Vinnie Paul. Photo by Annamaria DiSanto/WireImage.
Some extremely sad news emerged from the world of heavy metal recently, as we bid farewell to Vinnie Paul, the legendary Pantera / Damageplan / Hellyeah drummer who tragically passed away suddenly.
Widely regarded as one of metal’s most talented sticksmen, many have tried (and failed) to replicate what he was able to make seem so effortless across Pantera’s five most recognisable releases. Forever the groove merchant, Vinnie Paul’s ability to inspire bedlam was insatiable, and along with his bandmates, created some of the most punishing, brutal and abrasive songs we’ve ever been exposed to.
There’s no way we can put into words the grief that will be felt around the community and especially by the Abbott family during this difficult time. He was a man who helped change the face of heavy music as we know it and inspired a generation of musicians who aspired to his level of talent and charisma.
From a bedroom in Arlington, Texas jamming Anthrax covers with his brother, to dominating the world’s biggest stages with his fellow Cowboys from Hell, Vinnie became synonymous with the music we love, and a household name to all of us. Wherever he and Dime are now, we’re pretty sure they’re throwing back a few long overdue drinks and creating one almighty racket.
We like to make things hard on ourselves here at Maniacs, so we’ve set ourselves the rather impossible task of selecting our five favourite songs from the Pantera catalogue and believe me when I tell you, this was by far the toughest list I’ve ever had to write and to be honest, I won’t blame you if you tell me I’m completely wrong. Such is the level of musicianship across the band’s catalogue.
In honour of Vinnie Paul, here are our five favourites from the untouchable, incomparable and downright fucking legendary PANTERA.
Is there a more recognisable riff in heavy music? The opening stanza of what is arguably Pantera’s most famous song stands as what many see as its finest moment. A balls to the wall anthem, Walk is a crushing maelstrom of aggressiveness which is seen by millions as the pinnacle of their catalogue. Live, the track is taken to another level and sounds gargantuan in comparison to the studio version, inciting chaos amongst audiences the world over. If you’re ever going to hand someone a blueprint of what Pantera was all about, Walk was them in a nutshell. The musical equivalent of getting kicked in the head. Heavy as fuck.
Cowboys From Hell
This was the song which launched Pantera into superstardom. Opting for a drastically heavier approach, and having distanced itself from its largely untapped glam metal roots, the band released the album which would become the building block for total world domination throughout the 1990s, when metal as a genre was at a crossroads.
Cowboys from Hell reignited a fan base which was stuck somewhere between thrash, grunge, and the emergence of the new wave of American heavy metal and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The title track heaves and pulsates through four minutes of brazen southern hooks, and positively oozes groove, and ultimately paved the way for Pantera’s sovereignty. Get the bottle of Jack out for this one.
5 Minutes Alone
To this day, Far Beyond Driven is the heaviest album to ever debut at #1 on the Billboard charts (it also peaked at #1 in Australia), and second single 5 Minutes Alone is a staple on any fans’ playlist. Punishing breakdowns, thrash-laden swing and a fucking vicious vocal delivery sets 5 Minutes Alone atop the pile on an album which really put Pantera ahead of the pack.
Such was the popularity of the track, it was covered by members of Killswitch Engage, Soilwork, Ill Nino, Lamb of God and Devildriver in honour of founding member Darrell ‘Dimebag’ Abbott on the third anniversary of the legendary guitarist’s death. A fitting tribute if there ever was one. Lyrically, it’s a song dedicated to one particular parent of a fan, who requested “five minutes alone” with Phil Anselmo after his son was mercilessly beaten up in the crowd for flipping off the band the entire set. Not sure that would’ve ended so well for him.
As we’ve already touched on, Pantera really kicked it to the curb with Far Beyond Driven. With each record the band’s musicianship became more technical, the songs more abrasive and the fans more rabid. By the time 1994 rolled around, metalheads were reeling in the wake of Metallica’s self-titled change in trajectory, Slayer’s ode to the macabre in Divine Intervention and Megadeth’s off-brand foray into power metal with Youthanasia, but the Texan four-piece stayed the course and hit the ground running with their contribution. I’m Broken is the lead single from the album and boasts what may be the most mouth-watering breakdown in the band’s repertoire, and what Slayer guitarist Kerry King calls his “favourite guitar riff ever”. Dimebag claimed it came about during practice as a warm-up and evolved from there. Humble beginnings for an all-time Pantera hit.
Vulgar Display of Power surged onto the scene in 1992 and it smacked punters in the face with its mix of sludgy-thrash-infused ferocity. Although it was never a chart killer, the album was met with critical acclaim and has inspired generations of heavy bands since its release, and while there were no official singles as such, the tracks within have become some of the band’s best-loved. Amongst them lies the vicious Fucking Hostile, a fast-paced, circle pit-inducing barnburner of metallic speed, rumbling drum fills, and blistering solo's all tied together with Anselmo’s raspy, violent vocal performance. This is Pantera at their aggressive best and has gone down in history as one of metal’s great defining tracks. As for the album art, legend has it the band paid a fan ten bucks a punch to get the perfect shot for the cover art. He took 31 hits before they got the right one. How fucking perfect.
So there you have it. Five of our favourite Pantera jams! Thanks for the good times, Vinnie. You will be well and truly missed. Say hey to Dime for us x
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