Have you listened to the lyrics on “Far Beyond Driven” by Pantera?

After the heavy “Cowboys From Hell” and the heavier “Vulgar Display of Power”, Pantera decided to release the even heavier album “Far Beyond Driven” in 1994. It topped the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart, and Pantera got called an “overnight sensation” after being an active band for 13 years. Far Beyond Driven is an album where everything is turned to max – the energy, the honesty, and the innovation. It’s a unique album with a lot of attempts at experimenting, and the experimenting almost never misses its goal. Everything is unique AND great.

A song about an audience member’s dad, who allegedly wanted “5 minutes alone” with Phil Anselmo (source)

It’s also lyrically impressive. No words are written to be catchy, but rather to be honest and interesting. They’re written well and creatively and the general subject matters about life, relations and society makes the lyrics pretty relevant to this day. It’s also filled with profanities, obscenity, sexual imagery and violence, which is one of the reasons to why I trust the words Phil Anselmo sings. The lyrics to “Shedding Skin” and “Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills” make it clear that Phil is here to say what he wants to say and not what sounds good. It’s all about honesty and showing the ugly side of the world and the people in it, including himself.

For example, on “Use My Third Arm” Phil gets graphical (and perhaps figurative) about using violence against (what I interpret to be) someone who abuses his/her power:

“A faster way to kill them all would take too goddamn long
Absorb through pores the great escape
Kill that fuck to show him up equal his displeasure now
Stab his ass, a reminded past of what the fuck we live for
Ourselves”

Raw live footage from 1993 or 1994

And on “25 Years” he shares a real-life story about throwing a chair towards his father, and sums it up with confidence about his own supremacy over him:

“You’ll never be the father I am
The bastard father to the thousands
Of the ugly, criticized, unwanted.
The ones with fathers just like you
We’re fucking you back
Fucking you back
I’m shoving my life right down your throat.
Can I find the guts? Can I feel the heart?
Look at the ground as you choke me up,
Does it taste like tequila?
Or failure?
We’re fucking you back”

These lines on these songs hit me the hardest. While other songs like “5 Minutes Alone” and “Becoming” show raw and unsentimental confidence, “Use My Third Arm” and “25 Years” show pain and ugliness, painful and ugly people, painful and ugly situations. The people and situations that you may need confidence to leave. And I’m not sure if the essence of these songs had reached me if the lyrics weren’t as brutal as they are. There’s no simplified messages or attempts at being normal or reasonable on Far Beyond Driven. The lyrics come from the heart, even if they’re exaggerated at times.

Or are they even exaggerated? I doubt anyone thinks it’s reasonable to do all the harsh stuff Phil Anselmo sings about doing on Far Beyond Driven, but thinking about it and feeling it is way more human. Far Beyond Driven doesn’t try to convince you that humans are perfect, but rather show you what could go on in a human mind at bad times. If you’ve thought horrible thoughts, but never turned them to action, you can rest assure that Phil Anselmo has done it too. I’m not sure if that means anything, but it’s one of the things this album does. And together with the vulnerability and insecurity shown on “I’m Broken” and “Throes of Rejection” (which is sung with a testosterone confidence), I get a more complex image of the album. Phil Anselmo’s “tough guy” attitude may appear as an image to others, but the confidence and anger on Far Beyond Driven isn’t hollow or only an image to me. It’s real, and it’s powerful and positive, even if it mostly sounds angry. At the album’s strongest parts, the music is filled with hope and energy.

The good part starts after 4 minutes

What’s more to say? Phil Anselmo is both a bad role model and someone you really should listen to, the drum sound is both very clean and very raw, the music is extremely energetic while mostly depending on being slow, and the songs hide great parts in the end and in the middle of them, so listen carefully.

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