Thursday, September 9, 2010

FM's Favorite Metal/Punk Drum Performances

This summer's been odd for me. I've been through a bad car crash, a death of a friend mixed with seeing my girlfriend a bunch (which is a good thing) getting ready to go to the UK for 4 months, work and helping my dad move. It's been busy to say the least. I got to see MDF which was mind blowing (although no time to drink!). I know you probably don't care, but that's my lame excuse for not being on the up and up with new music. That said, I'm a drummer who hasn't played drums for 4 months now and I thought this would be fun.

I've complied a list of my favorite drum performances in the realm of metal and punk (otherwise you'd see Elvin Jones, Gene Krupa, and others flyin' around). But the list isn't just about drum wank, they're amazing albums that wouldn't be what they are if they didn't have the phenomenal drum work to back it up.

I don't think I could put them in order so I'll just list them as they've appeared in time.

Black Sabbath- Paranoid- 1970
Drummer: Bill Ward

It would be easy to say "this is important because Black Sabbath basically started metal" but I won't, instead I'll say Bill Ward epitomized how to drum slow in rock and metal and keep it interesting. Those fast fills in the slow pace of "War Pigs," what would "Iron Man" be without that plodding bass drum or the main beat and perfectly placed crashes and of course the double time section around the middle? "Electric Funeral" (one of my three favorite Sabbath songs) shows constant cymbal variation and play during the slow laid back sections of Ozzy's cryptic vocals. The staggered grace bass notes on "Hand of Doom" creates such momentum for Iommi to run wild with his solo. And let's not forget that badass drum solo in "Rat Salat."

It helps to have Butler and Iommi playing with you, but Ward is one of metal and rock's best drummers hands down. Paranoid wouldn't be what it is, and Sabbath for that matter, if Bill Ward wasn't there flamin' and a'rollin' all over the place.

Slayer- Reign in Blood - 1986
Drummer: Dave Lombardo

Like Ward, I always think of Lombardo as an extremely competent and talented drummer who doesn't have to do anything gimmicky or flashy. Rather Lombardo's extreme precision and power propel Reign in Blood through all 29 minutes of it's supreme glory. I remember when I first heard this album thinking how fast Lombardo was, no blast beats, but the true measure of speed being how fast he could play those snare hits without them blurring together. Just listen to "Epidemic" or "Jesus Saves," the cymbal play is so absurdly fast yet clean, as is the snare playing and every single fill. The best part is how human it all is, his kit is powerful sounding and not triggered and artificial sounding.

Like "Iron Man" everyone knows the simple, yet ominous opening to "Raining Blood." Coupled with the frenzied guitar playing of Hannemen and King, and Araya's frothing vocals, this feels like one of the fastest albums ever without a single blast beat; that means a lot. Play any drum track from this album and I'll recognize it, and I don't think I'm alone. The opening to "Criminally Insane" or the mid paced neck breaking action of "Piece by Piece" are the sections that really standout. While Lombardo does play a lot of typical things (snare on every quarter or eighth) it's the fills and off sections that really stand out. Like Ward, Lombardo completes Slayer, he also matches (and one ups) everything King and Hanneman offer.

Napalm Death- Scum- 1987
Drummer: Mick Harris

Like the two albums I've mentioned before it, Scum is a cornerstone. Largely, it fell upon Mick Harris to speed up what countless bands were already doing and meld it together with the rest of the band. It's not even the speed of Mick Harris's performance that stands out for me, but rather the contrast in speed. Build ups like in "Scum," "Instinct For Survival," "C.S" and many other songs make the avalanche of blast beats, barking rabid vocals and buzzing guitars all the more powerful and monumental. Harris employs the right mixture of sloppy punk playing (some of those d-beats, transitions, and blast beats just kinda get loose and sound like an 18-wheeler stuck in top gear swerving around). Like many, this was the first grindcore outfit I ever heard, and I felt punched out of breath by songs like "Divine Death" and "Pseudo Youth."

