Home / CD Review: DJ Spooky vs. Dave Lombardo – Drums of Death

CD Review: DJ Spooky vs. Dave Lombardo – Drums of Death

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(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”.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks for the review and heads up on this. I like Jack Dangers a lot and am curious to see what he and these guys did with Brothers Gonna Work It Out so I can compare it to the excellent Chemical Brothers version.

    Slayer are not my cup of tea but I do think they are talented and do good stuff.

  • FPFL

    Dave Lombardo is simply one of the tastiest rock/metal guys to record in the last 20 years. He’s so much more than a skinny eggbeater like most of the modern and fast drummers. His fills are more memorable than most vocal melodies.

    To dismiss Slayer as atonal or lacking groove may be true when discussing their hysterical guitar solo habits, but their is no band on earth that brings the sounds of war to music as a churning, furious and ultimately hypnotic monster like Slayer.

    There is a damn good reason Slayer beats still show up all over hip hop remixes after all.

  • Dawn

    Well, it’s not like I am some kind of puss, I dig lots of hard stuff. I am one of the few people I know who can listen to NIN’s Broken and find it really cathartic. And I dig almost all Industrial genre type stuff, my only issue is that it must have as Eric says a “groove” or it just doesn’t vibe with me.

    Plus I don’t consider Led Zepplin the same kind of Metal as say Cannibal Corpse, or Slayer. I just don’t feel anything for atonal thrash, but hey that’s me and there’s room for all kinds of crappy music – better thrash than Celine.

  • sometimes, i just like the noise…i like to let it wash all over me.

    very hard to explain.

    that said, i often get in the mood for some metal and don’t make it all the way through a recording.

    also, i guess i grew up in the classic rock era and cut my guitar teeth learning all of that stuff. i tell ya, i remember playing Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” one time…it was so fricken lound that it seemed like we were all gonna levitate.

  • Eric Olsen

    I generally agree with Dawn that there is almost no such thing as “too hard,” BUT I need some kind of groove to hold on to or it all just sounds like noise.

  • Mark, I think you would really enjoy Fantomas’ latest, Suspended Animation. As I read from someone who gave it a shot on a spur of the moment decision based on the ravings of fans, “I’m not sure whether to laugh or be scared,” which got the response “That’s kind of the point!” It’s like Naked City if NC were based in metal rather than jazz.

    And Dawn: I think it depends on which side of music you wound up gravitating toward when you were younger. I found myself drawn to the drama and darkness of metal. I don’t hear it as violent, really. It’s fast, it’s aggressive, but I still hear heart in it. And, to me, it’s more tribal and ritualistic than most other music. It just doesn’t tend to develop a groove like you like, opting instead to travel a path more pummelling and driving. I think maybe the appeal of metal might center around whether you are into more danceable music styles or not. I’ve not seen a large amount of dance-friendly people into metal, nor likewise. I, if you haven’t picked up on this fact yet, am not particularly dance-music friendly. And, of course, it’s probably proportionate toward either end of the dance-to-metal music scale. The more dancey-type stuff you like, the less metal you’ll probably like. It’s just a theory.

  • HW Saxton

    “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” is a great
    funk tune by Willie Hutch. It’s featured
    in the soundtrack to the classic 1970’s
    Blax-ploitation film “The Mack”.It was a
    staple of early Hip/Hop acts & DJ’s.It’s
    been sampled several times.

    The soundtrack was released on Motown in
    1973 & has some other really great funk
    tracks like “Vampin'” and “Slick” on it
    as well. The previous mentioned tracks
    have also been sampled numerous times as

    This IS the same tune The Chemical Bros.
    used and it was sampled not long ago by
    smooth neo-soul/R & B crooner “Lloyd”.

  • Dawn

    Any music advocated by Tom and Mark I am all for, excluding Slayer.

    Honestly, I just can’t seem to grasp atonal metal music.

    It’s not that I don’t like to rock out or thrash, but metal music is so devoid of anything remotely funky and soulful that I find it as appealing as people scraping their eating utensils on their plates.

    Music needs some sort of basic rhythm -something that speaks to my intrinsic cave-dwelling instincts, my tribal lust, my inner earning to dance naked around a roaring fire – and honestly metal music (most I have heard) is like an alien entity that was created to cripple my spirit.

    It offends me and makes me want to kill things – how can that be good?

  • yep, i’ve gotta get some Slayer.

    i’ve never heard Patton’s Fantomas….but the store around the corner from where i’m stayin’ has a big selection of that kind of stuff. the only Patton i have is that Astralopro….crap, i can never remember what it’s called. but it’s full of totally bizarre mouth noises.

  • Just picked it up and must concur – this is incredible stuff. And even though you said Slayer left you cold, you owe it to yourself to check out something by them. Lombardo’s drumming is one of the things that keeps me interested in the two discs I have (South of Heaven and Seasons in the Abyss (the latter is one of my favorite albums of all time, as a matter of fact.)) He’s also equally incredible in Mike Patton’s Fantomas.

  • that’s a good question dawn.

    i’ve got no info on it…i’ll have to go dig out my Chemical Bros. cds (hope they’re not in that danged ‘lost’ pile)

  • Dawn

    Jack Dangers is as amazing a producer as he is an artist. That fact alone is enough to make me interested.

    He’s also a super nice guy.

    Was the “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” from the same sample the Chemical Brother’s used – I can’t imagine there are two songs with the same name?

    Just may have to pick this up – thanks for another review from your most eclectic (and excellent) collection!

  • This is very high on my must-buy list this week. I just hope someone has a copy locally, or I’ll be ordering this right away. There’s also a single out with a couple of mixes and one track not on the album, I believe.