(First posted on Mark Is Cranky):
So few so-called supergroups end up being truly “super”. There’s just something that flattens the musical karma when the sum of a band is premeditated. Think of how the Jimi Hendrix Experience (w/ Noel Redding & Mitch Mitchell) burned with such intensity. On the opposite end of the spectrum are groups like Asia and GTR. Full of talent, short on, well…just about everything else.
While I hate to jinx these guys by foisting the supergroup label on them, Drums of Death does have that certain…something. DJ Spooky’s turntables & beats are matched up against the killer riffs of Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. Toss in Public Enemy’s Chuck D and scorch guitarist Vernon Reid and you’ve got one massive stack of throbbing musicology.
To be perfectly honest here, I’ve never given Slayer an honest listen. Early exposures to thrash metal left me cold. I can’t remember who the band was (undoubtedly played from some cassette pressed into my hands by my late, metal-obsessed nephew, a kid who would think nothing of enjoying a little Cannibal Corpse while snarfing down his Cheerios), but the hyperactive rhythm section seemed very one dimensional. The drummer’s tone so thin that the supposed ominous nature of the music was washed out completely.
All it took though, was ten seconds of “Brother’s Gonna Work It Out” to put my ears squarely in the Dave Lombardo camp. The guy can flat-out play. Rigid martial beats. Funk & syncopated breaks. All of it. Just check out the scratchin’ ‘table vs. the blistering drums workout of “Incipit Zarathustra”. A pretty thrilling dialog.
Not everything on Drums of Death is in-your-face furious. There’s the ambience of “A Darker Shade of Bleak”, the loping funk of “Assisted Suicide” (with guest rapper Dalek and background vocals from the great Merideth Monk) and the electronic musical pinball of “Obscure Disorder (Ghosthacked!)”. Maximum space is achieved on “The Art of War”.
When the musical elements coalesce into a pulsing diamond, you will find yourself wishing for a volume setting of 11. The thrashy “Kulter Kreig” reminds me of Praxis (with Reid being far more interesting than Buckethead).
The secret weapon in all of this just might be co-producer Jack Dangers (he of Meat Beat Manifesto fame). Not only does Dangers bring his wide-open ears to the project, he also plays a bunch of instruments including bass and guitar.
One main (and poisoning) ingredient common to most supergroups is the ego. I’m sensing none of that here. No one player gets in the way of any other. So what’s allowed to take shape are the musical thoughts, unencumbered by the wasteful arrogance of “I”.
The results are pretty danged spectacular.
Just don’t call ’em a “supergroup”.Powered by Sidelines