20 Years Ago: Pantera Releases ‘Far Beyond Driven’
From the moment they took up with vocalist Phil Anselmo and turned their backs on half a decade of forgettable ‘80s rock, Pantera were on a mission to outdo themselves, pushing heavy metal to new heights of extremity with album after album until there was simply nowhere left to go. The band had reached a state of mind, body, and sound that was ‘Far Beyond Driven.’
Then again, that perception already seemed applicable to the devastating aural bludgeoning delivered by 1992’s ‘Vulgar Display of Power,’ which took the rough draft provided by 1990’s pivotal ‘Cowboys from Hell’ and literally rewrote the rules for heavy metal, adding monumental grooves fueled by Diamond (now Dimebag) Darrell’s revolutionary style and lyrics as personal and emotionally revealing as any of the grunge hits of the day.
When it was released on March 22, 1994, ‘Far Beyond Driven’ became nothing short of a validation for headbangers. It roared to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and earned a Gold certification for 500,000 units sold in America alone within two months of its release.
Not bad for an album that remains one of, if not the most extreme ever to top the American charts — and this in spite Pantera’s every effort to shock and awe their own fan base (to separate the men from the boys, if you will) via the molten riffs, blistering leads, dissonant squeals, machine-gun percussion, and tortured screams pouring out of songs like ‘Becoming,’ ‘Shedding Skin,’ and ‘Slaughtered.’
Even when they stuck with more linear power chords on ‘5 Minutes Alone’ and first single ‘I’m Broken,’ or replaced intensity with anxiety on the unsettling ‘Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills,’ Pantera were testing the limits — instrumentally, too, as Darrell de-tuned his six-string as low as C# for some songs.
Indeed, so bent were Pantera on fulfilling their aforementioned “mission” to annihilate everything in sight that Anselmo felt compelled to justify the band’s cover of Black Sabbath’s gentle ‘Planet Caravan’ (a concession to terrified record label executives, who no doubt feared a commercial disaster), which admittedly flew in the face of their self-imposed, scorched earth edict.
As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about, since heavy metal fans were primed and ready to embrace their saviors during this critical down-period for the style, and their support of ‘Far Beyond Driven’ at the record store cash register obviously speaks for itself.