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

Damageplan and Hellyeah drummer died in his sleep, yet no cause of death has been determined

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Vinnie Paul, drummer and co-founder of Pantera and Damageplan, has died at age 54.

Mike Pont / Getty

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.” The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Paul died in Las Vegas.

“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 hard-rock disciples, 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.

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.

“Just so broken hearted and in shock,” Hellyeah’s Maxwell wrote on the band’s Facebook Saturday morning. “I’m struggling to write this but we want to thank you all for your kind words and support in this tragic time. We don’t have much info to give you other then Vinnie is now with Dime and they are together in a better place. Sadness, shock, confusion, anger, despair. We feel it all together. Hug your loved ones and keep them close. Thank you all again for all your love. Vinnie will be and is greatly loved and missed but his music will live forever. Crank it loud today and scream to the heavens so he can hear you.”

“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. He was a self taught drummer who went on to win many awards for his impeccable skills throughout his career,” Eleven Seven Music, which released Hellyeah’s last three albums, said in a statement

“A founding member of Pantera, DamagePlan and his current band Hellyeah, Vinnie was a vital force for bands and millions of fans worldwide. Whether fans were turning their volume to 11 or headbanging their hearts out at live shows, Vinnie was an inspiration… 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. May he be reunited with his brother as we all strive to continue his legacy.”

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.”

“Tragic news about Vinnie Paul today. He was one of the warmest people I knew. A truly good & fun friend. We’re going to miss you more than you could possibly have known. RIP buddy,” Guns N’ Roses’ Slash tweeted, with Duff McKagan adding, “RIP Vinnie Paul. Friend. Humorist. Badass drummer. All-around good man. Condolences to the family. You will be missed bro…”

In This Article: Heavy Metal, Obituary, Pantera

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