MIKE PORTNOY Says PANTERA Reunion Is ‘Phenomenal’: ‘All The Naysayers Are Eating Their Words’

Former DREAM THEATER and current THE WINERY DOGS drummer Mike Portnoy has weighed in on the fact that PANTERA‘s surviving members Philip Anselmo (vocals) and Rex Brown (bass) have united with guitarist Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and drummer Charlie Benante (ANTHRAX) for a world tour under the PANTERA banner.

Anselmo and Brown, along with Wylde and Benante, are headlining a number of major festivals across South America, Asia, North America and Europe and staging some of their own headline concerts. They are also supporting METALLICA on a massive North American stadium tour in 2023 and 2024.

According to Billboard, the new PANTERA lineup has been given a green light by the estates of the band’s founders, drummer Vincent “Vinnie Paul” Abbott and guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, as well as Brown, who in 2021 said Wylde wouldn’t tour with PANTERA if a reunion were to happen. It’s unclear what changed his mind.

Portnoy discussed the controversy surrounding PANTERA‘s comeback in a new interview with “THAT Rocks!”, the weekly YouTube series hosted by Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson. Asked if he has had a chance to catch a concert from the new PANTERA yet, the 56-year-old drummer said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “I caught the show in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was fricking phenomenal. I loved it. Absolutely loved it… Charlie and Zakk are absolutely killing it, really. I couldn’t be happier for them. I think all the naysayers that came in this skeptical at the beginning are now kind of eating their words and realizing how badass this is and how important it is, to keep that legacy alive.”

He continued: “I know it was a tough pill for a lot of people to swallow, but I think the reality is if Dimebag hadn’t been killed, I think they surely would’ve reunited at some point by now. And I understand Vinnie, once Dimebag was killed, I understand Vinnie never wanting to do it without him; it’s his brother, so I get that. But now that Vinnie isn’t with us either — it’s Phil and Rex‘s band as well, and I think wanting to carry on the legacy for a whole new generation is a great, great thing. They’re an important band and important to metal, and why shouldn’t they be out there doing it, you know? And actually, they’re doing it so tastefully and with so much honor and respect to Dime and Vinnie. They’re there each and every show right there on Charlie‘s bass drum heads. So I think they’re doing it right.”

Back in July 2018, less than a month after Vinnie Paul‘s passing, Portnoy told Metal Wani: “Vinnie was a friend of mine for a long time. We became friends right around when [PANTERA] put out ‘Cowboys From Hell’ and [DREAM THEATER] put out ‘Images And Words’. We were both signed to Atco at the same time, so we were dealing with a lot of the same people. And I became good friends with not only Vinnie, but all four of the guys in the band, and, to this day, remain good friends with all of ’em.

“When Vinnie came on the scene, in terms of his drumming, I think [PANTERA] were the perfect band that was needed in the metal world around ’91, ’92, because pretty much the ‘Big Four’ were kind of knocked out of style by grunge,” he continued. “SLAYER, MEGADETH, ANTHRAX, METALLICA and then also TESTAMENT and EXODUS and OVERKILL, all those bands around the early ’90s got killed by grunge. So PANTERA was the only band to really carry metal through the ’90s. I’d say PANTERA, MACHINE HEAD and SEPULTURA — to me, those were the three that were carrying it through. But PANTERA were the top of those.

“And getting back to Vinnie specifically, when I heard ‘Cowboys From Hell’ and ‘Vulgar Display [Of Power]’, it was, like, ‘Okay, this is fuckin’ great metal drumming,'” Portnoy added. “I already was listening to Charlie Benante ], Dave Lombardo [SLAYER] and Lars Ulrich [METALLICA], but by the early ’90s, Vinnie was kind of the next guy in line to carry the torch for the thrash or groove metal movement.”

During an appearance on Eddie Trunk‘s SiriusXM show, Portnoy said that “Vinnie was a big part of the production” of the early PANTERA albums. “Him and Dime [PANTERA guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott] co-produced with Terry [Date]. So he was very into that stuff — they were done at his studios. And he was very into that — it was another thing that he was really good at that you forget about. You just think about the drumming and the partying, but he was also really behind the PANTERA production.”

Up until his passing, Vinnie remained on non-speaking terms with Anselmo, whom the drummer indirectly blamed for Dimebag‘s death.

Vinnie Paul and Dimebag co-founded PANTERA. When PANTERA broke up in 2003, they formed DAMAGEPLAN. On December 8, 2004, while performing with DAMAGEPLAN at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, Dimebag was shot and killed onstage by a troubled schizophrenic who believed that the members of PANTERA were stealing his thoughts.

Vinnie passed away on June 22, 2018 at his other home in Las Vegas at the age of 54. He died of dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, as well as severe coronary artery disease. His death was the result of chronic weakening of the heart muscle — basically meaning his heart couldn’t pump blood as well as a healthy heart.

Mike Portnoy photo credit: Travis Shinn

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