Vinnie Paul, the hard-hitting drummer for Pantera, one of the most popular heavy metal groups of the 1990s, who saw his brother killed onstage by a fan in 2004, died June 22 in Las Vegas. He was 54.
The death was announced on Pantera’s Facebook page and confirmed to news outlets by Jane Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the defunct band. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that he died in Las Vegas. The cause was not immediately known, and an autopsy will be conducted.
Mr. Paul, whose full name was Vincent Paul Abbott, founded Pantera in 1981 with his younger brother, guitarist Darrell Abbott — originally nicknamed “Diamond,” then “Dimebag” — bassist Rex Brown and vocalist Terry Glaze. Singer Phil Anselmo replaced Glaze in 1986, but Pantera did not find widespread success until 1990, with the album “Cowboys From Hell,” which became an apt description of the Texas-based rockers.
Pantera skipped the painted makeup, spandex and elaborate stagework of other metal groups to carve out a niche as a loud, groove-driven band highlighted by Anselmo’s screaming vocals, “Dimebag” Darrell’s incendiary guitar work and Mr. Paul’s burly, two-fisted pounding on the drums.
Despite four Grammy Award nominations, Pantera was always more of a cult favorite than a critical darling.
“We know that the people who listen to our music are starving for something heavy and honest,” Mr. Paul said in 1994, the year the group’s album “Far Beyond Driven” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. “The music by no way, shape, fashion or form, is mainstream or commercialized. If anything, it’s gotten harder and heavier over the years.”
Pantera inspired an exceptional loyalty from its fans, who knew the band’s lyrics and often crashed into one another while dancing.
“We write songs for people who live and die for this music,” Mr. Paul said.
Members of the group, particularly Mr. Paul and his brother, were approachable and sometimes sent personal letters and memorabilia to their fans.
“I like to do the show and then I like to party,” Mr. Paul said in 2014. “I like to drink, I like to have a good time, I like to interact with the fans.”
The band sold tens of millions of recordings, and four albums — “Cowboys From Hell,” “Far Beyond Driven,” “Vulgar Display of Power” (1992), “The Great Southern Trendkill” (1996) — were certified platinum, selling more than 1 million copies each.
Most of the albums were recorded at Dimebag Darrell’s home studio, then adjusted to sound good on a car stereo. In addition to being the drummer, Mr. Paul had a strong hand in the studio and in creating the band’s essential sound.
“For me, there’s more to being in a band than just beating on drums,” he told the Dallas Morning News in 1992. “You have to be a musician, and if you care anything about the direction of your career and the sound and the style of the music, then you do more than just hop in and play your drum parts.”
All four band members were credited as songwriters, but Anselmo wrote most of the lyrics — often obscene and angry, sometimes misogynistic, occasionally sensitive and introspective.
The songs were always delivered with a raw edge of energy, like the “grinding metal straight out of an auto assembly plant,” critic Michael D. Clark wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in 1994. “Anselmo rises above the din with croaking, diabolical vocals. The lyrics are indecipherable to everyone except the most devout Pantera-philes.”
Pantera broke up in 2003, in part because of Anselmo’s heroin addiction, and the Abbott brothers formed a new band, Damageplan. That group was performing at a club in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 8, 2004, when a disaffected 25-year-old fan barged onstage with a handgun. He shot and killed Dimebag Darrell mid-performance and killed three others — a bodyguard, a club employee and a bystander — before he was fatally shot by a police officer. Acquaintances said the killer had been upset about the breakup of Pantera.
Mr. Paul was not injured in the attack, but he stopped performing for more than a year.
“I spent about eight months in a really, really, really dark place, just having no clue where to turn, what to do, what I was supposed to do next,” he told the Morning News in 2006. “I felt like the music in my heart was just gone; it had just went away.”
He said he received a letter from Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, a former member of Nirvana, whose leader, Kurt Cobain, died of suicide in 1994.
“Just stick with it,” Mr. Paul said Grohl wrote in his letter, “because music is probably what will end up healing you in the end.”
Soon afterward, Mr. Paul joined a new band, Hellyeah, that included several well-known heavy metal musicians, and performed with the group until his death.
Vincent Paul Abbott was born March 11, 1964, in Dallas. His brother was two years younger. Their father, Jerry Abbott, was a country songwriter and producer who owned a recording studio.
Instead of country, the brothers were drawn to the hard-rock music of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen before forming Pantera when still in their mid-teens.
In 1996, Mr. Paul and his brother opened a strip club in Dallas that became popular with athletes and visiting musicians. When the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup, many of the team’s players partied afterward at Mr. Paul’s house.
One player attempted to throw the Cup into the swimming pool from a balcony, but it fell short and landed on the concrete — leaving a three-inch dent that had to be pounded out.
To the end, Mr. Paul was unapologetic about his hard-rocking, hard-drinking life.
“My way’s not the right way for somebody else, and neither could yours be” he told the Indianapolis Star in 2001. “Everybody has their own thing, and that’s what works for them.”