Artist : Pantera
Album : Far Beyond Driven
Released : March 22, 1994
M.M. Album Rating : 4/5 (The Most Extreme Metal Record To Debut At Number One On The Billboard 200)
By 1994 the band Pantera had now found themselves in elite company. With the exception of Metallica they had become the biggest Metal band in the world, and since Metallica wasn’t even really making Metal music anymore they had now become the leaders of the Metal movement. The fact that their latest record “Far Beyond Driven” was released at midnight on March 22, 1994, and would debut at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart would prove how popular the band had become. Traveling to twelve cities in five days to meet fans, also sign autographs was the perfect promotion campaign, along with MTV documenting the whole thing. Over were the days of struggling all through the 1980s when they couldn’t even get a major record deal. Even when Lead Singer/Frontman Phil Anselmo joined the band, and they decided to change their sound to a more aggressive Metal style, they still couldn’t get a major record deal no matter how many executives came to see them. Eventually the band was finally signed to a major deal in late 1989. After that they would release two of the “Holy Grails” of the genre “Cowboys From Hell”, and “A Vulgar Display Of Power.” The plan for the third album was to not only top those two Metal Masterpieces, but also to make a louder, and harder record, if that was even possible.
It’s also obvious looking back now that the members of Pantera were caught off guard by their new Fame. Not only had they become targets of other bands, even fans now jealous of their success, (Suicidal Tendencies is one example) just as the song “Five Minutes Alone documents about a fan causing trouble at a show, but they also did everything they could to not sell out. Even putting what seemed like an apology in the liner notes for covering the classic Black Sabbath song “Planet Caravan”. That comment alone was evidence that the band may have overthought what, and how the material was going to sound like. And even though Far Beyond Driven would be the best, and fastest selling album of their career it was also evident that the material wasn’t as strong as the previous two records.
Not to say their wasn’t highlights, because there certainly were. The song “Becoming” called out bands like Metallica, and Megadeth for writing more commercial material, more concerned with selling lots of records instead of keeping their integrity. Also the excellent “I’m Broken” the song that talked about Phil’s back problems that were starting to have an effect on both his singing, and performing. As the following years would prove it was certainly something to be worried about as Phil would eventually begin to take heroin to ease the pain. This also would be the first Pantera album that Darrell Abbott would begin to use his new nickname “Dimebag” that would eventually become legendary, especially after his death. Even though the material isn’t as consistent Darrell’s riffs were as potent as ever, showing even more evidence of how much he had grown as a guitar player. Even the rhythm section of Rex Brown, and Vinnie Paul would display some of their greatest playing on this album. The highlight of the record though may come down most to Phil’s lyrics which to this point were the best he had written.
Twenty Three years later many consider Far Beyond Driven to be the last true classic Pantera album. From this point onward the band would drift into three camps. Phil on his own, Darrell, and Vinnie Paul in another, and Rex the neutral guy who tried not taking sides. By the time Pantera would release their next studio album “The Great Southern Trendkill” two years later the Abbott brothers, Rex, and Phil couldn’t even be in the same room together. Proving the cliché that the only people who can break up a band like Pantera are the members themselves. Still you can’t overlook the tremendous success this album was at a time Grunge was King, and record companies could care less about Metal. Love them or hate them Pantera carried Metal through the 1990s in the mainstream. For that they deserve our respect.
Track Listing :
1. “Strength Beyond Strength”
3. “5 Minutes Alone”
4. “I’m Broken”
5. “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills”
6. “Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks”
8. “25 Years”
9. “Shedding Skin”
10. “Use My Third Arm”
11. “Throes Of Rejection”
12. “Planet Caravan”
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