This is getting to be an all too familiar feeling. You wake up and log into social media only to find a flood of pictures and condolences, then you check the news to find out if it's true, hoping that it's just a mistake or a stupid hoax. But, no, another legend is gone too soon, and, man, does it fucking suck.
The death of Pantera, Damageplan, and Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul Abbot on June 22 came completely out of the blue and still needs time to process. I saw him just a week or so before at the Nine Inch Nails show in Vegas. Didn't say hi because he was getting mobbed for pictures for which he was always happy to oblige, and I didn't want to bother him. It wasn't like I'd never see him again; having made his home here in Sin City, he was always out and about, a familiar face at every metal show, big or small, ever supportive of the scene he loved so much. Sometimes we'd have a few drinks and stand and watch the band together, other times just say hello. It's too easy to take friendship for granted.
And perhaps it's too easy to take for granted Vinnie's immeasurable influence on metal. In truth, he was often eclipsed by his brother Dimebag Darrell, who was so senselessly taken from us in 2004. Everyone knows those riffs – Walk, Cowboys From Hell, Mouth For War, and so many more – but behind them was an absolute powerhouse drummer with pinpoint precision.
It's no exaggeration to say that his playing influenced pretty much everyone who heard him, from Machine Head and Slipknot to Lamb Of God and well, the list is endless. Vinnie brought a new dimension, a new level, to his craft, for which we should be ever grateful.
But as much as for his phenomenal playing, Big Vin will be remembered for his giant heart, a cruel irony given that early reports suggest that he died of a heart attack.
We first met in 1991 after Pantera's legendary show at the Marquee in London – still one of the best shows I've ever been to – and through countless gigs and parties I watched him make time for friends and fans alike, ever the gracious host, the epitome of southern hospitality. Moreover, it's no surprise to learn that having tragically lost his own brother, Vinnie offered words of comfort to Corey Taylor after the death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. Or that he came through for Lamb Of God singer Randy Blythe when he was facing prison. To Vinnie the metal world was a family and he treated it as such.
Vinnie was... That doesn't seem right. It should be Vinnie is. He was looking forward to making more music, looking forward to the next gig and the next party. 54 is no age to go, but maybe that lifestyle caught up with him. At least now he gets to hang out with Dimebag again. One imagines that the Crown Royal is already flowing, Black Tooth Grins all round. Rest in peace, Vinnie. 1964 - 2018.