April 26, 2005
US CD Thirsty Ear THI57161
Jack Dangers - bass, other instruments
Paul D. Miller - turntables/beats
Chuck D - vocals [2, 9, 14]
Dave Lombardo - drums [2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]
Vernon Reid - guitars [3, 4, 5, 7, 15]
Gerry Nestler - guitar [5, 7, 13]
Dalek - vocals 
Produced by Jack Dangers, with Paul D. Miller on tracks 2-7, 9-15.
DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid has teamed up with Dave Lombardo (drummer for Slayer) to see what one of the world's best DJs could do with beats supplied by the best thrash metal drummer of all time. Added to the mix are the talents of Chuck D from Public Enemy and legendary Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid. To bring it all together, Meat Beat Manifesto co-produced "Drums of Death" along with DJ Spooky.
Drums of Death winds up as a suprisingly fun amalgam of styles and sounds that manages to overcome the threat of novelty. I was skeptical about the potential clusterfuck of a record featuring DJ Spooky, Dave Lombardo (from Slayer), and Jack Dangers, but the presence of two of my favorite MCs of all time, Chuck D and Daelek, pushed me over the edge into "I've got to at least hear this" territory. Often, pairings like this come from well-intentioned musicians who want to work together, but don't realize that the sum can never equal the parts, so I braced for the worst. Happily, Drums of Death manages to avoid most of the cliches of supergroups and celebrity musical pairings of this sort, and instead boils down some signature elements from each artist involved into a quite listenable whole. Jack Dangers' production is well balanced with Spooky's turntable antics, while the MCs simply do their thing over the rhythm section of Lombardo on drums and Dangers on bass. The Meat Beat head honcho proves that he's still one of the best groove bassline generators on the planet, and DJ Spooky's cuts and sample selections work well to enhance rather than drag down the proceedings. It's Lombardo's drums that I can't swallow all of the time, as they have an unshakeable "rock" sound that doesn't always serve the songs the way a more nuanced sounding kit might. The grooves are tight if a little clangy on the cymbal end, but it always sounds like a metal drummer slowing down into a hip hop groove rather than just an accomplished drummer gelling with his bandmates. That's not to say the drums are bad--in fact almost every track gives sample hounds a free shot at an unobscured drum loop from the session, but I just wish the drums were somehow more processed and fitting with the primarily dub-leaning vibe. Chuck D and Daelek enhance the record with vocal performances straight out of their standard playbooks and there's enough guitar noise and metal riff sampling to possibly draw the the long-haired set out of their comfort zone a little, which I have to imagine is the point with a lot of this. Skipping past the embarrassing Spooky on turntable/Lombardo on skins call and response piece, and the oddly-lifted Jack Dangers sci-fi soundtrack pieces, Drums of Death winds up as a suprisingly fun amalgam of styles and sounds that manages to overcome the threat of novelty, even if it never elevates to the heights of its contributors' individual accomplishments. - Matthew Jeanes, Brainwashed