Mexico City, 1991: I'm obsessed with playing guitar, being in a band, and listening to music. Much to my parents dismay, heavy metal takes center stage. It's about the energy, musicianship, rebellious swagger, and particularly the visceral catharsis it provides my 15-year-old self.
Top players for me are Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, and Paco de Lucía (still my favorite). A new name, "Diamond" Darrell, makes the list when our Houston-born bass player shows up to practice one day with a cassette of some Texas band called Pantera. These guys carried a metal flag and waved it high, but they had a thing all their own. Back then, it was hard to define this "thing," but the group popped up on the scene and immediately stood out as a band following its own rules.
My personal arc with Pantera occurred in 1994 with the release of their third major label album, Far Beyond Driven. I'd moved to Austin and a month later I saw them live at South Park Meadows, which at the time was essentially a big, open pasture. Sepultura opened the show and crushed.
Pantera ripped into song after song from that new disc, an aggressive, relentless, no-holds-barred, "You thought our last record was heavy!?" kind of album. As soon as the brutal 220 bpm opener "Strength Beyond Strength" explodes out of your speakers, you're in for an intense ride. Merciless ups and downs without any of the softening up or watering down that seemed to trend through many big metal bands of the time. Pantera proved a finely tuned, aggressively precise machine soaked in muddy Texas waters, and running on all cylinders because of it.
From displaced beats on "5 Minutes Alone" and the weed- and whiskey-drenched riffs on "I'm Broken" to the shared-DNA tightness of "Slaughtered," Far Beyond Driven never lets up until its genius album closer, a cover of Black Sabbath's psychedelic "Planet Caravan." It's a remarkable 57 minutes from a band that truly changed the game.
Fear of a Brown Planet, Brownout’s new, four-star LP of Public Enemy reinterpretations, is out now.
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