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 Nick Menza

“TELL ME THIS ISN’T TRUE! I woke at 4 AM to hear Nick Menza passed away on 5/21 playing his drums w/Ohm at the Baked Potato.”

Well Dave, it’s true, sadly – not to mention extremely random!  Guess this serves you right for trying to low ball the guy just last year, eh?

I woke up very late today, having slept in after a very long powerlifting meet, which I’ll write about another time.  My girlfriend woke up after I did when I realized we slept the entire morning and she went to her phone.  “Holy shit!”, she said with the look of sheer shock on her face, and that when she showed me the Blabbermouth article:

“Former MEGADETH Drummer NICK MENZA Dies AT 51”

“WHAT?!”  I proceeded to read that he had passed out on stage in Studio City, Ca last night, three songs into a set with Jazz Fusion band OHM and was pronounced dead on arrival, most likely of a heart attack.  How ironic.  Because a heart attack is exactly how OHM’s last drummer, David Eagle, died just a year ago.  To further add to the irony for those of you who are completely unaware, OHM is fronted by ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland.

A lot of musicians have been dropping like flies all year, most of them I truly could give two shits about but THIS is just a tad too random for me.  And it bothers me because this guy was seriously such a great drummer.  Everything he did, whether it was complicated or simple, sounded amazing because his feel was perfect.  Every time.

It definitely showed on those four albums he did with Megadeth, even on Cryptic Writings, the beginning of the band’s downfall as far as I’m concerned.  Listen to anything off his first two albums with them alone, Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction, and you’ll probably have no choice but to agree that he was probably the most athletic drummer Megadeth ever had.  Gar Samuelson was jazzy, Chuck Behler was damn good too, but neither Gar or Chuck had Nick’s energy.  Oh, it also helped that he had an incredible physique to go with that ability!

I wrote an article about Nick just over a year ago, not too long after I began this blog.  At the time it had been revealed that both Nick and Marty Friedman were in talks with Dave Mustaine regarding rejoining the band, prompting a full-on Rust In Peace-era reunion.  Problem?  Mustaine wanted to pretty much low ball Nick to the point that he’d be getting pennies in plain English.  Not too long before that he approached Mustaine during NAMM and Mustaine completely brushed him off – very immature for a guy that said he fired Nick from the band back in 1998 because of his immaturity.  Hey Dave, so…who’s the immature one now, Mr. Born-Again Bitch?

On top of that I’ve been seeing some recent pictures of Nick in the last few hours, he was looking really good and clearly looked like he was having a lot of fun on stage too.  My condolences go out to his family.  Here are a few tracks to demonstrate the sheer talent of Nick Menza without resorting to “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”.

Rest In Peace Nick Menza 1964 – 2016

The Rock Carnival…And The Biggest Parking Lot Fuckjob Ever.

This past Saturday my girlfriend and I went to Day 2 of the three day Rock Carnival put together by WDHA and WRAT at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, NJ.  I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to go to this because the only bands I’d give a shit about at all were King’s X, Sevendust and especially Black Label Society, hell, Anthrax wouldn’t be playing until the next day and the lineup for that day was shit compared to what we saw the day we went; but Courtenay REALLY wanted to see King’s X and she REALLLYYYYY wanted to see all the food trucks.  So we went.

It was a nice day out, especially with it being the last day of summer.  First off – I call absolute BULLSHIT on having to pay $20 to park on the field for the day.  Second, it looked real nice when we got there; they had a ferris wheel, four stages tents everywhere, a beer garden and of course, food trucks.  But the set up was so fucked up and unorganized.  We felt like we had to go through a fucking maze to go from one stage to another, or from the beer garden back to the one of the two main stages.  Fucking stupid!

The first band that was on when we arrived was this shit emocore band called Bad Case For Big Mouth.  Someone should tell them the they a real bad case of playing some really shitty music.  I also think anyone with whinny vocals should just chop their balls off.  Hell…whoever the first fuckface was who decided it was ok to whine like a bitch should just fucking go and kill himself now – you reading this Morrissey????  So after seeing that shit we ditched their asses immediately to check out the rest of the carnival.

While walking around we saw a tent.  The closer we got I remember seeing that Game Changer Wrestling was on the bill.  The closer we got after that I noticed someone a little too familiar to me.  Yeah…it was Jaka…

Jaka

My little backstory with him is something I’ll get into another time.  The important thing is if I saw him I knew before he even told me that was definitely going to see this guy…

chris dickinson

Chris Dickinson…wrestler turned drummer turned wrestler again.  I actually played guitar in his very first band but that was about eleven years ago now.  Around the time he had gone back to wrestling he and Jaka were feuding but now they’re part of Team Pazuzu and the two of them will actually be wrestling The Steiner Brothers in Manville, NJ on October 16th.  Anyway, I decided to stick around to see Chris wrestle since I hadn’t since I was a ring announcer in a no holds barred match he had against Jaka six years ago.

Here’s the match:

I caught him for a few minutes after the match ended before he and the rest of Team Pazuzu had to drive off to Connecticut for another match that night.  So we walked around a bit more until 5pm when Skid Row were about to go on.  I personally could give two flying fucks about them without Sebastian Bach but Courtenay was curious to see what they sounded like with their brand new singer Tony Harnell, who sadly used to sing for TNT.  New Jersey is the band’s home town so the old school crowd that probably saw them in bars turned up for this shit.  They were not that bad but dude…their singer was in TNT.  Done.  Over.

