Vinnie Paul, the drummer who helped to usher in a new era of metal as a member of the hugely influential Pantera, has died. He was 54. No cause of death has yet been confirmed.
“Vinnie Paul Abbott wasn’t just a drummer, he was an iconic fixture in the metal and hard rock community, a pioneer, and an absolute legend,” his label, Eleven Seven, said in a statement. “Today, the world not only lost a legend, but also a genuine human being who lived to put a smile on the faces of everyone he met.”
Paul formed Pantera with his brother, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, and singer Terry Glaze in 1981. Bassist Rex Brown joined a year later, and the four went on to make KISS-influenced glam metal through the early-1980s. But when Phil Anselmo replaced Glaze in ’86, the band’s sound started to shift. On 1988’s Power Metal, they built in more thrash and snarl, laying the foundations for their 1990 breakthrough—and major label debut—Cowboys from Hell. Their next album, 1992’s seminal Vulgar Display of Power, produced chart-bothering hits—”Walk” and “This Love” continued to dominate on MTV long after coming out—and the album spent 79 weeks on the Billboard charts.
Pantera went onto sell more than 60 million records and earned four Grammy nominations, but long-bubbling tensions between Anselmo and the Abbott brothers finally spilled over, and they went on a hiatus in 2001. They wouldn’t return. Phil and Vinnie formed a new band, Damageplan, but the project was short-lived—Dimebag was shot to death on stage at one of their shows by a mentally unstable fan in 2004.
Paul co-founded the metal supergroup HELLYEAH alongside members of Mudvayne and Nothingface in 2006. They released five albums, the last of which was 2016’s Unden!able.
Metal and hard rock icons paid their respects as soon as the news broke Saturday morning. “Terribly saddened by the news of Vinnie Paul’s passing,” Alice Cooper wrote on Twitter. “Vinnie was a beloved fixture in the rock and metal communities and we will miss seeing him out on the road. His impact on heavy music is immeasurable.”
“He was one of the warmest people I knew,” Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash wrote. “A truly good & fun friend. We’re going to miss you more than you could possibly have known. RIP buddy.”
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