Anthrax’s Charlie Benante: If Big 4 Bands Had a Baby It Would’ve Been Pantera
Anthrax and Pantera have always had a tight bond; they toured together, they influenced each other, and the members were friends. We reached out to Anthrax's drummer Charlie Benante to talk about his former touring mate, his peer and his friend, the late drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott.
"I thought that Vinnie had a very distinct style," Benante says, sadly. "It was one of the main elements of the Pantera sound. Vinnie was also in charge of a lot of the engineering on those Pantera records -- he found a way to keep the guitars up front but also to make his drums cut through that. On those Pantera records, it was so aggressive, but it was such a beautiful sound because you could hear everything so clearly. As a musician, that, to me, was one of the things that I appreciated more than anything else: how he approached those records sonically. And when you went to see them live, they sounded just like that too."
But it wasn't just about the sound -- although that was important -- it was about having songs. "Vulgar Display of Power was the record that established them, that gave them a career. The songs on that album were so great... they were songs. They were so aggressive but they were songs. That's the thing that people miss today: don't just go for the style, go for the song. Pantera was all about the style and the song. They had such crushing riffs but those riffs were so memorable. I was just really proud of them."
Like a lot of older metal bands and fans, he feels a certain amount of gratitude towards Pantera for the records they made and the way they carried themselves during the 1990s. "That [alternative rock] wave came and in the '90s 'heavy metal' became a bad, bad term. but Pantera were the only ones... they were really the one band that was flying the flag."
And he ranks them alongside metal and hard rock's very best: "I think that if Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth had a baby, it would have been Pantera. Pantera was like Van Halen, reborn. The [Abbott] brothers, growing up together and playing together, like the Van Halen brothers... that's a God-given gift."
Vinnie Paul's contributions to Pantera extended way beyond his drumming. As frontman Philip Anselmo told Loudwire in 2016, "While the rest of us were drunken buffoons, [Vinnie] had to drive, he had to settle at the end of the night. He had to do all of that type of work that a tour manager would have to do. He was always a business guy. Very, very, very smart businessman.”
Benante concurs: "Vinnie was the glue in that band. He was the brains behind a lot of things, including their sound. He was always the guy who was planning ahead. I feel like when he lost his brother... he lost a lot."
He adds, "I'm glad Vinnie got up and did something else after that," referring to his more recent band, Hellyeah (who are also mourning the loss of their friend and drummer).
"We always had great times together," Benante recalls, sadly. "We were living in a time before the internet it was all about fun, and about the experience. They were great days. every day on tour - we toured together - it was just a circus, but it was a fun circus. Vinnie was all about having fun! Him and his brother, they had a warped sense of humor, but they always wanted your experience to be great."
And for all their friends, not to mention millions of fans worldwide, the Abbott brothers and Pantera did just that.
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