In 1992 Pantera released the iconic Vulgar Display of Power. Described by many as one of the most influential metal albums of the 90’s, Vulgar Display of Power defined a genre. So it is perhaps a big ask to follow such success. Pantera’s answer to this was to release seventh album Far Beyond Driven in 1994.
After establishing themselves as the kings of groove metal, Far Beyond Driven was an attempt to further the boundaries even more. The band decided the best way to continue to grab people’s attention was to almost ‘out-heavy’ themselves. Guitars were tuned down to C#, vocals became far more aggressive, and riffs were thrashier than we have heard before. The result was a brutal, all out sonic assault on whoever may be passing by at the time. Despite such ferocity, the album was met with critical acclaim. Far Beyond Driven became the fastest selling album of the bands career. It debuted at No.1 on the Billboard chart, and also came in at No.1 in Australia. They were obviously doing something right, as 20 years on and Far Beyond Driven has been re-mastered and re-released for us to re-energize our appetites for the behemoth that is Pantera.
We start with Strength Beyond Strength and immediately can tell this is an album to make you sit up and prick your ears. It’s unsettling, unnerving, and a lot to take in – and this is just the first ten seconds. This continiues with Becoming and a lightning burst of double kick-drums to give a machine-gun a run for its money. Fans of Pantera will agree that Far Beyond Driven isn’t their best effort. Due to its sheer brutality, it can at times come across rather un-cohesive and slightly lacking a sense of direction. It can almost bludgeon the listener into submission, relentlessly chopping away at their ears until they give way with exhaustion. But it does still have its masterstrokes. First single off the album is the standout I’m Broken. It features a classic riff now learned by millions, and showcases the Abbott brothers’ ability to play off of each other with ease and sophistication. Planet Caravan even though being a Black Sabbath cover, is a great album closer and such a popular rendition that some would believe the song was their own. Lyrically this is one of Phil Anselmo’s more personal albums. Track such as 25 Years and Becoming seem to touch on his upbringing and early life. They are on full blast throughout and rarely let up.
In addition to Far Beyond Driven, the re-release comes with a Far Beyond Bootleg – a live show recording from their 1994 Monsters of Rock festival performance at Donington Park. The 9-track CD includes hits such as Cowboys From Hell, Walk, Mouth For War and also first single from Far Beyond Driven – I’m Broken. It’s a great opportunity for fans to relive the experience of the show, and what a show the band did indeed put on. Donington’s crowd is famous for their appreciation of heavy music and here was no different, for they and the band are on top form. However, this is a bootleg and therefore the sound isn’t the best, but if you are able to see past that then it is an impressive listen, and a nice add-on to the 20th anniversary re-release.