Longtime Twisted Sister drummer A.J. Pero has passed away, the heavy-metal act announced in a statement today. The Associated Press reports that Pero was found unresponsive on a tour bus in Poughkeepsie, New York and subsequently died of an apparent heart attack. He was 55.
"Today, I lost a brother," frontman Dee Snider said in a statement to Rolling Stone. "Anthony Jude Pero passed away. A.J. was the final piece in a band that would become an international sensation and one of the greatest live rock acts to ever hit the stage. His sledgehammer assault on the drums helped drive Twisted Sister and me to greatness and inspired me to rock every single show. My heart breaks knowing I will never feel the power of his beat behind me, or turn to see his face smiling broadly from the sheer joy he got from doing what he loved. I will always remember that smile. R.I.P., my friend."
"The members of Twisted Sister are profoundly saddened to announce the untimely passing of our brother, A.J. Pero," the band wrote on their official website (via Blabbermouth). "The band, crew and most importantly the family of A.J. Pero thank you for your thoughts and prayers at this time."
Pero had been touring with a side project, Adrenaline Mob, at the time of his death. He was found on his bus unresponsive, so paramedics rushed him to a hospital but he did not make it, guitarist Jay Jay French told TMZ.
"A.J. Pero was a force, the likes of which I doubt I will ever have the chance to play in front of again," French said. "His drumming was legendary, but his heart, as a human being, was even greater. In our hearts, he will always be the engine that drove the train. I loved him and today my heart has been ripped out. R.I.P."
The Staten Island–born drummer was originally in the New York rock group Cities when he was recruited to join Twisted Sister in 1982. With Snider's crew, Pero appeared on the band's first four albums – 1982's Under the Blade, 1983's You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll, 1984's Stay Hungry and 1985's Come Out and Play – before leaving Twisted Sister and rejoining Cities in 1986.
Pero was behind the kit on Twisted Sister's most popular tracks, "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." The band broke up in 1988, but Pero linked back up with his former bandmates for brief reunions in 1997 and the early 2000s until they regrouped permanently in 2003 and subsequently made a pair of studio albums, 2004's Still Hungry and 2006's A Twisted Christmas. Pero was still the group's drummer at the time of his death. It's unclear whether Twisted Sister will postpone their upcoming tour dates – they're next scheduled to perform May 30th in Las Vegas, Nevada – in light of Pero's death.
In addition to Twisted Sister, Pero was also a member of the Ozzy Osbourne cover band No More Tears.