DJ Spooky and Dave Lombardo : Drums of Death

Sometimes you can tell an album by its cover. With Drums of Death, the airbrushed retro-futuristic album art is an accurate representation of the space-age sounds contained therein. Taken as a whole, this collaboration between DJ Spooky (That Subliminal Kid) and Dave Lombardo of Slayer resembles nothing so much as the soundtrack to a Heavy Metal cartoon featuring big-mulletted space cowboys strafing asteroid mining colonies in their tricked-out rocketships.

Within this general aesthetic concept, there’s a huge variety of styles in play here. This is to be expected from the ephemeral soundscapes of DJ Spooky, married to Lombardo’s thrash-metal beats.

Lombardo’s influence is front and center in the driving, up tempo “Quantum Cyborg Drum Machine,” and the almost straight-up thrash of “Kultur Krieg.” DJ Spooky’s light touch is prominent in the acid-jazzy “Art of War,” the dissonance of “Obscure Disorder,” and the ambient, futuristic city-scapes of “Sounds from Planet X” and “A Darker Shade of Bleak,” either of which would not seem out of place on Spooky’s Necropolis: The Dialogic Project. The two sounds come together most successfully in “B Side Wins Again,” featuring Chuck D rapping over Jack Danger’s daunting guitar, and the funky, bass-driven “Metatron.” The centerpiece of the album, however, is “Incipit Zarathrustra,” a throw-down beat battle, with Spooky’s turntablism answering Lombardo’s drum soloing — dueling banjos for the year 3055.

DJ Spooky is no stranger to experimentalism or pushing the boundaries of genre. Drums of Death creates a successful fusion of diverse styles, a risky proposition which lives up to his ambition to create a “rhythm dialog, building bridges between styles.” This is a concept album which would be utterly unbearable in the hands of lesser talents. The evident skill and musicianship is such that even the occasional excursions into kitsch are half the fun.

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