By Carlo Valladares
Assistant News Editor
On March 22, 1994, grunge bands and commercial pop artists sat comfortably on the Billboard Top 200, the American music industry’s chart standard for album popularity. Mariah Carey, Nirvana, Boyz II Men, and Pearl Jam were all enjoying popular releases that year. Kurt Cobain killed the popularity of ‘80s heavy metal with the release of “Smells like Teen Spirit,” and the metal genre itself was just “uncool.”
However, there was one, hardworking band from Texas that refused to lean toward accessible alternative aesthetics, Pantera, and that year they released a record that would withstand the test of time.
“A kind of aesthetics of thud… the real art smolders in the noise itself,” an excerpt read from Rolling Stone’s May 19, 1994 issue, reviewing Pantera’s seventh album, “Far Beyond Driven.” Rolling Stone gave the album four out of five stars, and it is considered to be the most extreme record to reach number one on the Billboard 200.
Twenty years after their release in 1994, the group is defunct due to the fact that their guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, was tragically shot and killed on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. But the band’s legacy lives on, along with their influence.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their milestone record, the remaining members of the band reissued the album with a double disc set on March 25. One disc includes the original 12-song track list, and the other is a live CD that was recorded at the now famous “Monsters Of Rock” festival in 1994 at Donington Park, England. In an interview last month with Rolling Stone regarding the album, Vinnie Paul, the band’s drummer, said they played 312 concerts that year – a testament to their work ethic.
Much like the two previous albums, “Far Beyond Driven” followed Pantera’s similar formula. They bust out mind-numbing, groove-based guitar licks; combined with their thundering rhythm section comprised of bassist Rex Brown, mix it with machine gun-like
drumming by Vinnie Paul, and have vocalist Philip H. Anselmo use his hardcore influenced vocals to create almost an hour of in-your-face, heavy metal.
Three of the albums’ four singles are fan favorites, all of which became live set staples. “I’m Broken,” is a bluesy number, with Dime’s signature low e-string chugging, and a steady-paced head-banging chorus that is sure to get stuck in your head.
The next single, “Planet Caravan,” was a Black Sabbath cover off of their “Paranoid” album. The cover can be seen as a curve ball for fans, but it serves as a well-deserved break from an album that’s the furthest thing from being tame, and gives the song a nice, southern feel.
“5 Minutes Alone,” is a song you want to get up and mosh to: in the car, at a hockey game, at the library, anywhere. The song was written in response to an altercation that occurred at a concert before the recording of the CD. The incident involved a fan that kept flipping the bird to the stage. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied with the performance, even though, according to Paul, there were 18,000 screaming fans enjoying the gig. Ultimately, rabid, but faithful, Pantera-fans gave the guy a beating. Lawsuits came next and the band wrote a killer song.
“Becoming,” the bands final single from the record, is a crowd- pleaser, filled with Dimebag’s screeching whammy pedal and Paul’s legendary heavily triggered kick drum pattern. Paul and Dimebag just steadily jam this one through and work their magic.
To this day, metal-heads still blast the record and understand its importance, even at our LIU Post campus. Chris Maffei, class of 2013 Post graduate and production director of the WCWP radio station, commented on the seminal album. “It’s a case where the cream rises to the top. It’s groundbreaking, and it couldn’t have happened to a better band at the time.” Maffei continued, “It looks like a greatest hits album, but it’s not.”