“The only thing I can think of is my natural hyperactivity, but also the love of punk music,” Dave Lombardo offers by way of explanation. He is often credited with having created an almost impossibly fast and relentless percussion style (featuring double kick drums) known as speed-metal drumming.
“I love songs that have this driving force behind them, that have intensity,” he says by phone. Lombardo is the drummer for Slayer, a California thrash-metal band with a history that dates back to 1981. Slayer branded itself with images from their own comic book world of satanic Nazis and serial killers. As their popularity grew, the band became a thorn in the side of the Religious Right. Protests were made about vile cover art and graphic lyrics, but by the end of the day Slayer’s act had made them rich. Four of their albums have been certified gold, and they won two out of their four Grammy nominations.
Why? Behind the cartoon image of Slayer is an exceptional degree of instrumental dexterity. Thrash metal is all about speed guitar-and-bass playing, a singer who can yell, and a maniacal drummer. “It’s not something I went to school for,” says Lombardo of his decision to play drums. “It’s in my blood. I believe it started at birth.” But for a pounding thrash-metal drummer, some of his influences are not in keeping with the speed-metal tradition. A native Cuban, Lombardo took inspiration from the Afro-Cuban percussionists he grew up with. Another source of enlightenment came from a straight-ahead jazz drummer, the late Art Blakey.
“I read in an interview of his that he had mentioned that he heard violins in the cymbals.” It was a figure of speech, Lombardo explains, meant to describe how cymbals could build tension like violins in, say, a horror-movie soundtrack. Scary, yes, but in that overstated way of the WWE.
Megadeth and Testament also perform.
SLAYER: Cricket Amphitheatre, Sunday, August 29, 7 p.m. 619-671-3600. $22.25–$75.