Pantera "Far Beyond Driven": Album Review (1994)
Far Beyond Driven is a heavy album that just is not good enough overall and one of the lowest points of the band's career
Texas groovy thrash metal band Pantera got their career reinvented and off in a great direction with the release of Cowboys from Hell in 1990. I wrote a while back about Far Beyond Driven and what it felt like to listen to it 20 years after its release. I have since decided to review this album again because I want to show how Pantera started to decline as a band after 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power album. Pantera got even more heavy and aggressive with 1994’s Far Beyond Driven. Vocalist Phil Anselmo developed a very harsh, rough shouting style kind of voice. Change is a good thing if it is done properly. However, this album is an album that I would describe as one that it is good in some ways and not so good in others. Pantera probably wanted to express their frustration with how the country and the world was changing but they could not channel this emotion in a way to create an album that was memorable. Instead they have created an album that should be forgotten. Or is it really that bad of an album? People’s opinions about heavy metal albums can change just like my opinion of Metallica’s St. Anger album changed.
As I did with the review of the album The Great Southern Trendkill, a further analysis of Far Beyond Driven will be done. Some of you may be asking if it will get a higher score than an album such as St. Anger. Well, it will not get a higher score than that album. None of these older US heavy metal bands can be as good as Metallica has been.
Strength Beyond Strength is one of the few strong songs on this album
BUT… this is not St. Anger and only music much worse than that album. One thing that is consistent on this album is the incessant, forced grunts and shouts. The opening song Strength Beyond Strength is one of the good songs. This one is about the breakdown of the American Dream. Just because someone goes to college and works hard does not mean that this strategy is a path to being part of a successful middle class person. The band brought up this subject in 1994, well before the financial crisis in 2008. It makes you wonder if the band knew that we would be dealing with very hard times years later. Becoming is a song that has a guitar sound mixed with the amplifier to create a sort of feedback kind of sound. Another major weakness of this album is the sub-par lead guitar work of Dimebag Darrell. I don’t really hear the same feeling and passion that he had back in 1990. I really don’t think too highly of the songs 5 Minutes Alone. I’m Broken is a song that is just okay. However, for those of you that wanted to see Pantera really take it up a notch with their aggressiveness then Far Beyond Driven will definitely be your cup of tea. Back in the day, Becoming was the first song that I heard on the radio at the time this album was being released but Pantera has done better than that song. The end of it though is a good way to finish it but can we count this one as a good song? Well, that’s a tough call. If you thought that Vulgar Display of Power was brutal and aggressive in its sound, Far Beyond Driven may take that up a notch. It is almost like Pantera decided to create the most brutal and aggressive groovy thrash metal album they could come up with. Phil Anselmo's vocals go up a notch as he utters the words “stronger than all” at the end of Strength Beyond Strength
Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills is the worst Pantera song ever
Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills is a song filled with bass guitar and lots of feedback. This has to be one of the lowest points in the career of Pantera. The song just has Phil Anselmo talking and it has no real hooks to keep you interested. This is a terrible job at music for a band that became popular only to eventually break up in 2003. For those people that have been critical of Metallica because of St. Anger, no song on that album as bad as this one is. The songs in St. Anger do not have guitar solos but at least they have a structure to them. Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills is just a bunch of talking and noise that makes no sense and should not belong in any album.
Far Beyond Driven: How Is the Second Half of the Album?
The second half of the album is better but it is not enough to save the album from being mediocre. Slaughtered is a really heavy song that I really used to like but now I realize that once again, the band tries too hard to be heavy with those groovy style vocals. I have heard far better aggressive vocals that are a better fit for a band compared to this. 25 Years is another song that is pretty much mediocre throughout. The last 1.5 minutes of the song is better but it is not enough to save the song from being sub-par. Shedding Skin represents a return to what made Pantera so good. This one has good guitar work and vocals by Anselmo that actually fit in with the song. Use My Third Arm is so heavy that it may scare some heavy metal fans. At the end of the album is a cover of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan song. I really don’t think it should have been in there as it does not really help the quality of the album.
Far Beyond Driven VS the Album Risk
Is Pantera's Far Beyond Driven worse than Megadeth's Album Risk?
The song called Shedding Skin (one of the few strong songs)
Final thoughts about the album Far Beyond Driven
Far Beyond Driven represents a very low point for Pantera. The band’s songwriting quality would decline even further until their breakup. For a band that achieved commercial success and could have been one of the best US thrash bands ever, they decided to get heavy and this heaviness really didn’t work out for them. There are really only about four songs that could be considered good on the album. The rest range from just okay to really poor. The solo in 5 Minutes Alone sounds like a sort of siren or alarm and that is clearly well below the level that the late Dimebag Darrell would have performed at. The album's title might as well have been Far Beyond Driven Into the Ground as Pantera really sunk with this effort. It is not like I didn't try to like this album but the album really lost my interest a long time ago as I got immersed into far better kinds of thrash metal. The strongest songs in this poor album are Strength Beyond Strength, Shedding Skin and Throes of Rejection. For me, Far Beyond Driven has been an album that I've liked and sort of hated over these last 25 years. It is a strange album in some ways.
Weakness of Far Beyond Driven
Does the album Far Beyond Driven represent the lowest point of Pantera's career?
© 2016 Ara Vahanian