While the majority of acclaimed hard rock guitarists of the early ’90s focused primarily on songwriting rather than shredding away, there were a few exceptions to the rule, like Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell. Darrell became serious about guitar playing as a teen and entered a local guitar talent competition, which resulted in his winning the instrument that he would eventually become closely associated with, the Dean ML (a cross between a Flying V and an Explorer). By the early ’80s, Darrell had formed Pantera but it would not be until 1990 that they completely rejected their early pop-metal direction in favor of a much more heavy and brutal one, which focused on such bands as Slayer, Metallica, and Black Sabbath. This touched off a string of classic metal releases that would see Pantera become one of the world’s top metal bands — 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power, and 1994’s Far Beyond Driven. Tragedy struck in Columbus, OH on December 8, 2004 when Darrell, only 38, was shot dead by a concertgoer while on stage with his new band Damageplan. His sudden death sent shockwaves throughout the music community where the guitarist was remembered as one of the most influential stylists in modern metal.