Full disclosure: before reading this book I would have been hard presses to name an album or song by heavy metal icons Pantera. So I go into this book intrigued by the tale of one of rock’s most infamous moments; the onstage murder of legendary Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott during a show with his band Damageplan, but not from the perspective of a drooling fan.
While it falls into a familiar pattern that many rock biographies tread; you know, band gets together, band gets following, band gets record deal, band tours and tours and tours, band makes pile of cash, band spends pile of cash, band can’t resist life on the road traps like babes, booze and drugs, band breaks up, band regrets breakup and moves on; bassist Rex Brown lays out the tail in Official Truth, 101 Proof: The Inside Story of Pantera.
Clearly the book paints Brown in a positive light, hey it’s his book, so why not. The interesting twist comes in the form of brief anecdotes provided by folks ranging from Dimebag’s long time girlfriend Rita Haney, early band members, producers and record company types. He captures his own decent into alcoholism with a quiet desperation.
While Brown titles the chapter dealing with the news of Dimebag’s murder The Worst Day of My Life, he really utilizes it as a tool to reflect on the band’s long simmering differences. His insider insight into the star-studded funeral and what he sarcastically labels the Eddie (Van Halen) and Zakk (Wylde) show.
Like all bands that form an indelible link to fans and then burn out and fade away too quickly there is an infinite sadness that accompanies their tale. The depth of that sadness really becomes clear based on the bond with this true fans, band forged in cold steel.