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Vinnie Paul, Pantera Drummer and Heavy Metal Innovator, Is Dead at 54

Vinnie Paul, a drummer and founder of the heavy metal band Pantera, which helped transform the genre in the 1990s, died Friday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 54.

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Mihir Zaveri
, New York Times

Vinnie Paul, a drummer and founder of the heavy metal band Pantera, which helped transform the genre in the 1990s, died Friday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 54.

Kimberly Zide Davis, the band’s manager, confirmed the death. She did not specify the cause.

Pantera was founded in 1981 and rose to prominence in the 1990s, embracing sharper, deeper grooves and harder-edged sounds that pushed heavy metal into an even heavier direction.

The music achieved widespread popularity at a time, after the 1980s, when metal was declining, said Ian Christe, the host of a weekly show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio about the history of heavy metal and author of “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal” (2003).

“As a drummer in a larger-than-life band, he was totally capable of hitting hard and rumbling thunder, and hitting every single drum at once,” Christe said of Paul. “He was a veteran — he was a rock-and-roller from the old school.”

Pantera drew a large following by being “down to earth,” Christe said.

“They had that kind of connection to their fans, by releasing home videos that just showed them horsing around, pouring beer on each others’ heads and partying and being wild,” he said.

Davis said Paul would invite fans to his home and cook large dinners of lobster, shrimp and steak. Food was Paul’s second passion after music, she said.

After its first album with the new sound, “Cowboys From Hell,” in 1990, Pantera found popularity with “Vulgar Display of Power” in 1992, an album widely considered its masterwork. In 1994, the group entered the Billboard chart at No. 1 with the album “Far Beyond Driven,” which sold 1.4 million copies in the United States.

Pantera disbanded after releasing the album “Reinventing the Steel” in 2000, and the lead singer, Phil Anselmo, formed a new band called Superjoint Ritual. In 2003, Paul, whose real name was Vincent P. Abbott, and his brother Darrell, known as Dimebag Darrell, started a group called Damageplan.

Damageplan released its debut album in February 2004; at a show promoting it in Columbus, Ohio, that December, Darrell Abbott was fatally shot onstage. A gunman, who was identified as Nathan M. Gale, a former Marine, stormed the stage just minutes into the band’s performance in front of a crowd of about 250 people. Three other people were also killed.

Damageplan dissolved shortly after the shooting, and Paul went on to play with a metal supergroup, Hellyeah, made up of metal stars from other groups. The band released five albums between 2007 and 2016. In an interview in October, Paul said the group was making plans to record a new LP.

At his death, Paul was in Las Vegas recording Hellyeah’s forthcoming album, said Karissa Vassallo, a publicist with the band’s record label, Eleven Seven Music.

Vincent Paul Abbott was born in Abilene, Texas. His father, Jerry Abbott, was a country songwriter and survives him. Paul is also survived by his girlfriend, Chelsey Yeager, Vassallo said.

In a 2016 interview with Metal Hammer magazine, Paul said he started playing drums when he was 14. His brother opted for a guitar, and the two of them continued to make music together until Darrell Abbott’s death in 2004.

Paul said in the interview that music was “always around the house,” and after hearing 1970s metal records like Kiss’ “Alive!” and Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” he was hooked.

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