By 2003, drummer Vinnie Paul and guitarist Dimebag Darrell were plagued with difficulties that their previous metal band, Pantera, was experiencing. Both described the performance level of Pantera's vocalist, Phil Anselmo, as "hit and miss, depending on what type of chemicals he was on". Following the release of Pantera's 2000 album Reinventing the Steel and the subsequent tour, Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown started to focus on their side projects, and did not discuss or record any further Pantera material, while Darrell and Paul wanted to continue to write and play music. Both Abbott brothers thought it was time to move on, and, upon disbanding Pantera, they began writing new material.
A demo of the song "Crawl" was sent to former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman who auditioned as vocalist. Lachman was hired, and New Found Power was formed in early 2003 with former Jerry Cantrell guitarist Shawn Matthews on bass initially, who was replaced after the album recording with the brothers' tattoo artist, Bob Zilla. When writing music, Paul claimed; "we put no boundaries on it ... we wanted it to be very diverse", and Darrell said "We wanted to stretch out and expand our capabilities to their fullest." The band changed its name to Damageplan and decided to name the first album New Found Power.
New Found Power
The single "Save Me" debuted on American radio on January 26, 2004, and the band's debut album, New Found Power, was released in the United States on February 10. The album was recorded at the brothers' backyard studio, Chasin' Jason, in Arlington, Texas, where previous Pantera albums were also recorded. The Abbott brothers found out that during recording, everyone was willing to contribute and "put 100% effort into it" while with Pantera, but they found it too difficult to have Anselmo in the recording studio. Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society, and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains made guest appearances on the tracks "Fuck You", "Soul Bleed", and the bonus track "Ashes to Ashes" respectively, and Sterling Winfield handled co-production duties.
New Found Power sold 44,676 copies in its first week to debut at number 38 on the Billboard 200. The album received mixed reviews from music critics; Christine Klunk of PopMatters commented "I'm not in the least bit interested in where this band goes or what new and exciting ways they'll think of to abuse the listeners," while Johnny Loftus of AllMusic felt it was a "blazing new beginning".
Alice in Chains' vocalist/guitarist Jerry Cantrell attended a Thanksgiving party hosted by the Abbott brothers. Darrell and Paul had a demo of the first song they wrote, titled "Ashes to Ashes". Lachman insisted that it was on the "backburner" until Cantrell showed interest. The band entered the Abbott brothers' backyard studio with Cantrell to record "Ashes to Ashes". Although the song was not completed in time to be featured on New Found Power, it was included on the Japanese version, and for the soundtrack The Punisher: The Album. To promote New Found Power, the band toured with Hatebreed, Drowning Pool, and Unearth on the second installment of the Headbangers Ball.
Death of Dimebag Darrell
Fans pay tribute at the Alrosa Villa nightclub, three days after the murder.
On December 8, 2004, the band was on a tour at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. Moments into the concert, Nathan Gale, a deranged 25-year-old fan, climbed onto the stage, drew his 9 mm Beretta M9, and shot Dimebag Darrell five times, killing him instantly. The band's head of security Jeffery "Mayhem" Thompson then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Gale, which allowed Paul and other members to escape. However, Thompson was shot and killed in the struggle. A fan named Nathan Bray, who attempted to give CPR to Thompson and Darrell, and Erin Halk, a U.S. Marine-turned-roadie who tried to disarm Gale while he was reloading, were both shot and killed as well. Once the police arrived, Columbus Police officer James Niggemeyer approached the stage from the side, and saw Gale holding his weapon to a hostage. Niggemeyer shot Gale once in the head with a 12-gauge Remington Model 870, killing him. Fifteen shots were fired by Gale, and an additional 36 rounds were found at his possession.
A police investigation did not find any motive behind the shooting, although Gale's mother stated that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and that he believed the Abbott brothers had stolen his lyrics while trying to steal his identity. She was unaware if her son took the medication he was given for his condition, but was proud of his military service following his discharge, and had given him the weapon that was used in the shooting. Major Jason Johnston, a Marine Corps spokesman at The Pentagon, was unable to comment on Gale's discharge.
A foundation called The Dimebag Darrell Memorial Fund was founded after the incident, which donated its profits to cover medical expenses of drum technician John Brooks and tour manager Chris Paluska, who were among those injured during the shooting. A public memorial service for Darrell took place on December 14, 2004 at Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, Texas. Many musicians paid tribute to Darrell on message boards and at live performances.
In May 2005, Niggemeyer was called before a grand jury, which was convened by the Franklin County prosecutor's office to examine the actions taken on the night of Dimebag Darrell's demise, a standard practice when deadly force is used. The jury found that there was no wrongdoing on Niggemeyer's part. Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien commented, "There was little doubt [the shooting] was lawful, given the 200 eyewitnesses and the circumstances that surrounded the shooting. Nevertheless, we still have an independent body review the facts". Niggemeyer was nominated for a bravery award on the TV show America's Most Wanted.
In a 2005 interview, Damageplan manager Paul Bassman said that unreleased recordings before Darrell's death were near completion. He commented, "Vinnie Paul has said there will be a follow-up album down the road, as Dime would have wanted his music to be heard." Rumors circulated of another album, although nothing has been released.
Abbott and Zilla joined Hellyeah
following Darrell's death.
Following the events since Dimebag Darrell's death, Paul was unsure if he wanted to continue playing music. He was invited to join the band called Hellyeah, which included members of Mudvayne and Nothingface, but declined the offer. However, bassist Jerry Montano repeatedly called Paul, and he accepted to join the project as he thought "Everybody had their head in the right place." Hellyeah released its debut album on April 10, 2007. One week later, Zilla joined the band as its new bassist, after Montano left due to "personal reasons". The album was recorded at Abbott's backyard studio, Chasin' Jason, where New Found Power was also recorded.
Vocalist Lachman joined The Mercy Clinic, which aided the grieving process. He commented, "you have to get back on the horse. You could easily let a decade go by and not do anything. I'm happy to have walked away with my life after the situation I was thrown into. But, I mean, what do you do? I'm a musician. I'm going to make music. What Dime would have told me was, 'You make music, motherfucker. Get back on it. Do what you do.' So, that's what I did." Before the shooting, Phil Anselmo stated in the December 2004 edition of Metal Hammer that Dimebag "deserves to be severely beaten". He apologized and said the "severely beaten" comment was a joke, although Paul requested Metal Hammer to provide the audio tapes to discern the nature of the comments. Paul concluded that the quote was not a joke and referred to Anselmo as the "master of lies".
A book titled A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa was penned by author Chris Armold. For 14 months, Armold interviewed people and researched the events leading up to December 8, stating "It's not a book about rock stars, but heroes, regular guys who made the ultimate sacrifice." In his research, Armold found no evidence that the comments Anselmo made before Darrell's death had influenced Gale's actions. The book was released in 2007.
In a 2017 interview with Loudwire, Paul had stated that he had planned to release all unreleased Damageplan recordings at some point in the future, many of which have no vocals. He even stated having some of Dimebag Darrell's favorite musicians, such as Rob Halford of Judas Priest to record vocals for the songs.
Paul died on June 22, 2018, at the age of 54.