Not only is Mick Harris on point every song, but there's no double bass at all. I remember reading the CD booklet accompanying Noise for Music's Sake that said it took Mick Harris a long time to get used to double kick drumming (which is absent on Scum). Reminds me of Anders Jakobson (Nasum) who never used a double kick drum either. Harris, as well as the rest of the band, solidified the mixture of punk and metal, as did Siege and Extreme Noise Terror, but with Napalm Death it didn't feel like a punk band playing metal or a metal band playing punk, but rather something new and unexplored.

Suffocation- Effigy of the Forgotten- 1991
Drummer: Mike Smith

This is an easy one for me, as Mike Smith is probably my number 1 or 2 favorite drummer of all time. Suffocation's innovation in terms of matching technicality and masking it with brutality and creating a paradox of complex layman's death metal. Effigy of the Forgotten highlights this as things start of with Smith's trademark blast beat (usually all elements hit at once). Smith never relies on speed but rather on precision and deep groves accented with all kinds of cymbal flourishes and kick patterns. Similar to Ward's style, Smith rarely repeats himself and will always add little accents and adjustments each measure.

The complex arrangements highlighted by absurd fills and lightning fast transitions of Smith's part add a level of depth to Suffocation that no other death metal band has been able to match. You can scratch your head over the playing of each member and at the same time simply enjoy it as somewhat catchy and groovy death metal. Songs like "Infecting the Crypts" showcase unusual little things such as that second beat in the song (the flam'ing bass drums that almost sound a little off) that eventually break into a typical double bass pattern broken up with a multitude of tom fills and accents.
The rhythmic shifts throughout the album give way to Suffocation's "slam" personality as the breakdown in "Liege Of Inveracity" and "Mass Obliteration" are simply disgusting. Smith's style as innovative and technically demanding as it is, also offers simple enjoyment as it does fall in rhythm and isn't wank but rather is intricately layered into each song. It's not Derek Roddy 300bpm triggered mania, yet it rivals him in terms of skill. Mike Smith offers one of the best performances of any drummer here, period.

Pig Destroyer- Prowler in the Yard - 2001
Drummer: Brian Harvey

Similar to Scum, Pig Destroyer's big breakthrough was an eye opener for me. Few albums are as disgusting as this one is. From the art, to the lyrics and the down-right dirty sound, Prowler in the Yard is one of the greatest grindcore albums ever played. While everything fits (J.R sounds the best here, he gets weaker as time goes on. Hull's riffs are top-notch and of course Harvey's on point).

The first thing that struck me about Harvey is how powerful his kit sounds. The bass drums sound like 20lbs steaks smacking Jabba the Hut around and the snare is that perfect middle pitch. Beyond the actual sound, Harvey's bursts of unbridled rage go perfectly with J.R's manic vocals and Hull's intricate riffs. Something like "Junkyard God" has Harvey upfront showing off like he should at a slow tempo before it goes into a palm muted mid paced mosh fest. Like smith, Harvey leaps from blast beats to chugga chugga midpaced beats to d-beats; he's all over the place in the best way possible. "Sheet Metal Girl" has an awesome thrash-on-steroids beginning before it just goes to a blast-a-thon broken up by single measures of d-beats. "Strangled with a Halo," shows a more bombastic slower side that employs a myriad of fills and beats. Harvey can start and stop on the drop of a dime, and fit in any amount of space perfectly.

Prowler in the Yard, amongst other things, showcases gridcore drumming that has no perceptions as to what it is supposed to be doing or how it should be played. Check out the off-time groove of "Intimate Slavery" not very formal in regards to grindcore.

Nile - In Their Darkened Shrines - 2002
Drummer: Tony Laureano
If you look at Nile's past drummers you'll see practically every big name in death metal: Derek Roddy, Tim Yueng, George Kollias, and of course Tony Laureano. While I'm not the biggest fan of Laureano's work with a slew of other bands (Nachtmystium ahem) he really stands out here.

At first listen you might thinks it's all just blast beats, and you wouldn't be too wrong thinking that. But the creme de'la creme aren't the blast beats but rather what's around or mixed in with them. True, the sheer speed showcased in "The Blessed Dead" is jaw dropping, but more than that are those little fills and that cymbal play. The constant breaks into fills then into full fledged blasting is astounding in it's own right.

