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Category Archives: Heavy

You hit it, I’ll stand by and admire.

Drumming. Is there anything more impressive than seeing someone play a ridiculous drum beat that leaves you gaping moronically and seething with jealousy? Guitar solos are obviously wondrous and arguably more expressive, but they are ten a penny. When a drum solo provoking absolute incredulity is witnessed (granted it is performed in small doses with instrumental breaks), a crowd reaction is usually much more exuberant. People will lose their shit at the sight of it; a person of supreme rhythmic abilities is usually a showstopper. I vividly remember, from the days in my teenage band, Beaver, how the Guernsey youth (and elders) would all marvel at our prodigal drummer, Spud, beautifully flailing his limbs as he soloed during a cover of Wipeout.

billy-cobhamSo, to the purpose of this blog:  I have the utmost admiration for drummers, keeping a group of musicians together with impeccable timing and inventive rhythms. Putting the party piece solos to one side, it is the seemingly endless variation of beats, the tonal quality captured on record or live, the ability to completely turn a chord sequence or melody on its head, the movement it provokes from your body. I put down my adulation down to two factors:

  1. I don’t have a natural affinity with numbers. Mathematics causes me stress; my brain fizzles out with a defeated whimper when presented with a numerical calculation of any sort. Transposed into musical abilities, it means that rhythmic dictation has always been a complete pain in the arse for me. It quite literally does not compute. And yes, I’m aware that it is essentially just counting, but I’d be grateful if you could stifle your sniggers more quietly please.
  2. I’ve tried playing drums and it’s bloody difficult. How often in your life do you perform a daily task which potentially requires the use of both arms and legs, moving at different times and speeds? Why is the control of one’s limbs so tough?

With all of this in mind, I will now highlight a few songs where the drums sing to me for different reasons.

If you aren’t already acquainted with the genuinely insane abilities of our man in the picture above, Mr. Billy Cobham, then now is the time to break that duck (lord knows how you’ve been all trying). Ever since I was a young’un, I have never truly gotten my head around the intro to the great Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Vital Transformation; it’s where my terrible counting skills fully come to light. Anyhow, The Inner Mounting Flame is a masterclass in drumming; an astonishing tour de force of musical reverie.

A band I religiously listened to in my university days, RX Bandits boast a top notch drummer. And with Tainted Wheat, found on their album …And The Battle Begun, we find a man at the top of his game. Swerving between high energy technicality (the entire intro essentially, with particular attention to the bass drum work between 0.12-0.15), a juicy hip hop-esque beat (0.23 onward) and rolling snippets (1.05-1.06 of the chorus), the recording of his kit on this album is, for want of a better word, fat. The cheesiness of the American vocals may be grating at times, but look past it if necessary for the excellent thumping.

First and foremost, Dave Grohl is a drummer. And with his contribution to Queens Of The Stone Age’s deservedly vaunted album Songs For The Deaf, he gave, in my humble opinion, one of the finest drumming performances ever for a studio recording. I’m getting excited just writing this! This album sounds MASSIVE, largely in part to how extraordinarily well the drums have been captured. And when you’ve found the secret formula to bringing down monumental structures with your recording techniques, you should probably bring in a drummer with awesome talent to bash the absolute crap out of the kit. I don’t need too tell you how great this album is, nor is it a surprise as to which track Monsieur Grohl shines like a blinding ball of fire, but if you’ve been living in a windowless room with no contact with the outside world for the past twenty years, then absorb the beauty of this spectacle immediately. Duh duh de duh duh duh at 3.45; at 5.31, you may orgasm.

Don’t forget the excellent live version from the 2002 Glastonbury Festival, which my friend Jack unfathomably slept through while laying on the grass.

For some reason, this beat always sticks in my mind. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

I devoted an entire post to this Chicago group way back when, but it would be criminal for me not to mention Maps & Atlases when it comes to drummers. Just listen to 1.24-1.51 of Ted Zancha and hopefully you’ll see why I couldn’t leave this out.

To sign off, I’m going to super controversially leave you with music that most of the general population would abhor, but what do they know? Dan Foord, drummer of SikTH, does not operate on the same plateau as most mere mortals. His limbs know no bounds, his mind unlimited in what beats he can conjure, his double bass drum skills particularly phenomenal. For those that cannot stand to sit through this normally, I ask that you simply hone in on the astounding drumming.

Firstly, 2.51 until 3.30 of the Let The Transmitting Begin version of Hold My Finger.  The slowing of the snare and kick drum, followed by a subtle cymbal hit at 3.05-3.08; the return to a driving beat at 3.12; the lightning quick double bass blast at 3.16-17; the spine tingling roll of the kit between 3.20 and 3.22. It instills a sense of joy in me which I can’t fully define.

Secondly, Scent of The Obscene. Check the intro (up until 1.19) and then the glorious ending (3.57 onward). For a slower pacing, the middle section (1.51 to 3.25) demonstrates the breadth of talent on show here. Pretty sweet production too I might add.

