Mix Tape: Stronger Than All--Stronger Than ALL!


5 Sep 2008, 5:24

So since I posted my last mixtape blog, I've assembled quite a few mixtapes, and most of them are pretty quality, if I say so myself (I just did, bitches!). My most recent creation, however, is one that's been in the mix for a long time: a Pantera best-of. Although this tape doesn't necessitate the same sort of story/defensive tirade that accompanied my ABBA mix tape, I will say a few words before posting the tracklist.

First of all, if I had to come up with a list of top 5 desert island bands, right now, Pantera would be one of three 'true' metal bands I'd even consider putting on there. Sabbath is the other, and to a lesser extent, Slayer. I've been listening to Pantera for nearly a decade now, and they're one of those bands that are just the right combination of nostalgic thrill and timeless appeal that I still play the shit out of them. I think this is what Phil was getting at when he wrote the lyrics to "Goddamn Electric", and critics be damned, he was onto something.

Strangely enough, there are some big holes in my love affair with the Cowboys From Hell. Starting with the fact that I didn't own that album until three months ago. I know, I know, fucking travesty--I just put it off for a long time! Actually, one of the main reasons I finally got my act together and bought their (unofficial) debut record was just so I could make this tape. Which is pretty fucking false metal of me, yes, but when it comes to classic albums, late is always better than never. Another anomaly of my love of Pantera is the fact that one of their most popular songs, "Cemetery Gates" is my least favorite tune of theirs (except "Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills", which is clearly the shittiest 'song' in their catalog). I'm not sure why, but that song just doesn't do anything for me...if any of their other singles come on the radio, I'm guaranteed to spin the volume knob immediately to the right, but "Cemetery Gates" just doesn't do anything for me.

Same thing for "Walk", kind-of. I left that off the tape, mainly because we've all heard "Walk" a million times as it is, and I don't plan on playing this tape to make any friends at the gym. It's an okay song, but it's played out as hell.

Anyway, enough pussyfooting around. Here's the playlist:

Side A:

1. Mouth for War
2. Becoming
3. Psycho Holiday
4. Goddamn Electric
5. 5 Minutes Alone
6. Primal Concrete Sledge
7. 25 Years
8. Revolution Is My Name
9. (Reprise) Sandblasted Skin
10. Fucking Hostile

Side B

1. The Great Southern Trendkill
2. Strength Beyond Strength
3. A New Level
4. Domination
5. Yesterday Don't Mean Shit
6. Suicide Note Pt. II
7. I'm Broken
8. Floods
9. By Demons Be Driven
10. Cowboys from Hell

Pretty well-rounded selection, as you can see, as each album is represented pretty evenly. That's one of my favorite things about Pantera: the fact that their first four albums* are all contenders for fan favorites. A case could even be made for Reinventing the Steel (represented on here with three cuts), although I've never met someone who's willing to seriously defend that opinion. Although 1992's Vulgar Display of Power is generally the most positively reviewed, I've talked with Pantera fans who will proclaim any of the band's albums as the end-all, be-all cream of the crop. Although I love all of them, for me, my favorite has always been 1994's Far Beyond Driven.

*not counting 80's Power Metal shit

Debuting at number one on the Billboard Top 200 charts (an accomplishment that Phil Anselmo is quick to remind anyone of, even fifteen years after the fact), FBD represented a subtle--but crucial--shift in the band's oeuvre. Namely, the band shed almost all of their lingering power metal posturing and traded it in for pure, unbridled rage and loathing. The mood transition between Pantera's second and third albums is not unlike cutting the mullet and getting a facial tattoo to make up for it. Although they brought this mood shift to its logical conclusion on their next album, the superbly sadistic The Great Southern Trendkill, I think Pantera's peak was definitely Far Beyond Driven.

Represented by five songs on this mix tape, Far Beyond Driven is a very special album to me for a few reasons. Firstly, it was my first real exposure to the band, and the one that quickly turned my opinion of them from a negative ('racist redneck jock metal') into a positive ('metal saviors of the 90s'). This tape wouldn't exist if my friend John hadn't given me a scratched--but still operational!--copy of Far Beyond Driven during my sophomore year of high school. The second reason FBD stands above the rest is the sheer groove demonstrated on this album. Whether it's in the jackhammer riff of "Becoming", Dime's slippery guitar solo on "I'm Broken", or that killer breakdown at the end of "Throes of Rejection", this album just FEELS badass from beginning to end. Finally, this album is one I can relate to on a very personal level. For better or worse, Phil's lyrics on this album 'speak to me' (Jesus, I actually typed that!), and I'm not a guy who usually listens to music for the words. This is an album I can--and do--sing every word to, and tunes like "25 Years" and "Shedding Skin" are the type I scream along to in first person, not just as some detached fanboy.

Not that Pantera, and even my beloved album by the band, are without their faults. The group, like Metallica before them, have long rested at a weird plateau of popularity that simultaneously alienates die-hard metalheads and turns off would-be fans. Old metal douchebags (Dave Mustaine chief among them) are quick to point out how Dimebag Darrell "killed thrash metal", to say nothing of the largely meatheaded population that the band calls fans. On top of that, the feuding and shit talking that plagued the band after they broke up has done much to sully an otherwise respectable reputation. It's a shitty situation, no doubt. When asked what kind of music I listen to, Pantera are never one of the first bands I'll mention, but if I spot some kid on the street wearing a Cowboys From Hell t-shirt, you can bet I'm flashing them the horns, inside or out.

But in spite of any of the stigma that comes from listening to this wild-mannered Texas quartet, not an once could convince me that they are anything but one of the most important bands in metal's recent history. They are an irreplaceable stepping stone in the evolution of the metal genre, both underground and mainstream. Because, quite simply, Pantera represents some of heavy metal's purest virtues: aggression, power, and a heightened sense of belonging. It's those feelings that will always keep the band's music and message as fresh as the first day I heard them. At least to the part of me/that's always sixteen.


  • CaptainGaylord

    Great, great post. Far Beyond Driven was my first as well; back in '94 I saw the video for I'm Broken and thought "...WHAT IS THIS??" I hold each of the first three nineties albums in equally high regard. All three, when compared to their predecessors, show progression at which you can't help but marvel endlessly. If I had to pick a favorite though, I'd go with fbd too; you took the words right out of my mouth, dude. I have to admit, I wasn't impressed with Reinventing, and thusly feel it's a bit over represented on your mix (I really don't think Yesterday Don't Mean Shit is more deserving than Rise, Regular People, or Use My Third Arm), but overall I think you did a great job. Again, great post.

    12 Nov 2009, 16:50
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