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Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

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Last Updated on 11:42 by Nikos Nakos

Pantera’s ‘Far Beyond Driven’ is their 7th full length album released on March 22, 1994, by Elektra Records and East West Records and only the third in the right or brutal direction, so probably this is the reason why many still believe that this is their third release, yet it is also a milestone of the 90’s, a triumph of extreme music as it is commercially the zenith of the band’s career as it is Pantera’s fastest-selling album, it peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Platinum by the RIAA. The album was also certified Platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association. But it is also the record that the first clouds were gathered above their shinny sky and when the first cuts were made and as most of us know the first cuts are the deepest…Fun fact it is the first time where the band’s guitarist Darrell Abbott is credited as “Dimebag Darrell”, having changed his nickname from “Diamond Darrell” soon after Vulgar Display of Power was released. 

The original album cover shows a drill going into someone’s anus, but the record label rejected it, worrying it would harm sales and would be rejected by stores like Walmart and Target. The band then changed it to a drill put in the frontal lobe of a human skull.

In 2014 Vinnie Paul told Vanyaland:

“The original thought was “metal up your ass,” you know? … In 1994, heavy metal was uncool and we wanted to be as metal as we could. The label agreed with us and then came back three days later and said, “Uhhh … we can’t get this into Walmart, Target and retail and it’s gonna kill us.” So we got back with the guy who did the artwork, Dean Karr, and he did the one with the drill in the head which signifies the same thing.”

The album starts were Vulgar Display of Power stopped, a crescendo of ferocious riffs and shredding solos, a glorious spitting lyrics climax like bullets and a cement rhythm section, a quartet of hit singles were some of their most famous or signature hymns are presented here, as also some underrated gems. Anselmo was a small god his confidence and energy were on red 24/7 and noone could predict that soon he would entered the dark path of heroin addiction that would later lead him one step before collapsing as the shoes that all of us fans-media-label-rest of the band wanted him to wear, the shoes of mr doesitall were rather difficult for anyone to wear at least for a long time…

And it wasn’t only Anselmo that had the world on his feet Dimebag could record any idea that passed through his mind and the fans would go crazy not that any if his riffs or solos were a nothing lesser than breathtaking at the time but meanwhile he had the guts to present a chaotic song like ‘Good Friends And A Bottle of Pills’ if we finally agree after 30 years that it is actually, something close to be described as a song…

‘Good Friends And A Bottle of Pills’ (which if you remember was used in tape as an intro for their concerts for the album promoting tour) is a manifesto in which Pantera deliver Dime’s guitar screams and squeals along with Rex’s thick double bass lines and Anselmo’s recitation creating an anti-song that cuts the album in half: the first part is the instant classics side and the rest is the raw side the lion that roars bleeding and wounded but ready to devour whoever thinks that Far Beyond Driven stops in ‘Strength Beyond Strength’, ‘Becoming’, ‘Five Minutes Alone’ and ‘I’m Broken’.

Here Pantera take it to a new level in terms of extra doses of psychodramatic lyrics personal inner struggle, self-empowerment and dark issues that speaks for and to people with broken souls. “Hard as a rock. Shut like a lock.” Every line or verse is testosterone fueled male redemption lyrics or  catharsis war and ego fight increased to climax street poetry from an everyday man with no education, no family life to open his arms to…that will end up broken in a gutter but deep down inside believes that he is stronger than all.  And in the end proved to be…

Explicit language was something normal for these Texans and as their music was cut off the glam roots or the sleazy past it was more than vital and refreshing for the youth of America to be conveyed with words they used in real life rejecting their parents and to be expressed by verses like in ’25 Years’ : “You’ll never be the father I am. The bastard father to the thousands of the ugly. Criticized, the unwanted. The ones with fathers just like you. We’re fucking you back.”

An underrated hymn with NOLA-esque sludgy sound and groove. As all tracks after the big 4 of the album are not valued high enough. But anthems like ‘Shedding Skin’, ‘Throes if Rejection’ just can’t be written everyday unfortunately…

‘Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks’ which is one my personal favorites says some drunken or drugged thoughts : “You know it’s bad, some may say sad, a hangover is inspiration/Like a junkie I hurt for it, a bad trip, the emptiness/I never sleep, or always sleep a lack of fulfillment, to me is me, the big picture/These hard lines and sunken cheeks/Are part of what the Christians mean to immortalize my situation” but I love it as the melodic part in the middle is unique and the line: “My soul for a goat/yet I’ll outlive the old” sounds so cool every time I hear it.

Slaughtered’, is the small brother of ‘Mouth For War’ and ‘Use My Third Arm’ has some parts that we heard much later on song ‘Piss’ an outtake written in 1994 in which Vinnie Paul said in an interview for Loudwire almost a dozen of years ago:

“The reissue (of Vulgar) has a song called ‘Piss,’ which I had forgotten about it, some parts of it were taken for other songs, and at the time, it was the only song that did not make the record. In Pantera, we never had songs that didn’t make the record. If we were going to write 11 songs, then we’d write 11 quality songs. Some bands write 40 songs and then hope they have nine good ones in the bunch. That sucks. Why not concentrate on writing 9 great ones and forget the 31 others? Anyway, this song, at the time, didn’t feel right to go on the record, so we put it on the shelf.”

Musically speaking Pantera may seem to follow the same pattern of the established sound of their two previous records but with a big key difference here that the riffs are now further stripped of their melody and connection with heavy and speed metal influence that has been almost cut off. The riffs are much Thrashier and much groovier than ever, focused on razor sharp ferocity; shred and chug wise, while Anselmo delivers the lines like a desperate lonely fighter (soon a winner) as simple and as perfect and personal as that.

Pantera fought the MTV mainstream system of the 90’s from inside. They played their game but never forgot who they really are, in fact in a course full of mistakes and moves and talkings that mutually exclusive they never kept a secret of their thoughts never said lies about homophobia or racist beliefs so you might say this was a genuine (redneck) rebel band that managed to use the system for their own benefit without being political correct pussies or something or cutting their hair or changing their style and stuff.

As an epilogue the Sabbath cover was close to the original and was wisely chosen both in metal legacy and mainstream reasons  and on the other hand the inclusion of bonus track on a Poison Idea cover ‘The Badge’ used on The Crow soundtrack, had not only to do about mainstream but the sampling of Taxi Driver in its outro connected smartly the song ‘Walk’ with their future as a totally successful cohesion trick…

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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