When Vincent Paul Abbott, better known to the world as Vinnie Paul, died on June 22, the metal world lost one of its most dynamic and recognizable drummers. His first band to achieve commercial success, Pantera, practically established the groove metal subgenre with 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, which at its core meant taking thrash metal rhythms and playing them midtempo.
Without Paul’s versatile double kicks, impressive fills and complex rhythms, it’s hard to imagine Pantera — and, by extension, Damageplan, the band he formed with his brother, Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott, after Pantera broke up, or HELLYEAH (the band he formed after Dimebag’s death in 2004) — existing.
Here are some of Paul’s most memorable songs, in chronological order.
“Primal Concrete Sledge” (Pantera, Cowboys From Hell, 1990)
Paul and Dimebag formed Pantera in 1981. While much of its success is (rightfully) attributed to Dimebag’s guitar prowess and outspoken vocalist Philip H. Anselmo (who joined in 1986), the band was truly more than the sum of its parts. By the time its fifth album and major-label debut arrived in 1990, the group had already paid its dues, becoming a must-see live band and refining its sound from that of a Van Halen- and Judas Priest-influenced party act into its own unique style. While the title track is the song that introduced Pantera to most of the world beyond Texas, it’s the album’s second cut, “Primal Concrete Sledge,” a just-over-two-minute volley of double-kick drums, that establishes Paul’s comfort with complex rhythms.
“Domination” (Pantera, Cowboys From Hell, 1990)
Another example of Paul’s versatility as a metal drummer, “Domination,” begins as a thrasher. It changes rhythms with some impressive fills from Paul, then has a breakdown at the finale that ends the song, with Paul making it sound effortless throughout the whole piece. One of the best breakdowns in metal? It’s been called that.
“Walk” (Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power, 1992)
Without the swing that Paul brought to the band, Pantera would have been — well, it still would have been amazing, but its best-known hit is elevated by his near-straightforward drumming. If there’s one track that defines groove metal, it’s this one. By lying back, Paul created the closest thing Pantera has to an arena rock song.
“Mouth for War” (Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power, 1992)
The song that kicks off Vulgar is a better display (no pun intended) of Paul’s talents. He explained in an interview that the floor tom and snare part make the drums more or less part of the riff and serve as a statement that Pantera wasn’t about to go soft for its sophomore major-label release.
“Fucking Hostile” (Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power, 1992)
This is Pantera — and Paul — at their best. While his double kick-work might have become his calling card, “Hostile” proved that he was just as great as a straight-ahead thrash drummer, and it’s one of the reasons this is one of Pantera’s best-known songs.
“Becoming” (Pantera, Far Beyond Driven, 1994)
By 1994, Pantera had established itself as one of metal’s most exciting and innovative bands, but instead of selling out, they wrote Far Beyond Driven, which is quite possibly the heaviest album ever to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Paul’s frenetic double-kick pedals are at the root of this song, and in an interview, he cited the track as one of his most innovative and something that had “never been done before.”
“I’m Broken” (Pantera, Far Beyond Driven, 1994)
Another one of the best examples of the groove that defined Pantera as one of the biggest metal bands of the last 25 years. Paul’s lockstep rhythms with his brother define the band’s first single from its seventh album.
“13 Steps to Nowhere” (Pantera, The Great Southern Trendkill, 1996)
While The Great Southern Trendkill has better songs on it (start with “Drag the Waters” and “War Nerve”), this one is practically built around Paul’s drums, which are absolutely the focal point. If you’re looking for proof, just Google “Thirteen Steps to Nowhere drum cover” on YouTube.
“Revolution Is My Name” (Pantera, Reinventing the Steel, 2000)
The first single from Pantera’s last album careens through several rhythms, even finding time for one that includes some tasty cowbell after the solo. In the hands of a less-talented drummer, this would be disastrous, but it’s another example of Paul’s diversity.
“Say When” (Hellyeah, Blood for Blood, 2014)
While Paul’s post-Pantera projects might not have gotten the credit that his primary band did, that’s through no fault of his own. Hellyeah, the band he started with Mudvayne’s Chad Gray after Dimebag was killed onstage during a Damageplan concert, has released five albums. One listen to the volley of bass drums prevalent throughout “Say When” proves that Paul hadn’t mellowed with age and was still innovating more than 30 years into his career.