Enjoy!

As a bonus passing note: A band frequently cited throughout my previous blogs, Battles have amongst their ranks a drummer who is almost certainly a human metronome. John Stanier’s playing is completely on point and devilishly accomplished, therefore I would always heartily suggest wrapping one’s ears around first album Mirrored for drumming bliss and the punchiest of bass drums. To my untrained ears, the beats seem so perfectly knitted to the other instruments that they could be programmed in for complete matching. Watching this man perform on a stage is one of life’s small pleasures.

 

 

 

 

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Need music to do the washing up to?

During the teenage years of most boys, there is a glorious period where you discover that cutting greasy long hair is more trouble than it’s worth, dressing smartly is for idiots and heavy music is the absolute dog’s bollocks. If you happened to pick up an instrument during that period, playing with feeling and subtlety is a non-entity; you want to play it as fast and as loudly as you can, forgoing accuracy for liquid shred. Much to your parents’ consternation, that probably involves playing Slayer’s War Ensemble in your paper thin walled room for five hours straight, channeling the machine picking spirit of Jeff Hanneman through your wasp in a bottle combo of Encore and Kustom.

For heavy music, while obviously divisive (what a terrible racket), is the guttural primal roar of highly energized sound. For me, there is nothing more which invokes the emotion of ‘AAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH BANG MY HEAD RUN AROUND ARRRGGGHHH WHERE HAS THE CONTROL OF MY FUCKING LEGS GONE WINDMILLS’. That, or simply the slow lurch of your body up and down. The love comes from the screaming and sometimes incomprehensible vocals; high pitched yelping; abrasively distorted guitars with the mids sucked out; the frighteningly fast octopus limbs of drummers; the vastly reduced role of the bassist, who has to make up for their diminished nature by yelling obscenities into a microphone while contorting their body constantly, reminding everyone they still exist on the stage.

young-metal-head

I love this stuff, and if you are undecided or so far oblivious, let’s have a stab at providing you with some metallic brilliance.

Let’s begin with a little US band called Look What I Did. These guys are sick – not in the bodacious spring break variety, more in the head generally. But dear me did they make some music that buzzes around you like an overactive teenager. Their lyrics can be quite tongue in cheek, or challenging depending on your viewpoint (‘I’m a domestic abuse machine baby’), but for what they lack in lyrical finesse they more than make up in fantastically inventive music.

I’m Majoring in Psychology, taken from their second album Atlas Drugged, is pure madness – double bass blasts at 0.42, THAT RIFF at 0.51. Get on it. Loudly.

Another wee band of Yankees, Into The Moat are more of your stereotypical sludge fest. Singing that would rip the vocal cords out of any normal citizen, with heaviness that knows no bounds. This will severely test you (I mean, it’s called Dead Before I Stray), but it’s utterly worth it. There’s even a bit of jazz in there at 0.55 and 1.21.

Back in the heady days of the early noughties, when one could flick between MTV2, Kerrang and Scuzz for hours at a time consuming music videos of varying quality, my teenage self scornfully cast Slipknot aside as the scourge of the music industry: fully grown reprobates playing terrible nu-metal in stupid jump suits.

But then they released Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses and all was forgiven. They are, in actual fact, supremely talented scary bastards. With this, I came to reassess their back catalogue and found greatness in their noise. One track that will always rev me up like a horny pitbull is Three Nil. There’s only so much brutal meatiness one band can serve up…..Joey Jordison’s incredible drumming for the intro and lovely count in from Corey Taylor, the break your neck riff at 0.37, the half time second verse from 1.46, the bloody drum outro from 4.32! The cheeky tinkle of the cymbal at 4.42! What are you doing to me?!

In my much mulled over but fairly consistent top five music things, The Beatles sit neatly at the top. Slotting in below them is SikTh, with their two albums worth of mind blowing genius. I cannot really express how much of an impact this music had on my young impressionable ears. At first, I was dumbfounded and a little scared, as I could not make head nor tail of it. I listened to it again, still no sense could be made. What the hell are they are squawking about? Do they know what a chorus sounds like, or how long a typical bar is? After maybe my tenth straight listen, the tiny jigsaw pieces of my shattered brain were jammed together and thus, my adulation of SikTh began.

I’ve always had a particular soft spot for If You Weren’t So Perfect, given the blaring intro, verses of guitar harmonics over Dan Foord’s bonkers drumming and a perfectly jarring chorus, consisting of inventive dual vocals and switching rhythm, merging into ascending slides and clever bass drum work from 1.13.

Now, I could have ended on a classic Pantera song. Or maybe some Binge and Purge era Metallica. Oh how sorely tempting it is. But right now, though likely to change come tomorrow morning, my choice of song to unashamedly bulldoze you into the next hemisphere is this: Forest by System Of A Down. PLAY.IT.LOUD.

Enjoy!