Pantera 'Far Beyond Driven': 10 Things You Didn't Know About "Legacy-Defining" Album | Revolver

Pantera 'Far Beyond Driven': 10 Things You Didn't Know About "Legacy-Defining" Album

Melvins love, dad threats, "up your ass" metal visions and more
pantera GIRON FBD, Joe Giron
photograph by Joe Giron

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Vulgar Display of Power detonated like a bomb when it dropped in February 1992. Pantera's impossibly tight, ferocious groove-metal masterpiece was an undeniable game changer that cemented their position as heavy music's new dominant force. Worldwide fame and critical acclaim followed — and by the time the Texas crew began work on their next album, Far Beyond Driven, external expectations were high. Could they keep up the momentum? Was it even possible to write something heavier than Vulgar?

But behind the scenes, the band — vocalist Philip Anselmo, guitarist Dimebag Darrell, bassist Rex Brown and drummer Vinnie Paul — weren't sweating it. In fact, they were so confident in their abilities that they rallied behind one simple mission: go even fucking harder.

"We pushed ourselves on every record, but Vulgar had such a great reaction. It was the record that established Pantera," Paul told Revolver, "so we felt like we had to take our music to another level."

When Far Beyond Driven was unleashed on March 22nd, 1994, it was clear their intuition — and blunt-force plan of attack — was right on the money. Thanks to bangers like "5 Minutes Alone," "I'm Broken" and "Becoming," Pantera's seventh album didn't just turn heads, it moved units — a lot of units. One week after its release, the album peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It remained on the charts for a total of 29 weeks and would eventually become platinum certified by the RIAA.

In the years since, Far Beyond Driven's stature has continued to grow: everyone from Slayer's Kerry King and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello to Code Orange's Reba Meyers and Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows count it among their favorite Pantera releases.

"It was a really lofty goal to make this record heavier and more powerful than Vulgar Display of Power, which was an incredibly heavy record," producer Terry Date told Revolver. "But they pulled it off without losing their high level of musicality."

"We knew that Far Beyond Driven had to be a legacy-defining type thing," Anselmo said to Revolver. "Everybody was very much on board with going against the grain."

Below are 10 things you may not know about Far Beyond Driven.

1. Far Beyond Driven was, in part, a reaction against Nirvana's In Utero
Grunge ruled the heavy-music world in the early Nineties, and Nirvana were the rulers of the rulers. In late '93 the Seattle group dropped their third and final album, In Utero. The record was Kurt Cobain's pointed response to his band's own unexpected, relatively polished, mega-hit Nevermind — and featured a more aggressive and rawer sound. As Pantera were completing Far Beyond Driven in Nashville, Brown and the guys would periodically hit the record stores to see what new heavy music was popular. This pursuit inevitably led them to investigate the serious buzz surrounding In Utero.

"We were listening to a lot of different shit just to hear what [was] going on," Brown recalled to Revolver. "One day, I went with Terry to a record store. We picked up Nirvana's In Utero, whatever the fuck it's called, and listened to that and went, 'Fuck. If that's what everybody's listening to, we don't way any part of that shit, at all.' No thank you. Not into it. Heart-shaped boxes and shit. Nope. Can't do it."

2. Far Beyond Driven earned Pantera their first No. 1 album — to the dismay of Bonnie Raitt and Ace of Base
After Vulgar introduced the world to Pantera's power, industry and fan expectations were high for its follow-up Far Beyond Driven. But no one could have predicted (except maybe the cocksure band themselves) that one week after its arrival, on March 22, 1994, the record would barrel past blues rocker Bonnie Raitt's Longing in Their Hearts and Swedish dance-pop act Ace of Base's The Sign to secure the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 — making it arguably the heaviest record ever to top the chart.

"All of a sudden the media was going, 'Who's this Pantera band?'" Paul told Revolver.

"The week after the record came out, I walked through an airport and saw USA Today and there was an article that read, 'Overnight sensations Pantera have a No. 1 record…,'" Brown recalled. "I was like, Overnight my fucking ass! Ten years later, you know?"

"I don't think we were surprised when the record came in at No. 1 because we had built a loyal fan base," Paul continued, "and they all went out and bought the record like we knew they would."

3. Pantera's cover of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" was never meant to appear on Far Beyond Driven
Pantera revealed a different side of their musicianship with their stunning cover of Black Sabbath's spacy, psychedelic "Planet Caravan" (which originally appeared on the Brits' 1970 album Paranoid). The Texas crushers' subdued, bongo-laced version works brilliantly as a final-track comedown after Far Beyond Driven's fury — but the song was actually never intended to appear on the record.

