Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Slayer in the Studio: Loud, Fast and Ready to Thrash

Shredding on Dimebag's guitar and bashing religion as the metal vets prep their 10th album

STEVE APPLEFORDPosted Apr 16, 2009 12:31 PM

Some things can be counted on at a Slayer recording session. "Can I interest you in something fast and aggressive?" asks producer Greg Fidelman. He's sitting beside guitarist Kerry King at the Pass Studios in Los Angeles, where Slayer are working on a still-untitled album planned for a summer release, and cues up a new metal track with the working title "Build Up." King is ready to thrash.

He's already tapped the Jägermeister machine upstairs, and is now bent over a custom camouflage guitar, his black combat boots on the hardwood floor in the studio control room. King is plugged simultaneously into four amps, each one given a name: The Beast, Hot Ticket Deux, BLS and GF11. Fidelman rolls "Build Up," and King begins overdubbing bits and pieces of intricate metal melody and a harsh, aggressive riff, his eyes closed, nodding to the intense recorded beats of drummer Dave Lombardo. King's strumming hand is a blur, like a wasp in flight.

"Man, I don't even remember it being that fast," King says with a laugh after one take. "We're fucking flying!"

A pair of candles burn nearby, and a large chart lists the songs in progress, most with descriptive working titles, including "7 String," "Drop B" and "Industrial," along with "Psychopathy Red," recorded last October and already leaked online. Slayer are still in the early stages of recording, just five weeks in, working out ideas for what will be an 11-song album, released in July, in time for the summer's second Mayhem Festival tour with Marilyn Manson. Lyrics still wait to be written. Rick Rubin, who produced the band's landmark 1986 album Reign in Blood, is executive producing.

"Why do I write this shit at my age? It's fucking brutal," says King, 44, his head shaved and tattooed. "It's exciting to be part of it and I'm excited to be writing this heavy fucking shit. It's still in the blood."

During this night's session, some friends arrive for a visit. One of them is Rita Haney, wife of the late "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, and she's brought one of the Pantera veteran's old guitars. It's a blue V-shaped electric from the early-'80s, and she's hoping King will give it a try. "That was his holy grail," she says, handing it to King's guitar tech. She notices a snapshot taped to the Beast of King boozing it up with Darrell and Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde. "Ah, the triple threat."

Slayer have survived nearly 30 years since forming in Orange County in 1981, creating the metal-punk collision known as thrash in league with Metallica and other malcontents, inspired by the likes of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The band's 2009 album will be Slayer's second with the original lineup since Lombardo returned in 2002, a full decade after his acrimonious break from the band.

"Dave needed to be away from us, and we needed to be away from him," says King now. "He's played with some musicians, not just dumb-ass thrash guitar players. That only makes us better when we apply thrash, and he applies his drums to what we're doing. He's had 12 years of different schooling that he may never have gotten. When he came back, we were all grown up now, and nobody had problems or issues. It was cool."

The process of making Slayer records hadn't changed much in Lombardo's absence. "We're trying to capture our live sound, and I play fucking loud," says King, whose favorite subjects remain bleak themes of insanity, death and "religion-bashing, making people think for themselves." A prime example was 2001's God Hates Us All, a title King now has tattooed in huge Gothic letters along his left arm.

Rush-hour traffic is enough to fuel the rage. "All I need is a day in public and I'm tired of people," King says of his typical lyric-writing inspirations. "People need a lot guidance, and there's not a lot of guidance out there, so there's a lot of situations that are very maddening to me."

At home between tours and recording sessions, King spends his free hours watching football, raising Carpet Python snakes and checking out new metal bands. He's a fan of Marilyn Manson and expects to share a few glasses on absinthe on the road with the shock-rocker this summer, as both acts induct another generation of fresh new metal fans.

"In the last 10 years, we've had girls in the pit, throwin' with dudes and holding their own every step in the way," says King. "It used to be girls were girls, and they might show up with their boyfriends. Now girls are fuckin' into it. And they let you know."

Heavy metal parents also bring the kids. "You'd be surprised how many fucking diapers I've signed," says King.

Singer Tom Araya credits Slayer's longevity to a core mission based not just on speed but on a persona that's darker and heavier than the rest, despite such signs of mainstream acceptance as Grammy nominations and awards. "I credit that to kids discovering Slayer in junior high school," says Araya, at the studio in a black corduroy hoodie, strands of gray in his goatee. "Or the friend hanging out with his buddy who's listening to something he thinks is heavy. And he goes, 'Ha! Heavy?' It's like the Twilight Zone movie: You want to hear something really heavy? Listen to this."

Outside the door of the Slayer sessions is a sign, lifted from some local club: "Absolutely no ins or outs — two drink minimum." Earlier, Araya was wailing and raging some vocal melody ideas for one of guitarist Jeff Hanneman's tunes, but right now the focus is building up King's 2:51 minutes of thrash and burn.

