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Drums of Death

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Album Review

Drums of Death is a collaboration between the relentlessly experimental hip-hop of DJ Spooky and drummer Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Fantômas fame. Is this another experiment in metal/hip-hop fusion? Yes, and no. And as such, it works better than most. Lombardo is a heavy metal drummer without peer. His big kit work — especially his on-the-edge cymbal work and furious tom-tom workouts — lends a weight and urgency to Drums of Death that anchors it and pushes it further than the inept nu-metal chart acts that shall remain nameless here. Excess is something Spooky has never been afraid of. His records are full of it. Sure, when it doesn't work, it can be tiresome, but when it does, there is no one more utterly engaging. Spooky refuses to be reined in by what musical genres are "supposed" to sound like. Also on board for the project are Meat Beat Manifesto's Jack Dangers, Public Enemy's Chuck D (who raps on three radical remakes of tunes from his crew), and former Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid (who appears on about a third of the album's 16 tracks). The science fiction theme on the cover art of Drums of Death is not inconsistent with the suffocatingly paranoid, chaotic futurism that the album offers aurally. The Public Enemy tunes — "Brother's Gonna Work It Out," "B-Side Wins Again," and "Public Enemy #1" — work surprisingly well. Dangers' guitar work on "B-Side" is a fine counterweight to D's aggressive delivery, but it is Lombardo whose skittering and punched-up skin throb pushes the thing into the red. Spooky cuts up the breakbeats and an array of sonic washes give the track a new sense of currency. Rapper Dälek guests on "Assisted Suicide," and offers a nocturnal anarcho-political take on hip-hop culture as it collapses in on itself. Reid's freakout guitar drones interlaced with Spooky's loose and loopy turntablism threaded through Lombardo's chopped and spindled breakbeats are the entryway into something entirely new. It's been hinted at before by groups such as King Crimson and Buckethead with Les Claypool, but never with this kind of raw power thud. Reid's power chords and Dangers' bass pulse team wonderfully on "Metatron," as Spooky's alterna-beats and sound effects skew to dubwise extremes that Lombardo is only too happy to indulge with some mind-bending breaks. Drums of Death is far from easy listening, but it is compelling throughout — never dull, never boring, never rote. It points to a ton of new possibilities in the way hip-hop, electronica, and heavy metal approach and engage with one another, without becoming mired in any of them.

Biography

Born: 06 September 1970 in Washington D.C.

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid) is the most noted (and notorious) proponent of turntablism, an approach to hip-hop and DJing whose philosophy merges avant-garde theories of musique concrète with the increased devotion paid to mixing techniques during the 1990s. Though he's overly intellectual at times (to the detriment of his recordings, interviews, and mixing dates), Spooky was a critical figure in spotlighting the DJ as a post-modern poet in his own right. Influenced equally by John Cage and Sun...
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Drums of Death, DJ Spooky
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