In 1994, I was occupying myself by watching Barney or checking out the latest Disney film. Meanwhile, Philip H. Anselmo, Rex Brown, Vinnie Paul, and Dimebag Darrell Abbott had unleashed brutality with the March 22, 1994, release of Far Beyond Driven. Its widely discussed debut at #1 on the Billboard Music Charts is something metal fans -- Pantera die-hards and non-fans alike -- seem to agree on as a truly important moment.
Far Beyond Driven was a significant release for Pantera for numerous reasons, chiefly because it demonstrated how strong their songwriting had become, in addition to marking their willingness to venture into more aggressive territories, particularly with Anselmo's vocals. Certainly, Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display of Power had incredible guitar riffs and visceral tones, but Far Beyond Driven pushed things to the 'next level', so to speak. Anselmo's versatility is unmistakable throughout this album, notable both from the sound of voice and the raw, candid nature of his commanding lyrics. Quite simply, the entire band is in top form.
My personal highlights from Far Beyond Driven include the following songs:
(1) "Strength Beyond Strength" -- Anselmo's furious, unstoppable vocal performance combined with Dimebag's frenetic guitar sound is pure insanity. Some of the screams in this song truly are goosebump-inducing. This song somehow manages to be both maniacal and empowering. It is a Pantera milestone and the perfect way to open this album.
(2) "Shedding Skin" -- Again demonstrating his wide vocal range, Anselmo moves effortlessly from an intense, shivering whisper to scathing screams. This song has such an addictive, rhythmic groove. Somehow, it is incredibly catchy, despite being as heavy as a song can get.
(3) "I'm Broken" -- This song is one of Far Beyond Driven's most well-known tunes for a good reason. There are many extraordinary Pantera guitar riffs, but this may contain the absolute finest. From start to finish, "I'm Broken" bludgeons listeners in precisely the way a Pantera song should.
Many Pantera fans label Far Beyond Driven as their most crushing work of all. By all means, it is phenomenal. However, I am of the opinion that with the following album, 1996's The Great Southern Trendkill, Pantera released their most tremendous, awe-inspiring, heavy music. Needless to say, each of their albums had unique strengths, and it is good to take the time to note the impact that Far Beyond Driven has made on heavy metal music. May it be celebrated for another twenty years.