Dave Lombardo unleashes a storm of percussion in his new album ‘Rites Of Percussion’: A unique and impactful sonic journey
When you admire an artist for their highly successful career in various fields, it’s essential not to overlook their new cultural creations. That’s exactly how I feel about the musician I want to talk about, the legendary drummer Dave Lombardo. He gained his reputation as a skillful and innovative drummer during his time with SLAYER, a band considered to be at the forefront of thrash metal.
Dave Lombardo’s creativity knows no bounds. Even after leaving SLAYER, which is part of the prestigious Big 4 of Thrash Metal, he continued to collaborate with both lesser-known bands and renowned performers like Michael Allan Patton, also known as Mike Patton. Patton, an American composer, producer, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist, and actor, is best known as the lead vocalist of the band FAITH NO MORE. Lombardo also played with other notable groups such as DEAD CROSS and FANTOMAS. In fact, as early as 1998, FANTOMAS had already discussed the idea of creating a solo album for Lombardo.
Initially, Patton released his own album, leaving Lombardo eager to do the same. However, a significant amount of time passed before Lombardo could fulfill his ambition. Finally, during the global pandemic, Lombardo poured all his determination into completing his solo album, “Rites Of Percussion.”
“Rites Of Percussion” truly showcases Lombardo’s instinctive talent and remarkable track record. This album comprises thirteen tracks that delve into the hidden aspects of percussion, drawing from Lombardo’s past experiences with intensely extreme metal bands. However, the music now feels more manageable and meticulous, thanks to collaborations with exceptional artists like Lorenzo Arruga, with whom Lombardo previously worked on a Vivaldi cover album before the turn of the century. Additionally, the album features instrumental partnerships with performers like John Zorn, an American composer and saxophonist known for his eclectic influences and affinity for the underground scene, and DJ Spooky, a representative of illbient music, a genre originating from the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in the late 20th century. DJ Spooky, who coined the term “illbient,” is not only a composer of trip-hop but also a turntablist and producer, with interests spanning punk, alternative, dance, and go-go music. Lombardo’s perspective encompasses a wide array of influences and genres.
Describing the album, Lombardo shared, “It’s a combination of improvised and composed music. My ideas start with freedom, and as I develop them, they seem to take on a life of their own. During the songwriting process for ‘Rites of Percussion,’ everything unfolded gradually, with layered instrumentation, until I had a song that truly spoke to me.”
Lombardo took charge of the entire production process, from writing and recording to producing the album. It was published under his Lomby Tunes (ASCAP) and released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. The recording took place at Ritmo Studio, with additional overdubs at Studio 606. The mixing was done by David A. Lombardo, and the mastering was handled by John Golden at Golden Mastering. The album’s artwork was created by Luke Insect, with photography by Lombardo’s spouse, Paula Lombardo.
The album’s musical versatility is remarkable, incorporating elements of jazz, funk, and various world music styles, all skillfully executed by Lombardo’s talented hands. With its rich musical ideas to explore, “Rites Of Percussion” is an album that benefits from repeated listens, especially considering its relatively concise nature.
We found current and modern sounds throughout the track, and the amount of percussion sounds is particularly impressive. Mr. Lombardo doesn’t just play drums, but also includes djembes, bongos, cajones, and gongs, among others in the percussion family.
“Rites Of Percussion” never feels like an empty display of technical skill. It showcases a fascinating tapestry of ideas that dance around percussion, sometimes with a powerful rhythm to make a point, but just as often focusing on subtle tones and textures that emerge when rhythms collide and intertwine.
We enjoy thirty-five minutes of pure percussion, which never strays from the task at hand. Even when the rhythmic patterns are frequently changed, they always find their flow again. The absence of non-percussion instruments makes everything even more fascinating. However, those seeking a full-blown onslaught should look elsewhere. These days, Mr. Lombardo has a musical vision that seems to have few limits, and it’s thrilling to see him unleash it in this extended piece that begins with “Initiatory Madness.” It starts with a tribal hoedown style, loaded with an almost infernal ritualistic part, featuring annihilating tempos, cymbal resonances, and discordant crashes. It combines thunderous and unexpectedly jarring blows with raw and elemental drumming, including a drum solo reminiscent of John Bonham’s “Bonzo’s Montreux” from LED ZEPPELIN, which can be subtly perceived throughout the opening composition that spans multiple tempos and moods in its approximate five-minute duration. It starts off bright and bewildering.
