In 1993, Pantera and their label, East/West, hired photographer Dean Karr, who had previously shot naked lady pictures for Tool's Undertow album, to create a cover for the band's seventh full-length, Far Beyond Driven. The artist ended up creating two: The first was the now-famous shot of a giant drill bit piercing a man's forehead. The second featured the same monster bit penetrating a female model's posterior, and graced only the sleeve of a limited vinyl edition.
"[Karr] showed us a million things and he had that drill-in-the-ass picture, which we really liked," recalls Pantera's drummer Vinnie Paul. "We went, 'That's it, man. That's what this album's all about. Up your ass. Just, fuck you. It's metal. This is us. This is how we are.'"
The, uh, penetrating image was inspired by an outtake from a photo shoot Karr did for Hustler a few years earlier. "I have absolutely no idea who she was or what her name was," he says. "I just know that ass." It made such an impression on the artist, in fact, that he molded a sculpture of it for a gallery exhibition. "The large rusty screw actually screwed into the sculpture, and then I re-photographed it for the cover," he says. "The drill bit was probably 12 inches long—ouch!"
According to Paul, though Pantera's label initially approved the art, execs ultimately had a similarly pained reaction to it. "They freaked out," the drummer says. "I remember our manager calling and saying, 'Man, they're not gonna go for it.' And we're like, 'What? They said they loved it yesterday.' And he goes, 'Yeah, well, they can't do it. We gotta change it.' So we figured, 'You know what? If we can't have a screw in the ass, let's just fuckin' put the screw in the head.'"
For that image, Karr hired a friend with a condition that allowed him to pull loose folds of skin back from his face to create a gaunt, skeletal look. "He had lost 80 pounds very quickly," Karr explains. "So I sewed his facial skin back in about seven spots and tied him off." Karr then solarized the photo, a process that partially reverses the image with exposure to light during development.
Though Paul now thinks that the drill-in-head artwork is "just as cool," he still wishes that Pantera could have used the original piece on the mass release. "It was hardcore, heavy," he says, "like the record."
Karr agrees. "I still enjoy sharing that [limited-edition] LP with anyone over at my house," he enthuses. "I love the sticker they put on it: 'Featuring Artwork Nowhere Else.' It just shows how some bands have the balls to step up to the plate."
Below, watch Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown play Pantera's "This Love" with Anthrax, plus the intro to Slayer's "Raining Blood" in tribute to Jeff Hanneman, in 2013.