"Execration Text" implores a blistering tom work out juxtaposition to blast beats then more fills, never letting up below what feels like 200+bpm. Laureano's performance isn't about class, or modesty, but rather grandeur and the most demanding output he could manage. Even a slower track like "Sarcophagus" which relies on a slow double bass pattern finds itself to be as demanding as any of the other tracks which are twice as fast. From crash to crash, and tom to tom, Laureano makes use of every facet of his gigantic kit.

Not only is Laureano's sheer speed impressive, but the amazing amount of stamina he shows through a track like "Unas the Slayer of the Gods." While with lesser bands this type of fancy, proficient and overwhelming drumming might become a sore part because of it's attention demanding nature it melds perfectly with the guitar wizardry of Sanders and Wade, not to mention their ever shifting vocals. Another key component is how atmospheric this album is, and how on the more "themed tracks" Laureano matches the vibe of ancient war drums perfectly.

The amount of crap Laureano can fit into his performance and make it interesting and enjoyable makes this one of my favorite drum performances ever, not to mention the fine balance he has in his drum production; triggered, but just enough to match Nile's modern austere.

1349- Liberation- 2003
Drummer: Frost

If there was to
be a book compiled about metal drummers, Frost would have his own page for sure. While he isn't as dynamic as drummers like Jensen Ward (or Bill Ward for that matter), Harvey, or Smith, I cannot deny how much I love his performance on this album. It's almost a guilty pleasure, as he's really just blasting away at an insane speed and there are bits of brilliance that make me bug the fuck out ("Legion" for example).

Starting just how I'd want it to, the album explodes in a flurry of blast beats, Frost's excellent sounding kit (sounds so organic and powerful) completely devastates and the crunchy fuzz-fueled guitars tremolo pick their asses off. Each song is completely driven by the drums, no question about it, even though the production is fair to all the instruments, the guitars serve as a reason to have Frost go completely apeshit.

1349's sense of rhythm and the constantly changing drums provide for great entertainment and complement the melodies perfectly. The awesome midpace beats that end with a sharp rim shot and tear into an unbelievably fast blast beat, the little Celtic Frost groove bouts that dive into hyper speed blasts and or the blasts that careen out to a slow chug fest a'la 3:30 in "Legion."

There's so many cool things Frost does, like the section at 3:30 and that little diddy at the beginning of "Legion," that unusual, but awesomely fitting gallop in "Manifest," as well as the other gallop beat in "Riders Of The Apocalypse," that fast little workout beat at around 2minutes in "Evil Oath," and the all the showboating he does on the track "Liberation." Boasting an extremely powerful sounding and echoing kit, Frost sounds better than he ever has. There's so much personality in his playing, and while he doesn't compare to the likes of those countless death metal drum showboaters he still maintains such a personality behind the kit that makes him much more of a pleasure to listen to.

Iron Lung - Cold Storage- 2005
Jensen Ward

There's something to be said for a drummer who sings, not only on record but live too. Beyond all of that, he does it well, I should know (they were a highlight of 2010 MDF). While Cold Storage is a compilation of various works, it's still getting a mention as it's one of my favorite releases.

The first thing you'll notice about Iron Lung is how unique they are. While they share similarities with other power violence and hardcore bands, the uncomfortable atmospheres of their recordings, unique way of playing both drums and guitar and composure sets them apart from every other band. Three songs into Cold Storage you've already picked up on the unbalanced feeling the band carries throughout many songs. The starts and stops, jumps from faster beats to measure long fills, atypical blast beats paired with bizarre guitar plopping guitar notes ( "Pushing Life" showcases one of the most interesting sections they've thought up).

