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Pure Against the Grain American Metal - 99%

SZoller, January 13th, 2009

Pantera's "Official Live: 101 Proof" is one of the finest examples of what made Pantera one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, not to mention a killer live act. The album captures in spades all the energy and intensity of a live Pantera show, featuring stellar performances from each member of the band. One of the most redeeming qualities of this album are early Pantera classics (off of "Cowboys From Hell" and "Vulgar Display of Power") given steroid injections via Dimebag's updated and far more brutal guitar work (circa 1996), resulting in much heavier versions than the originals.

The previous reviewers are right to point out that this album is not recorded from one solitary show. If the album was recorded poorly and/or felt disjointed I would hold this fact against the album. However, the production here is among the finest of any live recording I have ever heard, and the transitions between songs from different shows are both smooth and coherent. The tracklisting of any live show is going to disappoint some fans, but the selection of tracks here shouldn't surprise anyone seeing as they are all staples of a Pantera show ("Angel of Death" is an obvious choice for Slayer, but we would all be pissed if they didn't play it, right?). Granted, it would be cool to hear some of the lesser played Pantera tunes like "Heresey" or "Throes of Rejection," but their absence doesn't detract from the album.

While there are many subtle live variations throughout, the standout (and most obvious) tracks are the combination of Domination and Hollow, and the chorus riff from Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" thrown into "Cowboys from Hell." Phil Anselmo's rants between songs are another great addition to the album, not only because they are hilarious but because they fit perfectly with the spirit and attitude of a Pantera show.

The final two tracks, recorded in the studio, are as strong as any Pantera material around. These are definitely not b-sides by any means. Had Pantera decided to record another studio album between "The Great Southern Trendkill" and "Reinventing the Steel" these would have no doubt been on it. Be forewarned: Dimebag's solo on "I Can't Hide" will make you shit your pants.

In the end, if you dislike live records and/or Pantera, don't bother with this album. However, if you want to hear some of the most brilliant, innovative, and downright heavy guitar work ever, get this album. Don't let jack-asses who are more concerned with Pantera's success than their music get in the way of listening to metal of the highest order.