How Vinnie Paul and Pantera became moshpit mobilisers for metal bands in India and the world over

Anurag Tagat

Jun,24 2018 15:44:04 IST

Unlike many who discovered extreme and heavy metal on their own after trawling the internet, my introduction to the brutality of American groove/thrash band Pantera was through Indian metal scene more than a decade ago. The associated mental image is an enduring one throughout metal history – a fist going straight into a face, the cover of their seminal 1992 album Vulgar Display of Power.

There was an outpouring of grief and remembrance from many Indian musicians on Saturday morning, when news of Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul’s unexplained death was announced by official pages including his own. Awaiting details of the 54-year-old drumming powerhouse’s death, many musicians posted photos of the time they got a photo opportunity with Paul, who also went on to sit behind the kit for bands such as Damageplan and Hellyeah.

Pantera's Vinnie Paul (L) and Dimebag Darrell. Image via Twitter

Pantera's Vinnie Paul (L) and Dimebag Darrell. Image via Twitter

Guitarist and founder of Mumbai metallers Providence, Shezan Shaikh said, “Forever stronger than all. RIP Vinnie. Pantera will always be the greatest and most important band in the history of heavy metal. Trendkill for life.” Fellow thrash/groove metal band SystemHouse 33’s frontman Samron Jude also posted a photo from the time he met Paul and shared, “Pantera has been a huge influence on SystemHouse 33 and the Abbott brothers (Dimebag and Vinnie) inspired and continue to inspire us everyday through their music. Thank you for the inspiration and our thoughts and prayers are with Vinnie’s family and friends.”

Pantera started out as a glam metal band, but the fact that they dug their heels in and roughened up their sound to concoct an unmistakable blend of thrash and groove metal through the years was the kind of creative curve you see among few bands in metal. By the time Paul and his brother, guitarist Dimebag Darrell decided to put an end to the band in 2003, Pantera was already close to the metal hall of fame, with nine albums that put them among heavy music’s most important yet for-hardcore-metalheads-only category of bands. In a 2015 interview with VH1, Paul looked back on Vulgar Display of Power and said, “Looking back on it, it was probably the most important record of our career. That was back when we were so tight, we wouldn’t accept a ‘nope’ from anybody. It couldn’t be our management, our record company. That’s just how we felt and that came through in the music and everything we did.”

In the same interview, however, Paul does say that 1994’s Far Beyond Driven was when they took it to another level. You have to remember, it took them four glam and heavy metal-laced albums before they brought out the legendary riff that features on ‘Cowboys From Hell’ and went on to earn critical and fan acclaim for songs like ‘Walk’, ‘Cemetery Gates’, ‘5 Minutes Alone’ and ‘Mouth For War’. All of these, of course, have been moshpit mobilisers for Indian metal bands when they needed one, or just plain wanted to raise their horns to one of the greatest heavy metal bands.

Outside of Hellyeah, the drummer also embraced his country side with Rebel Meets Rebel, featuring songwriter David Allan Coe, in the early 2000s. The album was released in 2006, posthumously featuring Dimebag, on Paul’s own label, Big Vin Records. If Dimebag would be looked upon as a pioneer of thrash/groove metal guitars, Vinnie Paul was influential to the next generation of eclectic metal drumming, even after he moved from the pile-driver style of Pantera to taking on more rock ‘n roll techniques for Hellyeah.

Tributes from the metal world have steadily flowed in the days following Paul’s unexpected passing. Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler said in an Instagram post, “Vinnie... I told you 100 times I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing had you not changed the world. I was fortunate enough to get to know you as a man and as a true friend. You made me feel good about me. You taught me how. You showed me kindness and allowed me in. I will never forget.” Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler said on Twitter, “Shocked and saddened to hear of Vinnie Paul's passing. A true original. Had some good laughs when we toured with Pantera. Gone too soon.” Alice Cooper also shared his condolences, tweeting, “Terribly saddened by the news of Vinnie Paul’s passing.  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.”

Revolver posted an outtake from an earlier interview with Slipknot and Stone Sour vocalist Corey Taylor in which he speaks about coping with sudden loss in the metal community, referring to bands who have lost important members over the years, including Alice in Chain’s vocalist Layne Staley, Metallica’s Cliff Burton and Slipknot’s Paul Gray. Taylor told Revolver, “There's always a hole, basically. It may get better, but it never really goes away. The best advice I got was from Vinnie. And he basically told me — and this is a guy who not only lost his bandmate, but he lost his brother, his true brother — he let me know, he's like, ‘Man, the thing you've gotta remember is you're living for two. You're living for two now 'cause his spirit is never gone’.”

Updated Date: Jun 24, 2018 15:44 PM