16 years ago last week, Pantera's Far Beyond Driven was released and 16 years ago this week, that album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. This wasn't the first metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 during the Soundscan era (that honor belongs to Skid Row's Slave To The Grind), but it is definitely the heaviest and arguably the best metal album to do so.
I was already a huge Pantera fan because of their two prior releases, Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display Of Power, so I was greatly looking forward to this album. I was 18 years old, about to turn 19 and nearing the end of my first year of college and not too many of my friends in college were into metal, so I didn't really have anyone to share my enthusiasm with over this record until I went home for a visit and hung out with my high school buddies who were also huge Pantera fans. Fortunately my buddy Greg had (and still has) a very open mind about music and used to let me watch MTV in his dorm room (he and his roommate were one of the few people with not only a TV, but cable in their room in our dorm...we used to have awesome Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place viewing parties in there, but I digress...) and I remember very clearly watching the video for "I'm Broken" in his room.
Pantera had broken through to the mainstream without radio or massive MTV exposure, topped the charts and now MTV was coming to them to play their videos....and at 3pm in the afternoon no less. It may sound silly, but it felt like a victory for not only the band, but their fans and metalheads all over the world as well. Normally bands like Pantera were relegated to Headbanger's Ball, but now here was our music on MTV being shoved down the throats of everyone in the middle of the day! Sure, Metallica, Megadeth, Ozzy Osbourne and metal bands of that nature were all over the channel too, but Pantera was much more extreme than any of them and certainly didn't have the support of radio that the others enjoyed. And this really became a turning point for me and my tastes in metal music as I went out and bought Eyehategod and Crowbar albums because Phil Anselmo was wearing shirts by those bands in the video. Those two bands were my first real taste of underground/extreme metal (outside of a handful of death metal bands that I was into) and I haven't looked back since (and couldn't be happier about it).
Most metalheads will tell you that Vulgar Display Of Power is THE Pantera album and I won't disagree with that, but Far Beyond Driven is a very, very, very close second in my opinion. I associate it with a lot of good memories and love that it was my "gateway drug" to more extreme metal. Unfortunately, this would prove to be Pantera's last truly great album as the two albums that followed, while really good, just couldn't measure up.
I'd like to embed all the music videos that were released for this album, but the embedding is disabled on YouTube for most of them because somebody at the band's label or in the band's camp really doesn't want to give up that 1/1000th of a cent that would be lost if I and every other Pantera fan in the world shared the videos on blogs, Facebook and Myspace pages, Twitter, etc., so instead I've just linked to those videos. These are just the "singles" that were released and aren't even necessarily the best tracks on the album. The whole thing is a masterpiece from song 1 through to song 12 (and it was a stroke of genius on the band's part to close the album with a cover of the Black Sabbath ballad "Planet Caravan" as the first 11 tracks are just so heavy that this cover provides the perfect comedown after they are over).
"5 Minutes Alone"