Far Beyond ... Sabbath?

How a Pantera member almost joined Heaven & Hell
By Peter Lindblad
Vinny Appice of Kill Devil Hill
Since joining forces on Black Sabbath’s revitalizing “Dehumanizer” tour back in the early 1990s, the Sabbath family – as dysfunctional as it is at the moment – and members of Pantera have maintained a fairly cozy relationship.
Glad to stay out of the current mess involving plans for the reunification of the original Black Sabbath lineup, Vinny Appice, drummer for Sabbath during the Dio era, has other irons in the fire, one of which involves former Pantera bassist Rex Brown. On May 22, Appice’s Kill Devil Hill, which also features Brown, singer Dewey Bragg and guitarist Mark Zavon, releases its self-titled debut album on SPV/Steamhammer, a grim, crushingly heavy amalgamation of black-hooded, Sabbath-style doom metal, head-swimming melodies on loan from Alice in Chains, killer hooks and sinister riffs.
Before all this, however, Appice and another member of Pantera came close to working together. And when one thinks of what might have been … well, it’s nothing short of mind-blowing. Or, at least, it was.
Flash back to the spring of 2010, when the world of heavy metal was rocked by the news of Ronnie James Dio’s death. At the time of his sad demise, Dio was still part of Heaven & Hell, the name the Dio-fronted Sabbath lineup assumed when they reunited in 2006. Over the span of four years, Heaven & Hell toured, recorded three songs for the 2006 compilation LP, Black Sabbath: The Dio Years, and put out the devastating comeback record The Devil You Know in 2009 that critics raved about.
Of course, when Dio died, everybody figured Heaven & Hell was done. And for all intents and purposes, it was. Or was it?
Thinking back, Appice, in a recent interview, recalled how Down – the post-Pantera band that included Brown and Phil Anselmo, opened for Heaven & Hell.
“We played a lot of dates together, and we went down to Australia, and it was cool,” said Appice. “It was cool hanging out. It was a good tour, great tour and successful, so it was cool hanging out with friends and being out on tour for that long. There was even talk of, at one time, after Ronnie passed away, that if we were going to continue, what singers could we use? Phil’s name popped up as a possibility to make another record, but that never happened.”
Wait … what? Phil Anselmo in Black Sabbath? Good God, just think of the possibilities.
It’s easy to understand why the thought appealed to Sabbath. During the “Dehumanizer” tour, Appice and everyone else in Sabbath watched in awe as the EF-5 groove-metal tornado known as Pantera left a path of destruction every where they went.
“They were just bad-ass, man – a powerful, strong band,” said Appice. “So much energy … they just slammed it to the wall. So I enjoyed them and I watched them, too, before we went on those shows; when we arrived on time, I was watching Pantera. So, they were awesome, man … absolutely. Slamming it to the wall.”
Anselmo never did join Heaven & Hell, and perhaps it’s all for the best. Now, Appice and Brown are together in Kill Devil Hill, and everybody’s happy. And if an updated version of Dehumanizer – albeit one whose graveyard atmosphere is thick with gothic imagery – sounds appealing, then Kill Devil Hill is right up your alley.
“Like the guitars … very heavy and very heavy riffs, and the drum sounds a little bigger on Dehumanizer,” said Appice. “There are some similarities to it. And I think there are some similarities with the old style Sabbath, the early Sabbath. And then there’s a little bit of Dio in there, too. Dewey is a very melodic singer, very heavy and dark. But then he hits on those melodies. Some of them remind me of what Ronnie had done. So it was kind of a combination of those things, and some of it’s like Alice in Chains. It reminds me a lot of Alice in Chains and Pantera. There are a lot of little ingredients in there, you know. And it wasn’t like we sat there and said, ‘Let’s do this so that it sounds like this.’ It just happened that way with all the bands and the combination of them.”
Look for the full interview with Appice to be posted in the coming days. Visit www.killdevilhillmusic.com for news and touring information on Kill Devil Hill.

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