Friday, March 22, 2019

Pantera's Far Beyond Driven turns 25

25 years ago today, Pantera released its 7th album, Far Beyond Driven.

Here's an oral history of the album from 2014, quoting the three band members who were still alive then.

Rolling Stone wrote this about Far Beyond Driven, while ranking it one of the best metal albums ever (#39):

Pantera bassist Rex Brown once told Rolling Stone that with Far Beyond Driven, “the record company was pushing for something like [Metallica’s chart-topping] ‘Black Album.'” Pantera, of course, did not comply with this request, instead coming up with a record that boasted some of their fastest (opener “Stronger Than All”) heaviest (the Sabbath-y “I’m Broken”) and most downright misanthropic (the utterly depraved “Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills”) jams. At times – witness Dimebag Darrell’s Whammy pedal abuse on “Becoming,” Phil Anselmo’s wretched exorcising of paternal demons on “25 Years” or Vinnie Paul’s click-y bass drum sound all over the album – it seemed as if the band was attempting to inflict actual pain on the listener. And yet, shockingly, Pantera’s record company did in fact get their Number One album. To this day, Far Beyond Driven stands as indisputably the most extreme effort to have reached the top spot on the Billboard 200, not to mention to have debuted in that position upon its release.
Here's some stuff I wrote about 3 of the songs in previous posts about the deaths of Pantera's guitarist, "Dimebag Darrel" Abbott, and drummer, Vincent "Vinnie Paul" Abbott (who were brothers), at the tragic ages of 38 and 54:

In "I'm Broken," which is probably Pantera's best-known song, Vinnie is in lock-step with the guitar and bass as they veer from one time signature to another. Darrell's guitar riffs and solo in this song are memorable. Uncharacteristically for metal, some of the stretched-out notes in his solo seem to have a playful sense of humor.

Some of the lyrics are poignant knowing that half the band members are now gone:

One day we all will die — a cliche fact of life . . .

Here's an instrumental piano version of "I'm Broken."

I'm surprised "Shedding Skin" isn’t better known. To me, it’s one of Pantera’s best. But please don’t click that link unless you’re OK with some pretty crude lyrics and brutal music. It starts with a powerful riff, then switches to an eerily soft verse, which flows seamlessly into the heavy chorus. Tempo changes keep things interesting later on: the part where it slows down, in the section right before the guitar solo, is transcendent. After two guitar solos, the band closes out the song with a two-chord rhythmic frenzy.

The album ends on "Planet Caravan," a haunting cover of a song from Black Sabbath's breakthrough album, Paranoid. Pantera was so concerned that this un-heavy song would alienate the fans that the liner notes included a message justifying the decision to include it on Far Beyond Driven. It gives us a rare chance to hear Darrell soloing with a clean tone.