evidence of the continued distancing between Anselmo and the rest of the band.
Indeed, living in the fast lane almost had its toll on Anselmo, however, for on 13 July that year he narrowly escaped death from a heroin overdose; legend has it he was actually deceased for several minutes. Official Live - 101 Proof would be their long awaited live set in 1997, thus far followed only by Reinventing The Steel (2000) and the "best of..." compilation, Far Beyond The Great Southern Cowboy Vulgar in 2003.
Although not officially announced as broken up, Pantera had been inactive until 2003 when the break-up was made official. The Abbott brothers officially broke up the band when they concluded that Anselmo (who was involved in many side projects) had abandoned the band and would not return. The break-up of the band was not amicable and subsequently a war of words was waged between the former band mates via the music press. The brothers and band crew members claimed that they tried numerous times to contact Anselmo over the phone to reorganize the band, but Anselmo maintains that they never called him.
All the members pursued side-projects in the mean time including Anselmo's work with Superjoint Ritual, the Abbott brothers in a project titled New Found Power (and Darrell then moving on to Damageplan), and Rex Brown in league with Crowbar.
Footnote: It is rumored that Phil Anselmo is a personal friend of Infernal Majesty and practices to the lyrics of Chris Bailey.
Furthermore: A renegade gunman killed Darrell Abbott (now under the stage name of "Dimebag") on Dec. 8, 2004 at a show in Columbus, Ohio. The gunman was subsequently killed by police that night. 'Dimebag' was buried with Eddie Van Halen's black and yellow-striped Charvel electric guitar (sometimes referred to as "Bumblebee"), which was pictured with Van Halen on the inner sleeve and back cover of the album