After they got off they were setting up for Sevendust while methhead led Puddle of Mudd were on the other stage – I’m surprised Wes Scantlin even made it out to the gig without getting arrested again!  Too bad you still sucked ass.  Courtenay, being a towering 5 ft wanted to get as close to the stage as she could before anyone showed up or she knew she wouldn’t be able to see Sevendust, since she could barely see Skid Row; so there we were, standing there, subjecting ourselves to Puddle of Shit until Sevendust were to come on.  The most entertaining part of the wait was the way the crowd cheered as Skid Row’s banner was being brought down.  Puddle of Meth took FOREVER to finished their lame as fuck set.  Of their entire catalog most people only know of one shitty CD and they just dragged it out to death.

Then…a REAL band came on:

Lajon Witherspoon?  Corey Glover on steroids.  The guy is still a BEAST on the mic, one of the best singers of my generation, criminally underrated.  Morgan Rose…I want his drum kit…now.  I lost my way with Sevendust for a long time and it’s not their fault.  Starting with their 1997 debut – which I have on cassette – they were pretty much lumped in with the nu-metal movement, most likely because of their grooves but in reality they thankfully are nothing like that.  Sometime in between songs Lajon decided to talk about how he’ll always be the guy that talks to all the fans and how grateful the band are to us because they’d be doomed without us.  When I hear people say things like that I automatically assume they’re just full of shit.  Or was he?

After Sevendust finished up I immediately took Courtenay by the hand and rushed us to the other main stage to see Black Label Society.  This was going to be the seventh time I saw them and I wasn’t going to miss shit.  Zakk Wylde is GOD.  There was no one else that night that could play worth a shit compared to Zakk Fucking Wylde, not Slash, not the Skid Row guys, not even Ty Tabor – no one.  The band’s set were intense as usual, hell, ever since he got sober the band’s shows have been like religious experiences and this was no exception.

Here are the first two songs:

Considering each band had just fifty minutes to play I found it amusing that Zakk managed to fit a brief solo section into the set. “Now this is just meedly meedly stuff”, said Courtenay.  Me?  It’s the best meedly meedly you can get here.  After we finished watching Zakk pound his chest like Captain Caveman we relaxed a bit before we walked over to the “Birch Hill” stage to see King’s X.  No way we were seeing Stephen Pearcy.  Fuck him.  Fuck him and every single washed up glam rock asshole that was there.  But while hanging around I noticed a tent with a bunch of middle aged metalheads raffling off bass drum heads signed by 80’s thrash bands as well as selling some nice rarities.  Oh shit is the Old Bridge Metal Militia really back from the dead as a result of mid life crisis?  I think so!  But I have to admit, it was nice to see them out.  No, I didn’t talk to them.  I wasn’t even born yet when they were giving Metallica a home when they came to Old Bridge from California.  What was I going to say to them??

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They even made an attempt at being slightly relevant by making a webpage.  Aaawwww!  Check them out at http://www.oldbridgemetalmilitia.com

After Ratt’s washed up ex singer finally shut the fuck up we walked to the stage.  That’s when I noticed dUg’s bass cabinets and had a real bad Beavis and butthead moment:

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Huh huh, hey Beavis, look at the letters on his amps, huh huh.

This was going to be my first time seeing King’s X, what an honor…just too bad Eddie Trunk had to announce them on stage.  Ok we get it, you were there for everything that happened…a million years ago.  I used to love listening to him but he caters way too much to his age group.  The band came on…dUg Pinnick looks really good with a goatee, makes him look a lot younger than 65…it’s good to see Jerry Gaskill still doing this after enduring two heart attacks and the loss of his home to Hurricane Sandy.  Ty Tabor is an incredible guitarist and he showed his ability to keep up with dUg and Jerry during some long jams.

As I was filming their set Courtenay pointed out to me the back of someone’s dreadlocked head.  “Lordy lordy!!!” he yelled out with a big excited smile as he was talking with other people during the show.  It was Lajon Witherspoon; I thought he was just bragging for the sake of image when he spoke about his love for the fans and not being afraid to go out to the crowd but there he was in the flesh.  In fact he was standing right next to me at one point and when I said the band were amazing he talked to me about them.  Wow.  After King’s X ended their AMAZING set I approached Lajon, told him I’d be honored to take a picture with him and Courtenay.  “Let’s do it!” was his immediate response.  Amazing guy, very down to earth, more people should be like Lajon Witherspoon.

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Then there’s that parking lot bullshit.  We tried to leave after our selfie with Lajon but it wasn’t happening.  In fact there was a line that just didn’t move.  At one point Courtenay just parked her car all over again to save gas because we were going nowhere.  People were increasingly enraged, drunk, both.  So I walked to the nearest parking lot attendant and asked him what the fuck was happening.  “None of this would be happening if the police just listened to us.” was his answer so I realized that the police were directing traffic JUST one way.  This was absolutely disgraceful.  It was over two hours before we finally got the fuck out of there.  Hell, my friend Maureen from Brooklyn said fuck it and took car service back to her hotel and left her car in the lot just to avoid the bullshit.  I also know there were a lot of complaints the next day and I also know that I’m not going back until WDHA and the Clark Police Department figured out how to safely organize and run an event like this.

The show was nice…just really fucking disorganized from start to finish.