ANTHRAX bassist Frank Bello has once again weighed in on the news that PANTERA's surviving members Philip Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass) will unite with guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX) for a world tour under the PANTERA banner.
Anselmo and Brown, along with Wylde and Benante, will headline a number of major festivals across North America, South America and Europe and stage some of their own headline concerts. They will also support METALLICA on a massive North American stadium tour in 2023 and 2024.
According to Billboard, the lineup has been given a green light by the estates of PANTERA's founders, drummer Vincent "Vinnie Paul" Abbott and guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott.
Bello, who is Benante's nephew as well as his bandmate, discussed PANTERA's comeback in an interview with Eonmusic to promote his new solo EP, "Then I'm Gone". Asked whether ANTHRAX's new album — the follow-up to 2016's "For All Kings" — would arrive in 2023, Frank said: "What I can tell you is we'll know when the record's done. It's got to be right for us, and when we know what's right, it'll be it'll be done. Plus we also have some other things; Charlie's playing in PANTERA next year, so we're going to give him space to do that and let them do that, which is cool."
Asked about how he feels about seeing PANTERA return to performing live, given the long history between ANTHRAX and the Anselmo-fronted outfit, Frank continued: "Well, you have to realize ANTHRAX and PANTERA were family. It wasn't just friends hanging out; that was very much a family. I mean, we shared Thanksgiving dinners in Dallas with PANTERA; it was ANTHRAX and just the bands and crew. We lived with each other, so it was so very close. So you have to understand, to even think right now that Dime and Vinnie are passed, I don't put it in my head like that; I always think they're right here. I have to keep that right here because they're our brothers. I mean, honestly, they were very, very close to us."
Regarding Benante and Wylde's involvement with the reformed PANTERA, Bello said: "When this thing came up and I heard that they wanted Charlie, I said, 'Yes, of course.' Obviously, Charlie is the guy. And Zakk, because, as a fan, to see these songs played right, and with respect and as a tribute, the guys that they have in that band are the guys that I want to see. And I'm talking as a fan who stood on a lot of side stages for PANTERA, seeing them kill every show. There's a lot of videos with me on the side with Rex, doing shots with Rex during the show. So I know exactly what I'm going to be seeing, and I'm excited that they picked the right two guys. Zakk and Charlie are going to kill it, I think. I'm really excited. I want to see it, and I think it's a celebration. There's a younger generation that's never seen PANTERA, and it's all about the songs, man. Those songs deserve to be heard live, and I think it's going to be a great tribute done right. Phil, Rex — again, family. So I just think it's positive for metal, and I think people are going to love it."
Read the entire interview at Eonmusic.
Bello previously discussed his views on the PANTERA comeback in an August 2022 interview with the "Talk Louder" podcast, hosted by veteran music journalist "Metal Dave" Glessner and lifelong hard rock/metal vocalist Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS). Asked what he thinks about Anselmo and Brown touring again under the PANTERA name, Bello said: "Look, we've done a lot of touring with PANTERA in our day. We were family. You have to understand, ANTHRAX and PANTERA, we were very much a family. Dime played on a few of our records. We were very, very close to these guys, so Charlie also had a really close relationship with Dime — andVinnie. And we all did — we all did."
Frank continued: "They got the right guy [in Charlie]. If there's one guy to play drums, who'll play them the right way, the way it should be — and I think Vinnie would say this too; rest his soul… We were very, very close with these guys. This will be like another family member joining them and paying tribute to these guys.
"For me, as a PANTERA fan, yes, I'm stoked on it. I think Zakk's awesome. We talk about it every day. We're close with Zakk. We've known him for years. So this is a great time.
"I think it's a celebration of PANTERA," Bello added. "I'll be the first one in line for a ticket. I'll be loving this. I think it's a great tribute. Also, for the people who haven't seen PANTERA, these guys will do the right job of representing PANTERA, I think. If it was to be done, this is the right way, in my opinion. I'd wanna see this just because, man, it's gonna be done right and respectful and it's gonna be awesome. And just a little selfishly, I've been jamming with Charlie Benante for all my life; he's a relative of mine. It's great that a bigger group of people are gonna see how great he truly is as a drummer. I think people are gonna see that and [witness] something that we've known for a long time. It's gonna be a great thing. It's a tribute. I'm looking forward to it. I'm a PANTERA fan."
After McMaster noted that the PANTERA shows will be "emotional", Bello said: "Totally. And it should be. That's part of the tribute, right? Because we all miss them, and now maybe we can feel them again a little bit. That's the way I look at it, man. These riffs from Dime and [drumming from] Vinnie, you just feel it. It's really a feeling inside. They went way beyond music, those guys. You've gotta think about that. They went way beyond music. They touched you, in my opinion — they touched people inside. And that music is a celebration of it. So, yeah, I look forward to all these people, not only us fans that have seen them and hung out with PANTERA but the people who haven't had a chance to see it. I think it's gonna be a great representation of a tribute. I think it's gonna be beautiful."
Benante told SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" about how he plans to approach the PANTERA gig: "I can't go do this as the drummer from ANTHRAX because it would be a different sound completely. So the way I'm gonna do that is if you close your eyes, it's gonna sound like it's Vinnie, basically. And that's how it's gonna be. The sound is gonna sound exactly like him."
Wylde said that he had a similar mindset. "You approach it the same way as you do when I'm playing with Ozzy," he said. "Obviously I've gotta learn [Randy] Rhoads's stuff and I've gotta learn Jake's [E. Lee] stuff, and when I was doing the [BLACK] SABBATH stuff, you learn it and do it as faithful as you can. Charlie's gotta learn all of Vinnie's parts. You approach it as if you're in a cover band. When we do the ZAKK SABBATH stuff," referring to his BLACK SABBATH cover band, "I don't start changing lyrics midway through 'War Pigs'. You learn the songs — so that's what you do."
Talk about a possible PANTERA "reunion" intensified when Anselmo regularly joined Wylde's BLACK LABEL SOCIETY to perform PANTERA's song "I'm Broken" during DOWN's 2014 stint on the "Revolver Golden Gods Tour". That buzz only got stronger after Brown joined the jam on May 23, 2014 when the tour swung through Texas.
Up until his passing, Vinnie remained on non-speaking terms with Anselmo, whom the drummer indirectly blamed for Dimebag's death.
Vinnie Paul and Dimebag co-founded PANTERA. When PANTERA broke up in 2003, they formed DAMAGEPLAN. On December 8, 2004, while performing with DAMAGEPLAN at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, Dimebag was shot and killed onstage by a troubled schizophrenic who believed that the members of PANTERA were stealing his thoughts.