"The first song we recorded was 'Planet Caravan,'" Paul revealed to Revolver. "We had planned to put that on the second Nativity in Black Sabbath covers album. We wanted to get it out of the way so we could focus on being heavy all the way through. After we did it, our label had a problem with the other label that was going to put it out so it never made it to Nativity in Black. But we really liked it, so rather than let it go to waste we decided to put it on our own record."

"It came from a place of pure inspiration," Brown added of Pantera's approach to the cover. "Vinnie was playing bongos, I played keyboards and fretless bass, and I think that was a perfect demonstration of what we could do diversity-wise."

"I thought it would be ironic to end such a blazing record with something that, to me, people would think would be the last song Pantera would ever cover," Anselmo told Artist Direct. "Considering there are so many heavy Black Sabbath songs out there, we would pick that one. I just knew the musicianship in Pantera. These guys were the most fucking talented band I've ever been around and talented group I've ever worked with in in my life. They could play anything. When they took an influence and made it their own, it was a special fucking thing man. I had to consider that shit, 'Are we really going to put this song on there? Is this the right thing to do? Is this the wrong thing to do?' At the end of the day, I'm happy as shit with the tracking and how the record flows. Once again, that's a strong point for me. I guess that was a first-round knockout right there. I felt good about it then. I still feel good about it."

4. "25 Years" was Pantera's take on Melvins' "drone-y, slower and unpredictable" style
Anselmo has always proudly worn his influences on his sleeve. Around the time of Far Beyond Driven, the singer was going through a "phase of jamming a lot slower stuff" like Sabbath and My War-era Black Flag, along with ragers from Morbid Angel, Suffocation and Agnostic Front. He was also digging the Melvins' second record, 1989's Ozma, and was curious to hear what his Pantera bandmates thought of the album's "drone-y, slower, and unpredictable" style.

"I didn't expect them to like it much because it was very obscure and strange sounding," Anselmo told Revolver. "But right away Vinnie Paul spoke up and said, 'Man, that's a pretty awesome drum sound.'" Ozma made a big impression on the guys — as heard on Far Beyond Driven's Melvins-esque stomper "25 Years."

"Not that '25 Years' is stylistically close to the Melvins," Anselmo clarified, "but it was kind of Pantera's take on what the Melvins were doing at the time. That was the magic of Pantera: We could digest different elements of heavy metal and aggressive music, and when we would regurgitate it back up, it would come out as something fresh."

5. Far Beyond Driven's Japanese edition contained a bonus cover of Poison Idea's "The Badge," which also made its way onto the ultimate outsider soundtrack for The Crow
While "25 Years" tips its hat to one of Anselmo's musical heroes, the singer got to explicitly rep another one of his (even more obscure) influences on Far Beyond Driven. When asked by Artist Direct who Anselmo was inspired by in 1993 during the creation of that album, he cited, among other hardcore bands like Black Flag and Agnostic Front, Oregon punk-rock crew Poison Idea.

"Poison Idea's Pick Your King record was really balls-out, one-take hardcore that fucking delivered," said Anselmo. "I'm a frigging music nerd, dude! ... I think everybody knows that. Any influence I could fucking take from ..." When the opportunity presented itself for Pantera to contribute a song to the soundtrack for 1994's The Crow, the singer and his crew tackled Poison Idea's "The Badge" (from 1990's Feel the Darkness). Their crushing take became one of the heaviest moments on that diverse soundtrack, and the band eventually released it as a bonus cut on the Japanese edition of Far Beyond Driven.

6. "5 Minutes Alone" was inspired by a lawsuit from a Megadeth fan — and a dad who wanted to beat Philip Anselmo's ass
Phil Anselmo is no stranger to onstage confrontations and drama. Sometimes it results in lawsuits and damning PR, other times a song is born. The latter was the case for Far Beyond Driven ripper "5 Minutes Alone." Vinnie Paul recalled that Pantera wrote the song after an alleged incident during a show opening for Megadeth. Apparently there was a "kid in the fifth row [that] was flipping Phil off" — and the fan claimed that Anselmo retaliated with physical violence.

"We were sued massively and many times throughout our career, but this one lawsuit was absolutely bullshit," Anselmo told Revolver. "The kid claimed I jumped off the stage and beat him up. There were no witnesses to this — it was absolutely fake. But still, being a person of interest in a lawsuit, it was going to cost me money to fucking get myself out of this problem. The fact that I didn't do it and nobody could prove anything really incensed me. This kid's idiot father told our manager on the phone, 'Honestly, I could care less about the lawsuit. I just want five minutes alone with that Phil Anselmo.' All our manager said to him was, 'I doubt you do.' And he hung up on him."