They're something dismal and suffocating about Iron Lung's sound, the brief interludes highlight this as does the muddied and dank production. "Concentric Circulator" is another of those bizarre off-beat songs where Ward runs astray with the drums bursting out scattered fills in between blasts then jumping to a slower wavering beat all in the span of roughly a minute. "Arc Lamp" is one of my favorites as it's a playful start stop session between the guitar and drums. The drums not only add to each song, but are memorable, fun, and highly creative making each song unique and memorable, albeit the 40-1:30 length typified by each song.

Ward's unique style is highlighted by lots of start stop rhythms, syncopated beats, and jarring juxtapositions between tempos and beats. If that weren't enough, he has some funny stage banter and seems to be a cool dude. One of the most interesting and consistent bands around.

An honorable mentions go to:

Repulsion's Horrified. The drumming's downright sloppy and badass, but I don't know if I could put it up here.

Insect Warfare's World Extermination. One of the best grind albums, and the drumming is amazing.

Discordance Axis's The Inalienable Dreamless. All kinds of interesting stuff going around.

Absu's Tara. Drum wank to end all drum wank in this laborious black/thrash attack.

Hope you enjoyed this, download links would prove to be too much. This stuff should be easy to find. And fellow drummers, let me know what you think.



Andrew Childers said...

i've been killing prowler in the yard lately. i saw them live right after prowler came out and you're right, harvey just kills it. the live dvd put out a couple years ago is awesome cuz it features a young harvey (and j.r.). harvey has gotten much better with age.

as for my favorite napalm drum moment, it's actually a herrara era song. the thundering floor toms at the end of "dementia access" on utopia banished has always crushed me.

Andrew Childers said...

that should read the live dvd ENEMY SOIL put out, for those who aren't illiterate like me.

Flesh Monolith said...

Haha. Had the pleasure of seeing PxDx with Repulsion and Brutal Truth. As amazing as Repulsion were (i love their pits). PxDx put on such an amazing show. Not to mention J.R sounds great and they play a good set list (they don't do too much from Terrifiyer, an album i don't like).

I wonder what's next for them.

I was also tempted to showcase Despise You, but like a lot of bands I left out he's great, but doesn't standout the same way Mike Smith or either Ward might.

Flesh Monolith said...

oh, and i ignore a lot of Napalm Death unforgettably because I hate Barney's vocals

Andrew Childers said...

seriously? i think barney's the best, most distinctive voice in metal ever.

Sky Skizz said...

Thanks for a great read... loved it!
I'd have to say one of my favorites is Enthroned's Toward The Skullthrone of Satan. At first listen, sounds pretty average. But as it grows on you, you realize how perfect it is... and i love a drummer that can hold a badass beat through measures that normal drummers would roll or accent.

Sky Skizz said...

plus the drummer on that enthroned album is just a stand in, and was a classically taught jazz drummer. it shows with the organic, full acoustic production.

hail !

Anonymous said...

When it comes to drumming and Napalm Death I have always liked "Fear, Emptiness, Despair." Mostly mid-tempo hardcore with maybe 30 seconds of blasts. Heavy as it gets. Drum work holds the album together.

Alex Layzell said...

Very good selection, glad you included Black Sabbath and Slayer, they still are amazing bands.

Zmaj said...

Nice post! Lots of things to be possibly discussed, too.

Just "Liege of Inveracity" should be required listening to the entire embarrassing metalcore / deathcore scene and each and every band that doesn't know jackshit about doing a fucking breakdown. What sort of abomination have they created of the chugga-tradition? I'm not the one to set rules for anything, but how far can you push generic kitsch in (even) metal before it becomes just... empty?

Props for the Jensen Ward part. I really expected to see Witte as well, but I'm obvious like that. A (somewhat) newer drummer that well (over?)fits Witte's shoes is most definitely Bryan Fajardo (when I first heard his playing in Noisear, I thought "whoa, he's FAST, and sounds like Dave Witte + Brann Dailor or something"). Relevant to your World Extermination mention, I find that Fitri from Wormrot shines in a way similar to Dobber, although in a much more punk fashion.

In the end, I'd like to mention Dino Sommese, one of my absolute favorites. Screaming his head off + drumming with a groove that both Bill Ward and Mitch Mitchell would be proud off.