The Official Demise Of A Musical Dynasty: In Memory Of Vinnie Paul

It was early this past Saturday morning, around 2am, when I got up to take a quick piss.  I looked on my phone for shits and giggles and saw that I friend of mine posted something, captioning “holy shit!” above it.  It was a the Billboard article announcing that former Pantera/Hell Yeah drummer Vinnie Paul was dead at 54.  I thought I was just tired; but after a few minutes I realized that this was in fact reality.  There were no facts at the times, all that mattered was that one of the greatest of all time was gone.

The facts, since then, have slowly started to become known.  We now know that he died in his sleep in his Las Vegas home (booze and strippers, duh!), and of a heart attack.  According to the Las Vegas police, there were no signs of foul play.  Then today came the news that, just like his late brother, he’ll be buried beside him and their mother…in a KISS coffin.  Of course it’ll take some time for the toxicology report to come out.  I don’t want this to focus too much on his well publicized lifestyle here.  But let’s face it: despite his machine like intensity on the drums, he never seemed to burn too many calories.  That’s most likely because he never slowed down the drinking.  I mean fuck me did this guy and his brother, the late Dimebag Darrell, know how to party or what??

As I said before, I’m not here to discuss what everyone else is bound to write about.  I’m going to talk about why this son of a bitch from Arlington, TX will forever have a spot as one of the greatest drummers of all time.

So what the fuck makes a musician one of the best?  That person is able to make himself recognizable in songwriting style, technique, skill and sound.  That guy has to be able to make himself stand out.  From non metal guys like Stewart Copeland and Phil Collins (yeah, Phil Collins was a drum god at one point!) to hard rock drummers such as John Bonham to Vinnie’s own idol, Alex Van Halen, each of the guys I mentioned had the ability to make themselves easily distinguishable because they possessed all the qualities I just mentioned.  Vinnie, along with his brother, clearly knew this early on.  And while it would take three independently recorded albums before they were signed to their first deal, the wait would be worth it, because they, along with Rex Brown and Phil Anselmo, created a new sub genre of Metal, making them the single most important Heavy Metal band of the nineties.  Pantera were to be the band that single handed SAVED Metal during the rise of the Grunge scene, and later Alternative music.

Starting with their fourth album, 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, Pantera burst out like a goddamn raging bull with tracks such as the title track, “Psycho Holiday”, “Heresy” and everyone’s excuse to mosh, “Domination”.  There are other classics on there that I could’ve named just now but I chose the ones I just mentioned because those tracks are filled with an extraordinarily seamless combination of interlocking with…groove??  Oh yeah, Vinnie never lost the groove no matter how mechanical or technical those tracks were.  He’d explain years later that, while he respected drummers with fast left hands (think blast beats), he was more concerned about making people move.

1992’s Vulgar Display Of Power saw Pantera develop a much edgier sound all around.  I mean they were already edgy, but starting here the band were starting to sound more like the soundtrack to a fist fight!  Between Phil’s rougher vocal delivery to Diamond Darrell…as he was unfortunately still calling himself at the time…downtuning his guitar and those drums.   Unlike most Thrash bands, Pantera were not JUST about precision and speed.  Vinnie Paul as a drummer was more than JUST an anchor.  He knew when to keep it tight and he also knew when to let loose and just go with the shuffle:

With tracks such as this one above, and “No Good (Attack The Radical)”, you started to hear Vinnie’s creativity.  There are syncopated rhythms in “No Good” that sounded so new.  They’d also be the basis for shitty nu metal bands later on but I’ll get to that soon.

1994’s Far Beyond Driven.  Without question it’s THE most important album in Pantera’s history.  Why?  Because it debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.  No Metal band before Pantera had EVER pulled that off before and now no one could EVER take that away from them.  It is also the HEAVIEST album to EVER debut at No. 1.  With the opening track, “Strength Beyond Strength”, your ass is kicked immediately.  It’s one big explosion and Vinnie’s much louder, much more POWERFUL drums are taking full charge.  Sounded like Vinnie had done some tinkering in the studio, both with his drum kit, as well as with the mixing board.   I mean goddamn – just listen to this fucking track!!!

I said earlier that to be the best you had to find your own sound among other things and Vinnie’s drums sounded so much deeper than on any other album up to this point.  Turns out he in fact was tuning his heads real low…like almost to the point of being loose.  And those bass drums!  They sound so triggered.  But as the story goes, while in the studio, Vinnie used wooden beaters in the studio and also taped quarters on his bass heads, right at the spot where the beaters would make contact.  The result was a clicky, yet stronger, clearer, more powerlful bass drum.  It’d also set the tone for the way many other, far more extreme Metal bands would record in the years to come.

