Somnambule - Writing About Music

DJ Spooky vs Dave Lombardo ~ Drums Of Death

Drums Of Death sees theorist musician DJ Spooky team up with Dave Lombardo, ex-Slayer drummer for 52 minutes of hectic hybrid crunching. For their project they’ve assembled an impressive guestlist including Jack Dangers on co-production duties, rapper Dalek, guitarist Vernon Reid, graduate of Living Colour and Ronald Shannon Jackson, and even noted John Cage collaborator Meredith Monk. Most notable of all though are the immediately familiar vocals on Brothers Gonna Work It Out, emanating as they do from the righteous larynx of Public Enemy’s Chuck D (his delivery’s as masterful as ever, though the years have reduced his urgency just a little). Rather than producing the kind of indulgence normally associated with such supergroup collaborations, Drums Of Death is a tightly controlled and quantised set that doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s also pretty varied, with longer numbers interspersed with shorter pieces such as the almost divine solo guitar of Guitar DJ Tool Element and the short electronic set pieces Universal Time Signal and Particle Storm.

Lombardo’s front of stage playing is a vigorous, inventive pleasure as he simulataneously drives the music forward and embellishes and comments on proceedings as they unfold. His frenzied drums on Metatron, for example, are like insistent clubbings that the late, great John Bonham wouldn’t have been ashamed of. Drums Of Death delivers a persuasive brew of heavy metal hiphop spiced with a variety of musical seasonings including hiphop, dub and electronica. This cocktail has been essayed before, by amongst others Tricky’s cover of Public Enemy’s Black Steel, but Spooky and Lombardo’s version is a variegated pleasure. Judging from the titles and the music, their intention is to sculpt a sonic/textual hybrid reflective of current Stateside times. I’m not the one to judge the accuracy of the vision, but the result is undoubtedly a stimulating concoction that’s reminiscent of your favourite sci-fi comic book brought to vivid life.
Colin Buttimer
June 2005
Published by Grooves magazine