The speed of the tune is almost too much in places, and King rips through a few takes before he's satisfied. But he gets there quickly enough, finishing initial overdubs for three songs in just one session. He then hands the camouflage guitar to his tech, whose eyes grow wider as he says, probably not for the first time, "The strings are hot!"

courtesy: rollingstone

DW Collector's Series X Shell kit

Does DW's X Shell technology justify the hype? Hell yes, this kit is inspired...
Adam Jones

Collector's Series X Shell kit
specification :
Any DW Collector's Series finish
Drum Shell Material:
North American hard rock maple
Floor Tom Size:
14"x12" (£748) and 16"x14" (£913)
Kick Size:
23"x18" (£1493)
Snare Size:
14"x6" (£573)
Tom Size:
8"x7" (£543 ), 10"x8" (£584) and 12"x9" (£641) / Rata drums: 6"x18" and 6"x12" (both £552)

Drum Workshop began life as a hardware company (a fact reflected in its class-leading stands and pedals) and expanded into drum manufacture in the late 1980s. Since then it's progressively strengthened the brand, earning a reputation for constantly evolving designs. DW's newest drums – dubbed X Shells – represent a departure from the accepted norms of drum construction. The clue's in the name people…

If you're familiar with existing DW drums you may well recognise the acronym VLT. It stands for Vertical Low Timbre and describes a manufacturing process by which the outer and inner plies of a drum run vertically. Drums have to be cross-laminated for strength – at 90° to one another – but keeping the outer and inner plies vertical places less stress on a shell, giving it a lower fundamental tone.

In theory, a shell made up of exclusively vertical plies would possess enormous amounts of bottom-end. In reality, such a shell would not be strong enough to be fitted with heads.

"Without any dampening, things got understandably boomy, but a felt strip across the front head calmed down the ringing, leaving a wide open-sounding and distinctly Bonhamesque drum"

John Good at DW's solution to this conundrum was the X Shells. He proposed that a shell made with plies laid diagonally at 45° to the vertical axis of the shell – still cross-laminated at 90° to each other – would give the closest results to a fully vertical shell. According to DW, Good's first attempt at creating an X Shell was spot on and the X Shell option now forms part of the Collector's Series range.

DW reckons the diagonal cross-laminating technique will work its magic with any wood; the review kit is made from maple. X Shells don't cost any more than other equivalent Collector's Series drums and can be ordered in any Collector's size, finish or hardware option. A typical five-piece kit will take between eight to 12 weeks to turn around.

X Shells are eight plies thick for all toms and bass drums, while snares come in at 10 plies. In addition, toms and bass drums also feature three-ply reinforcement rings (optional on snares). These are beautifully made, with the innermost plies being fashioned from the sort of superior cut of wood that's normally reserved for a final exterior ply.

Interestingly, the grain on the reinforcement rings runs vertically, so DW could be looking to induce a subtle VLT effect as a bonus.

Peering inside each drum at the main shell visible between the two sets of reinforcement rings, the diagonal pattern of grain registers immediately, as it's such an unusual sight. The bearing edges are DW's standard 45° cut. The kit supplied for review consists of X Shell drums with three exceptions: the snare drum is a standard Collector's Series model with VLT plies, while a pair of Octoban-like Rata drums have also been included.

The Rata drums are another new DW product, also launched at NAMM and like Octobans they're available in one diameter (6") with eight lengths (4" to 18" in two-inch increments).

Also making its UK debut with this kit (but by no means limited to X Shell drums) is DW's 23" diameter bass drum, which has been developed from an idea originally floated by DW endorsee Neil Peart. Remo has been commissioned by DW to make 23" bass drum heads and is presently the only head manufacturer supplying them. All 23" bass drums are shipped with a spare batter head, as the likelihood of finding one in your local drum shop at five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon is pretty remote…
Hands on

For obvious reasons the 23"x18" bass drum was the first drum out of the box. It's an unusual drum to sit behind, as it has the apparent physical presence of a 24" kick, but being an inch smaller can accommodate rack toms above it that little bit lower. The kick is fitted with a DW pillow that's narrow in the centre and T-shaped at both ends where it meets the heads.

In use, the drum delivered a thunderously low note, but one with definition. It wasn't so bassy that the note could be felt more than heard; it combined the punch of a 22" kick with the stage-shaking capabilities of a larger drum. The supplied pillow undoubtedly helped keep it under control, so we tried removing it. Without any dampening, things got understandably boomy, but a felt strip across the front head calmed down the ringing, leaving a wide open-sounding and distinctly Bonhamesque drum.

The five toms came next (8"x7", 10"x8", 12"x9" racks and 14"x12" and 16"x14" floor toms) and carried on where the kick left off. The claim about the X Shell technique producing lower sounding drums really did ring true. At average tensions each of the drums sounded a couple of inches bigger than they were. They weren't just deep, they were magnificently rounded and sonorous.

Because the heads didn't need slackening off to achieve the extra bottom end, they didn't sound flappy or dead – just loud, rich and addictively powerful. The floor toms particularly excelled and were almost timpani-like in their enthusiasm. We likened the sound of the toms to those of Keith Moon's on Live At Leeds, which is a suitably apt and graphic comparison.

The snare was always going to struggle to impress next to such dynamic partners and though it was a highly versatile drum, it didn't mesmerise me like the toms did. The VLT plies on the snare meant that thick, woody crack was easily attainable, while cranking up the head produced an excellent sharp retort. It's a shame that an X Shell snare didn't come out with the kit, as it would've been interesting to see how one sat with the toms.

The Rata drums were all about piercing attack, giving a bright note that bristled with metallic overtones. They were a little like a cross between a Roto Tom and a timbale. As add-ons they were diverting, offering an unusual and penetrating sound. At over half a grand apiece though, they can't really be described as affordable.

Leaving aside the snare and Rata drums, this kit represents a giant step forward in drum manufacture. Over the years DW has become a brand synonymous with innovation and the X Shell technology is a radical piece of drum making. More importantly, it works, delivering results that really justify the hype.

courtesy: musicradar

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