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The message behind Pantera's angry sound

Between the intense sound and lyrics, there is a message about succeeding

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”You work your ass off to get where you are,” drawls the soft-spoken Texan who not long ago took his first trip on a corporate jet. ”Any luxuries that come along, we appreciate them.”

No, this isn’t some hustling businessman. It’s Vinnie Paul, drummer for Pantera (Spanish for ”panther”), the violently angry band whose new album, Far Beyond Driven, debuted at the top of the charts. As Paul all but brags, Far Beyond Driven-recorded in a style that once was called thrash but now is mainstream metal-is ”the most extreme record that ever went to No. 1.”

To be fair, the lyrics (sample: ”Your girlfriend could have been a burn victim, an amputee, a dead body/But God damn, I wanted to f — -”) aren’t as ruthless as they seem, even if singer Phil Anselmo screams them in a voice that could blast paint off a brick wall. ”The anger Phil vents is about people who try to hold you down,” explains Paul, 29. The band’s message, he says, is really self-affirmation: ”Everybody can make what they want of themselves.”

So maybe Paul really is a businessman? ”This is my career,” he calmly agrees. ”If I didn’t have the desire to be successful, I’d be a foolish person.” And like any lucky entrepreneurs, he and his band have succeeded entirely on their own terms. Pantera’s first major-label release, 1990’s Cowboys From Hell, was harder than its four earlier independent albums. Vulgar Display of Power, which went to No. 44 in 1992, was even more abrasive. Far Beyond Driven is the band’s most savage record ever, yet it sold 186,000 copies its first week out.

Paul’s life, though, isn’t extreme. To relax, he plays golf and listens to the otherworldly dance music of Enigma. ”When I get home, I’m like anyone else,” he says. ”I want to kick back and chill.”