photo & text by nacrowe
i remember obtaining PANTERA's FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (EAST WEST, 1994) album on a school trip in HEATHROW AIRPORT en route to a SEA CAMP trip in the FLORIDA KEYS. the international school i attended in NIGERIA had these foreign trips they sent the middle school kids on each year (6th grade was SPACE CAMP in FLORIDA, 7th grade was the aforementioned SEA CAMP and 8th grade was a FRENCH TRIP to SWITZERLAND and FRANCE). it was that kind of school.
the whole experience was pretty GNARLY as it took over 24 hours to reach the FLORIDA KEYS after two international flights and a long drive south from MIAMI. i mention this because i will always associate the SLUDGY, ANGULAR, almost SERPENTINE RIFFAGE of DIMEBAG DARRELL and the overall aqueous production of FAR BEYOND DRIVEN with that long bus ride over those tiny two-lane bridges looking over the ATLANTIC OCEAN from my window from key to key. tracks like "SHEDDING SKIN," "HARD LINES SUNKEN CHEEKS," "SLAUGHTERED" and "25 YEARS" had such GROOVE and SONIC DIMENSION that it very much felt empowering and all-encompassing. especially for a teenager intimidated by life itself having witnessed from a distance the cruelties of life abroad in a third world country with all the political corruption and economic dilapidation on daily display. listening to FAR BEYOND DRIVEN always gave me a false sense of control, which is probably the highest compliment i ever give a record. to my ears it is the heaviest PANTERA record bar none, especially when considering the staggering aural BRUTALITY of "STRENGTH BEYOND STRENGTH," "THROES OF REJECTION," "5 MINUTES ALONE," "I'M BROKEN" and especially "BECOMING."
that is not to say this record is perfect. there are cringe-worthy lyrics to songs like "USE MY THIRD ARM" and "GOOD FRIENDS AND A BOTTLE OF PILLS" that probably should have been edited out on the cutting room floor. they just come of PETTY and MISOGYNISTIC, which is probably where singer PHIL ANSELMO was mentally at the time. and it is that tension between the SUBLIME MUSICALITY of DARRELL and VINNIE PAUL and production of TERRY DATE with the uncompromising yet uneven lyrical contributions of ANSELMO that defined the band.
more than 20 years after their breakup i still have a complicated appreciation for PANTERA since some of their antics have not aged well (the CONFEDERATE ICONOGRAPHY, the quasi-EXTREME RIGHT PROVOCATIONS and FALSE SELF-IDENTIFYING VICTIMHOOD, the blatant, unapologetic MISOGYNY). like most people i lay all that negative energy at the hands of ANSELMO, whose more caustic and morally depraved contributions came during periods of DRUG ABUSE and DIVORCE. what people choose to celebrate is the work of DARRELL, who on every PANTERA record and especially FAR BEYOND DRIVEN was an immaculately tight and divinely inspired guitar player.
this record is most definitely worth checking out but be aware going into it that some of the lyrical content is MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE, something of which other surviving band members have conceded over the years (like bassist REX famously in his tell all book). dont say i didnt warn you.