I have to admit I had never heard anything by DJ Spooky before this (although I see his name in project after project). However, the prospect of him linking up with Dave Lombardo, the drummer of Slayer, was definitely intriguing. Then I heard Chuck D was involved…OK, what up?
This is an interesting collaboration between some top notch musicians with some creative spins on things. DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) is a tireless creative force with many projects that he seems to just spin out effortlessly, not stopping to reflect but rather already leap-frogging onto the next challenge. Lombardo is, of course, recognized as a premier drummer of death metal, anchoring Slayer and his own Grip Inc. for many years. He has also worked with other artists like John Zorn who is a jazz musician that dabbles in both rock and opera.
Guests on this set include the legendary Chuck D of Public Enemy, and Vernon Reid, ex of Living Colour. Playing bass and co-producing the set is Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto. Another rapper, Dalek, does vocals on several cuts.
An electronic alien-signal precedes the booming voice of Chuck D on one of the three PE covers, "Brother's Gonna Work It Out". With all respect to the Bomb Squad, the song just sizzles with the percolating production. Vernon Reid sizzles on the next two cuts showing all that he hasn't lost a step while toiling in the background for the last few years.
It's really not until Track 7, "Kultur Krieg" that we see why Lombardo was considered for this project. He starts off with some fast high-hat before coming back with that smack that Slayer fans know and love. His tom work sounds like a meteor shower of fast balls coming into a catcher's mitt, steady and pounding, with occasional energetic roll.
Chuck sounds hot on "B-Side Wins Again". Finally, the promised "Drums of Death" rear their lovely heads on "Incipit Zarathustra". This is a duel between Lombardo and DJ Spooky and Dave cranks up the energy level on this one big-time. Amidst changing time signatures, tom and hi-hat become one and jazz and rock are blurred.
"The Art of War" finds the tremendously talented Mr. Reid tossing off some fuzz/delay guitar drones that are the highlight of that song. The heavy rock of "Terra Nullius" jars coming on the jazz-ish tones of the previous song. "Public Enemy #1" like the others benefit from the torqued up (and not so muddied) production.
There is a lot to like about this record, even though there is less of what the title proclaims. There isn't really anything that doesn't work on Drums of Death, but there are a couple of cuts that just meander along. Fans of DJ Spooky and electronic stuff have not been overly kind to the record but for the other side of the concert hall, the heavier rock fans like me think it's pretty good.