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Vinnie Paul, Pantera Drummer and Co-Founder, Dead at 54

“The family requests you please respect their privacy during this time,” band writes of Damageplan and Hellyeah drummer

Vinnie Paul on stage with Hellyeah. Photo: Henry Laurisch/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons

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Vinnie Paul, drummer and founding member of the heavy metal band Pantera, died at the age of 54 Friday night, the band announced on Facebook. No immediate cause of death was provided.

“Vincent Paul Abbott aka Vinnie Paul has passed away,” Pantera wrote. “Paul is best known for his work as the drummer in the bands Pantera and Hellyeah. No further details are available at this time. The family requests you please respect their privacy during this time.”

“Can’t believe it. R.I.P to our brother Vinnie Paul,” Anthrax tweeted, while Paul Stanley of KISS ”“ whose former member Peter Criss was one of Paul’s biggest influences ”“ wrote, “So sad to hear of the death of Vinnie Paul. Loved when Pantera did shows with us and in later years Vinnie was always front and center at all KISS shows. RIP and condolences to his family.”

The Texas-born Paul formed Pantera alongside his brother, guitar virtuoso “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, and bassist Rex Brown in 1981. The band spent roughly their first decade as ardent disciples of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, blending in elements of thrash and hair-metal as the decade wore on. After recording three albums in the early Eighties with vocalists Donnie Hart and Terry Glaze, the band recruited singer Phil Anselmo in 1987 to form Pantera’s classic lineup of Anselmo, Abbott, Paul and Brown.

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With 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, their major-label debut, the band took a quantum leap, quickly becoming leaders of a new school of metal. The group turned their focus to grinding, hypnotic deep-pocket rhythms, powered by Paul’s stunningly nimble double-kick work. Their next album, Vulgar Display of Power (Number 10 on Rolling Stone‘s Greatest Metal Albums list), was a near-perfect example of what would come to be known as groove metal and a blueprint for how heavy music sounded throughout the Nineties and beyond.

Somewhat miraculously, their still-more-extreme follow-up, 1994’s Far Beyond Driven, debuted at Number One and was Number 39 on Rolling Stone‘s Greatest Metal Albums list, with The Great Southern Trendkill arriving two years later. Three years after 2000’s Reinventing the Steel, Pantera disbanded following a rift between the Abbott brothers and Anselmo.

Following Pantera, the Abbott Brothers formed Damageplan and released 2004’s New Found Power, but that band’s tenure was tragically cut short when Dimebag was shot and killed onstage by a deranged fan in December 2004.

“Another metal hero taken too soon,” wrote Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. “Say hello to Daryl for me. Rest In Peace, my dear friend.”

Two years after the death of his brother, Paul returned to music with the metal supergroup Hellyeah, which featured Mudvayne singer Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett and Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell and bassist Jerry Montano; Paul’s Damageplan bandmate Bob Zilla ultimately replaced Montano on bass. The supergroup released five albums together over the past decade, most recently 2016’s Unden!able.

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But it will be Paul’s influence and legacy with Pantera that will leave the most indelible mark. In subsequent years, Pantera’s soulful yet punishing grooves and their albums’ sleek, borderline-industrial sound ”“ the result of a longstanding collaboration with producer Terry Date ”“ would be echoed in the work of some of the biggest metal bands of the 2000s, including Lamb of God, Slipknot and Five Finger Death Punch. “The second I put it in, my entire life changed,” FFDP singer Ivan Moody said in 2013 of the first time he heard Cowboys From Hell. “My soul lit up. My eyes turned red. That was it for me. They’d become the greatest band on earth to me.”

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