Far Beyond Driven


Eastwest Records America, 1994

REVIEW BY: Benny Balneg


Far Beyond Driven rode on the success of Pantera's critically-acclaimed Vulgar Display of Power, becoming the first metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts, smashing the notion that heavy metal was dead and gone. However, this achievement does not really say much about the album, because Far Beyond Driven is a step backward from their previous work and shows signs of the band slowing down.

Let’s start with the good. Pantera wanted to make a heavier album, and opener “Strength Beyond Strength” is an indication of that promise fulfilled. The song is arguably one of their most vicious tracks, a scathing, mad-thrashing intro followed with a primal and guttural vocal delivery by Philip Anselmo. The breakdown in the middle subdues the rage intro controlled madness, with headbang-worthy passages.

The almost six-minute “Five Minutes Alone” and single “I’m Broken” are the accessible numbers in this album, with the latter mixing heaviness and mainstream elements. The song is a groovy and mid-paced song propelled by a Southern edge, and is not as corrosive as their other songs. Anselmo hollers the lyrics with his unique howls, while the middle of the song shows why Dimebag was one hell of a guitarist, with tasteful and melodic leads that fit the music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The culmination of their heavy-handed songwriting is most evident with the brutal triumvirate of “Shedding Skin,” “Use My Third Arm,” and “Throes of Rejection,” epitomizing Pantera at its heaviest and grooviest, with thundering riffs lurching, grinding, and pummeling the listener’s head in the ground.

However, their intent of writing heavier music came in at the expense of solid songwriting. Some of the songs feel half-assed and incoherent, making the sum actually less than its parts. “Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks” boasts an emotive, clean guitar intro building into that groovy verse and moderate breaking chorus. Unfortunately, the remaining five minutes of the tracks repeats the whole thing ad nauseum, making it a waste of time. The same thing goes for “25 Years,” but worse.

To make matters worse, after listening to “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills,” with its pimpy basslines, cheesy lyrics about sex, and just whacked-out playing reminiscent of that hidden track on Alice In Chains' Sap, one could have just heard possibly one of the worst recorded tracks ever. Considering that this is obviously a filler track, they could have at least made the least interesting. This is just stupid.

Another aspect of the album that simply needs improvement is the lyrics. Although not the best lyricist in metal music, Philip Anselmo does thrive in writing sincere and respectable street-wise lines here and there (“You’re muscle and gall / naïve at best / I’m bone, brain, cock / deep down, stronger than all!” from “Strength Beyond Strength”). However, most of his lyrics on this album just border on the dumb. “Slaughtered” is a musically decent number but is simply ruined by the awful lyrics (“Brainwashed by me / myself influenced I”).

Except for “Planet Caravan,” a cover song from Black Sabbath, there is no tender moment in the album, or at least a song written to the style of the almighty classics “Cemetery Gates” and “Hollow.” The band has the knack of writing brooding passages that build into headbanging anthems. All we are left with are primarily heavy and unrelenting songs, which are not bad by any stretch, but it does leave you wondering if they just bothered mixing it up a little how much better this could have been.

Ultimately, Far Beyond Driven could have been a decent album, especially at a shorter length. Be it as it may, the album tries a little bit too hard to be driven.

Rating: C-

User Rating: B+


© 2006 Benny Balneg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eastwest Records America, and is used for informational purposes only.