“Separation from the Sacred” simulates the noise of a tropical jungle, with deep sounds reaching their peak velocity as drumsticks unleash rapid-fire blows on all kinds of drums, as if hunting down something or someone.
“Inner Sanctum” features atmospheric staccato piano stabs that fuel a vortex of enveloping space noise. It evolves from a sinister slow recording to ghostly organ drones and a frantic, fragmented Hardcore rhythm, accompanied by a play of timbales and snare drum that takes advantage of a deliberate pace. This is a display of Progressive sounds, and the promotional video showcases perverse and wicked imagery.
“Journey of the Host” offers funky tones and a heavily accented rhythm, especially in the bass lines, with the use of syncopated riffs. It escalates into a looping journey through the celestial realms, reminiscent of the expansive spatial dimensions of Rock, before returning with a mind filled with elemental Jazz sounds.
“Maunder in Liminality” creates a fresh cinematic sensation due to the elegance that arises from the interplay of floor tones, timbales, and tambourines, intertwining harmonies with great freedom.
“Despojo” returns to Mr. Lombardo’s boldest and most innovative sound. With a stellar background, he unleashes his drumming skills, exploring musicality without overwhelming the conclusion of the piece with excessive beats.
“Interfearium” is a suspenseful piano keys accompanied by astral sounds, creating a disconcerting notion of tone madness, like a distressing hallucination, as the plot becomes uncertain and eventually leads to the appearance of drum sounds towards the end.
“Blood Let” is another track filled with experimental rhythms and doom-like soundscapes. We hear a type of howling or high-pitched squealing accompanied by crashing cymbals, reaching a point of engulfment or pounding.
“Warpath” resembles a conversation or debate, with deep and even deeper tones in an electric atmosphere, as if urgently trying to reach an agreement. The inevitable conclusion arrives, accompanied by a fully unleashed Ride cymbal.
“Guerrero,” with its Spanish title, brings forth weapons made of sound, skillfully wielded by the Cuban-American percussion maestro. The versatility in altering all the sounds is showcased, until only our protagonist’s drums remain.
“Vicissitude” presents an Asian-inspired rhythm dominated by deep tones, elevating it like a kite, accompanied by a sense of pursuit in its tempo. The feeling of apprehension is inseparable.
“Omiero” is best enjoyed with a pair of headphones to capture the full range of percussive sounds provided by Mr. Lombardo. In this track, if you pay attention, you can hear background screams while the bass drums work their magic, and the impact of the variety of drums in many tones. The frantic ending is precisely executed.
“Animismo” resembles a film score, with accompanying supportive sounds, while Lombardo unleashes the resonant beats of the snare drum and floor toms, precisely interlocking the sonority. The sound comes and goes until, in the end, only the dry sound of the drums remains, around which the rest of the sounds orbit. There’s even a brief moment, halfway through the closing, where this great musician plays something that could have fit into an old SLAYER song in the past. This experience called “Rites Of Percussion” is unique and personal.
Throughout Mr. Lombardo’s four-decade artistic career, he has been instrumental wherever he has been, performed, and gained respect from artists in all corners of the music world. In addition to his stints with the aforementioned bands, including his pioneering band GRIP INC., he has also collaborated with legendary Extreme Metal acts such as SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, THE MISFITS, and TESTAMENT, with whom he was wrapping up his recent tours. He has also contributed to recent productions by MR. BUNGLE and VENAMORIS alongside his wife Paula Lombardo, a pianist and singer. These collaborations have earned him acclaim and admiration from the Metal and music community worldwide. Undoubtedly, THE RECORDING ACADEMY, an American organization of music specialists dedicated to improving the quality of music, has also recognized Mr. Lombardo, granting him two Grammy Awards and four nominations. “Rites Of Percussion” is a culmination of Mr. Lombardo’s work, a true expression of his own vision and design, without compromising his concepts, aspirations, and beliefs.
This album is not entirely a drum album, but it is a drum album, showcasing the culmination of Mr. Lombardo’s experience, ambition, and tenacity. Throughout this instrumental album, he allows his drums to speak, brilliantly heavy in atmosphere with experimental rhythms that are consistently compelling and occasionally overlooked due to the arrangement of the compositions.
Let’s indulge in this great work by a musician who can be labeled in many ways, but never lacking in dedication to Extreme Music with his trademark quality! Here is a link to listen to the full album… enjoy!
Reviewed by P.C.