Unsurprisingly, Black Tooth Grin (Da Capo) begins at the end. December 8, 2004, 24 years to the day that John Lennon died. “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott killed onstage, mid-song. The founder of the metal cover band Pantera, Abbott was not well known outside of his own metal community. However according to author Zac Crain, no one who knew the musician ever wondered why so many people called the act “the 9/11 of heavy metal.”
Of course, Black Tooth Grin doesn’t just tell the story of Abbott’s death. Much more time and detail is spent on the doomed musician’s life. Does D Magazine senior editor and music scribe heavyweight Crain sometimes move Black Tooth Grin towards the maudlin? Maybe only slightly. For the most part, though, Crain seems to hit all the right notes, skillfully blending fact with educated fancy, filling in the blanks and also imagining the what-might have beens and the nearly-weres.
Metal fans will, of course, find Black Tooth Grin to be a must-read but even those who had only barely heard of Abbott will find Crain’s book compelling. It’s a portrait of the music industry exactly as you always suspected it was… and yet entirely different. Fascinating.