Album Reviews

Dave Lombardo – Rites Of Percussion

UK release date: 5 May 2023

One of the planet’s most revered drummers ventures into new territories with a debut solo album that deserves to find audiences beyond drum enthusiasts

Dave Lombardo - Rites Of Percussion “Drum Solo!” When shouted out at a gig, can do one of two things. It can either force your hand into the devil’s claw to be held aloft immediately, or it’ll encourage a trip to the bar. The truth is, that very few drum solos are worth hanging about for, but if Dave Lombardo is behind the kit, anyone with any sense will be giving the bar a miss.

Rites Of Percussion is not a drum solo of course, although it is a solo album that features drumming. A lot of drumming. But fear not, there’s plenty of ambient noise to make this album something more than a peculiar curio. Lombarbo is of course one of the most revered drummers on the planet, particularly within metal circles. This is mainly down to his tenure behind the kit with the legendary Slayer, but he’s also worked with a startling array of artists that include John Zorn, DJ Spooky, Testament, Mr Bungle and Fantomas.

It is these last two that are perhaps the most telling. Mr Bungle and Fantomas both feature Mike Patton, who is always keen to operate at the more experimental fringes of the musical spectrum. Indeed, on first listen, Rites Of Percussion seems to have a lot in common with Patton’s own ode to his talents Adult Themes For Voice. That album pushed Patton’s vocals into new, often wordless territory, where he experimented with layering and rhythm, and there seems to be some correlation between that project and Lombardo’s first solo album. Both push expectations and venture into new territories and both are, at times, challenging but rewarding listens.

Perhaps the most startling thing about Rites Of Percussion is the apparent lack of double bass drum bombast. This is, after all, an album from the man who blitzed his way through Reign In Blood and is known as the Godfather Of The Double Bass. In fact, the whole album seems more inclined to explore influences not directly associated with Lombardo’s Metal background. Instead his Cuban and Latin influences are to the fore, and his dalliances with the avant garde are very much in evidence.

Opening track Initiatory Madness, the longest on the album by some distance, sets things up nicely by coupling errors up with scampering percussion. From here, Lombardo hints at his double bass prowess on Separation From The Sacred, perhaps the most straightforward and punchy track on the album. Tribal beats, echoing acoustics and tight stops all combine to make for a propulsive experience. A later track, Warpath, treads a similar path but with slightly more industrial undertones. The addition of musical swells makes for a more unnerving experience.

Inner Sanctum is filled with mysterious and discordant dynamics that take on an almost religious zeal towards its end. Having achieved inner peace through Inner Sanctum’s spiritual leanings, Lombardo briefly throws funk and hip hop into the mix for Journey Of The Host. Surprisingly, there are a number of ambient and meditative moments on the album with the likes of Blood Let, Interfearium, and Maunder In Liminality exploring ambience and at times an absence of percussion altogether to create unsettling moodscapes.

Sometimes it feels as if Lombardo could have explored some of these ideas a little further. That said, during the course of Rites Of Percussion’s 35 minute running time, there are plenty of moments where the sheer brilliance of his musical intuition and technique are nothing short of breathtaking. It’s an album that deserves to find an audience beyond drum enthusiasts.

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Dave Lombardo – Rites Of Percussion