If his brother, who was finally going by Dimebag at this point, was to be my generation’s Eddie Van Halen, then Vinnie was to be my generation’s Alex.  Both were brothers, both played together for so long that they could read each other’s minds with ease.  They both understood each other.  But on the downside, Alex, amazing as he was, was clearly destined to be overshadowed by his game changing brother.  Vinnie would be no different.  Dime’s playing and his SOUND were a MASSIVE game changer at this time, and rightfully so.  But every guitarist, bassist, or even singer are only as good as their drummer.  Eddie would’ve been just some asshole who taps had it not been for Alex.  Dime would’ve probably just been a guy with a scooped sound and a whammy bar had it not been for Vinnie.

Take for example “13 Steps To Nowhere” off 1996’s The Great Southern Trendkill.  This unmistakably is THE darkest, most intense album in Pantera’s entire discography – and my personal favorite!  It’s a headbanger for sure, very Sabbath inspired with just enough technicality to justify it as old school to the core.  It sounds like Vinnie here perfected the trigger sound on his bass drums, and found just the right EQ setting for his low tuned toms, as they cascade from high to low before Phil’s fucked up verses.  Right in the middle, the Sabbath moment takes over as the song breaks down beautifully, allowing Vinnie’s drums to breathe.  You hear every nuance, every reverberation, every BOOM.  It’s pure destruction.  It’s so sexy.

Then a problem arose in the music world.  In the four years between the release of ‘Trendkill and their final album, 2000’s Reinventing The Steel.  Starting with KoRn, actually going back to ’94, several “Nu” bands came along and tried to focus strictly on groove.  The guitarists all had a scooped sound, they all tuned down lower than even Dime thanks to the revival of seven string guitars; the drummers were playing nothing but snycopations, especially shit bands like Disturbed; and the singers all wore green shorts like Phil and were all just angry without a cause (well to be fair Jonathan Davis was apparently molested as a kid).  Unfortunately, Pantera were to get the blame for this, as most of these fuckers freely cited Vulgar as a major influence.

But the biggest problem with all those fuckfaces – and the biggest reason music SUCKED in the early 2000’s – was that they completely missed the point.  Pantera as a band, and as individual musicians, took close to a decade to perfect their sound.  Did any of them understand that Dime and Vinnie were insanely talented musicians since they were kids?  Did any of those retards know that Pantera started out in 1983 as a GLAM band??  Oh it’s true.  It took years for them to develop into a harder sounding band.  It also took the drive to always want every album to be better and better.  Thanks to their refusal to truly do their homework – and actually learn to play their instruments – these Nu/Rap Metal pieces of shit chose to just be followers…and ultimately forgettable.  Thankfully.

After the break up of Pantera in 2003, Vinnie and Dime went on to form Damageplan.  Their sole album, 2004’s New Found Power, was a major change in their sound.  The brothers wanted to try something new and while I surely wasn’t a fan of all the track on the record, I understood that this was an experiment and perhaps things would change.  I was however a fan of a the beyond sludgy “Moment Of Truth”.  It’s so slow, so heavy and it allowed Vinnie to sound like nothing short of a fucking jackhammer.

Unfortunately, as we all know, that second album would never happen, as Dime was gruesomely murdered before years end while on stage.

Vinnie stayed away from the public for a few years afterward.  His final band would be Hell Yeah.  I’ll be honestly.  I don’t mean to disrespect Vinnie, but he could’ve done so much better than joining a “supergroup” with the assholes from Nothing Face and Madvayne.  If he enjoyed himself, then hey good for him.  But I personally found Hell Yeah to be so beneath what he was capable of.

His unexpected death last Friday marked the end of en era, and a musical dynasty.  If you’re new to this blog you’re expecting me to say some shit like “he’s with Dime now”.  Not here.  I’m athiest.  I don’t believe that shit.  But with his death, gone are the one family that were as successful and ultimately as influential as they were playing this kind of music.  No one before the Abbott brothers could pull it off and no two brothers have repeated it just yet.  Vinnie Paul alone changed the game with his signature sound, and many drummers will say that they started playing because of Vinnie Paul.  In fact, while in the middle of writing this I stopped to write a new Spotify playlist, featuring my favorite Vinnie Paul moments in Pantera and even Damageplan.

To end this I’m going to leave you with the very first Pantera video I ever watched back in 1996 on an episode of Beavis and Butthead.

Rest In Peace Vincent Paul Abbott 1964 – 2018

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In Memory Of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor

My dear friend and brother passed away last night. He had been ill for sometime but that does not make it any easier when the time finally comes.

 I have known Phil since he was 21 and he was one hell of a character. Fortunately, we made some fantastic music together and I have many many fond memories of our time together.

 

Rest in peace, Phil!

