Pantera Goes Country... Sort Of

As Pantera returns to record stores this week to reclaim its place atop the metal world, two of its members are branching out into somewhat more twangy genres.

Drummer Vinnie Paul and guitarist Dimebag Darrell have hooked up with country star David Allen Coe for a project that Paul describes as a "crossover country metal thing." The drummer notes that the three have eight songs recorded already, and they hope to wrap the album up before Pantera launches its European tour in April. Paul also says that they hope to have an album from these unique sessions in stores before the end of the year.

"Being from Texas, not only do we have rock roots, but we listen to country and blues," Paul explained to MTV News recently. "Before our shows, we'd play [Coe's] 'Jack Daniels, If You Please' off of one of his CDs.... He caught wind of it, and we went out to see him when he played Billy Bob's. He was just

a super cool dude. It was fun to check him out, and we hooked him up with a couple of our home videos, and he called us back a couple days later and just said, 'Man, these f***ing videos are incredible. I really dig what you guys do.' He knows more about Pantera than I do now." [RealAudio]

The fast friendship soon yielded a creative partnership, as Paul explained. "We started hooking up and jamming and doing some tunes, and they're pretty unique. Some of them are just like an up-tempo thrash metal hoedown with a country and western singer," the drummer said.

Paul notes that the project "was just done for fun," and so far that's what it's been.

Of course, Vinnie and Dimebag aren't about to quit their day job any time soon. Pantera delivered its first studio album in four years to stores this week with the arrival of "Reinventing The Steel." The band's in-store appearance at Dallas' Tower Records marking the album's release brought out throngs of fans, as well as police,

who shut down the event when the crowd grew too large.

After a European tour, the band will return to play its first U.S. dates behind the new album as part of this summer's edition of Ozzfest.