7. The salacious lyrics to "Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills" are based on Anselmo's real-life sexual exploits
Brown remembered Far Beyond Driven's lurching, partially spoken-word "Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills" starting off as "an experimental thing we came up with in this studio … a joke." But Anselmo's lascivious first-person lyrics (which begin with "I fucked your girlfriend last night") are more than just an over-the-top yarn — they were actually based on his own real-life sexual exploits.

"That song is a true story," Anselmo told Revolver. "I fucked your girlfriend last night. While you snored and drooled, I fucked your love. She called me Daddy. And I called her baby when I smacked her ass. I won't reveal who it was about and I hope he doesn't know, but it was real. It was a different kind of song for us. At that point in time in my life, I was really getting into Nick Cave. He's one of the most imaginative, colorful, one-song-after-the-next, fantastic lyrical geniuses out there."

8. During the Far Beyond Driven sessions Anselmo was plagued by chronic back pain, which caused him to question his commitment to the band. He explored this new fear and vulnerability on "I'm Broken."
After the near nonstop touring, and partying, that followed Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, Anselmo was beginning to feel tattered. His alpha-dominant stage-jumping persona was taking its toll, and by the time Pantera entered the studio to track Far Beyond Driven, the singer was facing some serious — and painful — physical consequences to his full-throttle lifestyle.

"There was a point during the recording of Far Beyond Driven where that big Pantera party wasn't fun for me anymore," Anselmo told Revolver. "Things were changing. Things were getting darker. Even before the record came out, I started experiencing a lot of chronic pain in my back. … I didn't understand what the fuck was going on until I had a basic X-ray and it looked like there was a mini-explosion in the bottom of my back. I had a tremendous ruptured disc. There was bone-on-bone scraping because there was no more cartilage left, and I was very, very fucking miserable at the height of our career.

"I was being torn in several different directions," he continued. "I was happy for the band and our success. But at the same time, I was constantly questioning, 'Am I really enjoying this right now, in so much pain, when every waking moment I'm in agony?' The script had flipped. I wasn't this invincible force anymore. For the first time in my life, I was vulnerable. That was a scary feeling and that's what the song 'I'm Broken' is about."

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9. Far Beyond Driven's original artwork featured a seriously NSFW "drill-in-the-ass picture"
Musically, Pantera knew they were coming out hard with Far Beyond Driven — and they needed the perfect cover image to express their extremely extreme metal intentions. They hired photographer Dean Karr (who had previously shot naked photos for Tool's Undertow packaging, and would go on to work with Marilyn Manson, Korn and more). Karr provided "a million" options, but one concept stood above all others for the band: a graphic, stylized outtake from one of Karr previous shoots for Hustler that featured a giant drill bit penetrating a female model's posterior.

"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,'" Paul recalled.

Despite the band's excitement, the label execs eventually nixed the NSFW cover and Karr pivoted to creating the now-iconic drill-in-the-forehead image that adorns Far Beyond Driven.

"We had a brutal album and we knew wanted artwork that matched that viciousness," Paul explained. "At first, the label was cool with it. Then about three days later, they said, 'We can't put this out. It's not gonna fly. We need another album cover. We'll make it a limited edition, but we need another one.' We were fuckin' really pissed off. … [The] drill going into someone's head … was cool, too. It served the same purpose, but the original one definitely was something that grabbed people's attention immediately."

10. "Becoming" grew out of Dimebag messing around with his new whammy pedal
Dimebag Darrell was no stranger to evoking crazy harmonic squeals from his guitar, as heard on songs like "This Love" or "Cemetery Gates." While Darrell himself explained to Guitar World that many people mistakenly thought he was generating those sounds from a whammy pedal, in fact, he was solely using "my [whammy] bar and some natural harmonics." It wasn't until the Far Beyond Driven-era that he dove deep into the Digitech Whammy pedal, which he put to excellent use on "Becoming."

"We experimented a lot with a lot of different sounds, and one of the most noticeable is that whammy pedal squeal that Dime used all over 'Becoming,'" recalled Paul. "The minute that he got that pedal, he was in love with the thing and toyed around with it all the time, driving everyone crazy."

"Dime and Vinnie sat side by side working on 'Becoming,' and when he started that riff with the whammy pedal, I just couldn't believe it," remembered producer Terry Date. "I thought it was one of the coolest riffs I ever heard, especially making use of a piece of gear like that. He took a great riff and made it even better with this pedal."