DAVE LOMBARDO Says Double-Bass Break In SLAYER's 'Angel Of Death' Was Originally Part Of A Drum Solo

May 25, 2023

In a recent interview with Stereogum, Dave Lombardo was asked if he was trying to push the limits of speed and technique to new places during SLAYER's early years. The drummer responded: "I think I was at the time. I was pushing the limits. I remember saying to [late SLAYER guitarist Jeff] Hanneman, 'It's gotta be heavy. It's gotta be faster. Fuckin' faster. Let's fuckin' play hard.' And I think the whole mindset that we had at the time was just to play faster — physically faster, not computerized faster like it is today. You have the help of different software to make you sound like this fucking Big Ben perfect clock. Back then, you had to be on point. There was no click track. I had not recorded an album with a click track until probably [2006's] 'Christ Illusion'. And on 'Christ Illusion', we only used a click track for part of a song. So, you know, things were very primitive at that time. What you heard on those albums, it was real. It was real human playing, without the help of any computer-generated time signatures or anything. So, we were pushing the envelope, and it was intentional."

Lombardo also talked about the double-kick and tom fill on "Angel Of Death", which is arguably one of the most famous drum parts in metal history. Asked if he could tell when he recorded it that that was something special, Lombardo said: "Well, it was part of a drum solo. They used to let me just go off on the drums. We used to play a song called 'Show No Mercy', and it started with a drum solo. And I remember one particular show, I believe it was in the Valley in L.A. I did a drum solo, and then I stopped and I just let the double bass go, and it caught Hanneman's attention. He went, 'Dude, we should put that in a song.' I think at the time we were writing some of the 'Reign In Blood' music, and he said, 'You should put that in the middle of this song.' And so we did.

"Did I know? Huh-uh," he continued. "No. It was just a really cool surprise little section of the song. You know, you're listening to the song, and boom, it goes into this drum fill. I thought it was great, but I didn't know to what extent it was going to impact the listener. And apparently, it was one of the really cool moments of that record."

More than 15 years ago, former OVERKILL drummer Rat Skates told D.X. Ferris, author of "33 1/3: Reign in Blood", the first English-language book about SLAYER, that "what SLAYER did, including that double-bass break on 'Angel Of Death', they did shit that no one else did, because they could. And you listen to that part, and you just knew: Those are two bass drums. That guy's feet are fuckin' flying.’ It blew everyone's mind."

MASTODON drummer Brann Dailor concurred, saying: "That specific part, it broke the speed barrier. It would make me happy when I heard it. Everybody at a SLAYER show would wait to hear it. And everything else paled in comparison — until grindcore happened. But grindcore, I think it loses something."

Lombardo, who has spent most of the recent years between crossover pioneers SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, horror-punk icons MISFITS, hardcore supergroup DEAD CROSS and MR. BUNGLE, was effectively fired from SLAYER after sitting out the group's Australian tour in February/March 2013 due to a contract dispute with the other bandmembers. He was later replaced by Paul Bostaph, who was previously SLAYER's drummer from 1992 until 2001.

Shortly after his dismissal, Lombardo said that he discovered that 90 percent of SLAYER's tour income was being deducted as expenses, including fees to management, costing the band millions and leaving them with about 10 percent to split four ways. While he and bassist/vocalist Tom Araya hired auditors to figure out what had happened, Lombardo said he was never allowed to see any of the information obtained.

SLAYER played its last-ever show in November 2019 at The Forum in Los Angeles.

Photo credit: Ekaterina Gorbacheva

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