                                                                                                                                                                       “Fast” Eddie Clark
Well….there’s no other way to put it…this sucks.  I had no idea he was sick and of course there’s no cause of death yet, or least as I’m typing this.  For those of you who somehow have no idea who “Philthy Animal” is he played drums in Motorhead’s classic lineup, which included Lemmy and “Fast” Eddie Clark, and can be heard on Motorhead’s classic and most important albums in the late 70’s and early 80’s, including their breakout 1980 album Ace Of Spades.  As part of the classic lineup Phil’s drumming style along with Lemmy’s thunderous bass from hell would prove to be one of THE biggest influences on future thrash metal musicians…everywhere.  Here’s a nice example of how right now.  Most people are going to be blasting the title track to Ace Of Spades and that’s ok but THIS is how I’ll always remember Phil.  Rest in Peace brother.

My Thoughts on the Nick Menza Situation

Nick Menza

I read about this when the news broke but I was away in Kentucky with my girlfriend so I had no time to write about this.  Just a few days ago former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza finally broke his silence regarding the constant rumors that he and former guitarist Marty Friedman were rejoining Megadeth following the sudden departures of Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick not too long ago.  What he had to say was not too surprising but still a bit disappointing; but I’m not disappointed at Nick at all.  To save some time I’ll make this as quick as I can.

Not long after Shawn and Chris bounced on the two Daves, Justis Mustaine, Dave Mustaine’s son, posted a video of David Ellefson jamming out on “Rust in Peace…Polaris” with a drummer, but was careful not to show his face.  It sounded too good to be anyone else but Nick Menza so the rumor mill began.  To fuel the fire more any time the two Daves or even Nick himself were approached on the subject neither one of them gave a straight answer.  So we were all a tad saddened to learn that Mustaine had hired Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler to play drums for the next album.  Should be interesting to hear, don’t get me wrong, I’m a Lamb of God fan and that band is HUGELY influenced by Megadeth.

Then came Nick’s statement.  First off he revealed that he was in fact the headless drummer in Justis’ video.  Well, duh!!  I mean come on, who else would that be?  No one can play the way Nick does!  As I said before, it was too good to be anyone else!  He also revealed that he also recorded a few drum tracks for the upcoming album and he even had dinner with the two Daves, their ex-manager, Ron Laffitte, and even Marty Friedman.  Sounds good right?  Well apparently not.  As soon as Nick got home he decided it was time to talk writing credits.  This is where shit gets dicey because at the end of the day this is the music business.  Sometimes agreements get worked out, sometimes they don’t.

According to Nick he received a “very unfair deal that is so wrong”, basically insinuating that Mustaine was going to give him pennies, in comparison to what he alone must make off royalties.  When he tried to renegotiated with Mustaine he apparently blocked Nick’s e-mails, changed his number and even fired Ron as their manager for the second time. I don’t know about you but that last part sounds a bit extreme to me.  No?

But then Nick said the one thing that once again makes him come off as the better man yet again:

“Despite this dark final chapter, I wish MEGADETH the heartiest of health, happiness and success with their future plans.”

Boom!  Done!  Here’s the thing – this is not the first time that this has happened to Nick and neither is this the first time Nick acted as the better man.  During his time as the youngest member of Megadeth during their most successful years, he was seen as immature, and was pulling hi-jinks that the other members had naturally grown out of.  But as life has shown – people do change.  A while back Nick spotted Dave Mustaine at NAMM and decided to approach him like a man.  Dave decided to brush him off.  Nick was surely a tad hurt but he still wished Dave the best, making him the better man and showing that he did in fact grow up.  Hell, I know I’d be cursing his ass out if I were put in that position.

So honestly, I gained a bit more respect for Nick.  He got screwed by a guy he spent the best years of his career with and instead of going online and being bitter about it he was the better man.  And he would’ve totally been justified to be bitter.  Who changes their number just to avoid a guy that wants to talk??  A bitch – that’s who!  I had a lot of respect for Dave Mustaine.  I grew up worshiping the ground he walked on.  His music – back when his shit hit a nerve with people – made such a HUGE impact on my guitar style and my life as a whole.  I’ve witnessed him seemingly losing his mind over the last few years but this is just pathetic, so low it’s even beneath him.  Over royalties?  Really?  There are other reasons to change your number to avoid someone, not over something so fucking petty.

I’d like to wish Nick Menza the best.  I’m excited to hear his new project with James LoMenzo and Chris fucking Poland!!  I sadly can’t say the same about Megadeth.  They lost it a long time ago but Mustaine lost a little personal integrity now as well.  I just wish David Ellefson could see the light, get out again and stay out this time for his own sanity.

Final Thoughts…

Unrelated to the whole Nick Menza situation; I’d like to express my relief in also hearing recently that not only did Black Sabbath pull out of their Ozzfest Japan shows in November, but apparently it was never to be their farewell.  Sharon Osbourne seemingly forgot to mention that it would’ve just been their last Japan show.  It was kind of odd since the band does want to do one last album and a farewell tour.  Maybe the tour will end at home like I said they should do.  Who knows?