BOOK REVIEW | "OFFICIAL TRUTH: 101 PROOF - THE INSIDE STORY OF PANTERA" BY REX BROWN WITH MARK EGLINTON
photo & text by nacrowe
its been over 15 years since DIMEBAG DARRELL's murder, but he's seemingly been omnipresent in the METAL community in spirit ever since. OFFICIAL TRUTH 101 PROOG: THE INSIDE STORY OF PANTERA (DA CAPO, 2013) is PANTERA/DOWN bassist REX BROWN's attempt at making sense of his former band's legacy and laying bare the warts-and-all narrative of how their insatiable drive to succeed over time alienated themselves from each and ultimately led to their estrangement and break up. the bizarre, unforeseen shooting of guitarist DIMEBAG by a mentally ill midwestern fan in DECEMBER 2004 only further heightens the loss felt by fans for this once indomitable juggernaut of a band that basically single-handedly maintained METAL as a cultural entity in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK doldrums of the 1990s.
in essence, BROWN promotes his perspective that PANTERA fell apart due to over touring over a 15 year career that found them rarely taking extended breaks. initially this was due to their commitment to each other to make it in the business, but later it seemed they were worried about maintaining their lifestyle and appeasing fans worldwide. the narrative forwarded by fans in the years after DIMEBAG's murder there has been much blame and consternation being forwarded singer PHIL ANSELMO's way for his issues with heroin and dalliances with DOWN, SUPERJOINT RITUAL and various other side projects. BROWN counters this line of thinking arguing that the reality was that they needed a break and the brothers ABBOT (DIMEBAG and drummer VINNIE PAUL) by the end did not have communication with ANSELMO enough to come to that sort of conclusion.
its funny how many people mocked METALLICA for their documentary SOME KIND OF MONSTER (THIRD EYE, 2004) in which they hired a group counselor to work through interpersonal issues, but they had the last laugh as they are still together performing almost 20 years later. for all their macho, alpha-male posturing, PANTERA couldn't look each other in the eye and admit they needed help reevaluating their business choices in light of physical and mental health concerns.
speaking of which, one repeated line of criticism for this book are the shots BROWN takes at VINNIE PAUL for his immaturity and stubbornness. nobody argued that such were untrue, just that they didn't see the point in kicking a guy down after a family tragedy. i disagree, if anything BROWN comes across as a pretty relaxed, even-keeled and not particularly emotional narrator. i found him to be pretty reliable, but what do i know? his criticism of VINNIE PAUL was done in order to relate accurately the internal dynamics of the band and how there was a clear dividing line between the brothers and BROWN and ANSELMO. what comes across glaringly is the idea that BROWN served as a middle man in PANTERA. a middle man between the band and management, accountants, lawyers and even feuds between members themselves. lots of tough choices that needed an unemotional adult participant often found their way to BROWN, which was ironic given that he rarely talked in interviews, leaving the rest of the band members to give off the impression to their fanbase that they were in control.
this book is sort of his take on everything, and given ANSELMO's reluctance to speak on the issue and the recent passing of VINNIE PAUL years after his brother's murder, this book will likely be the final take on that issue by an actual band member.
tragic story about a great band that i really enjoyed as a teenager. its well-written and overall comes off pretty level-headed. if you are a fan of PANTERA or a lover of METAL in all its forms, SLUDGE METAL, DEATH METAL, THRASH METAL, NWOBHM, DOOM METAL, BLACK METAL, METALCORE and beyond, this book is worth your time.