Chris Adler: Working Man’s Metal
All Good Things Come In Threes
It doesn’t take a rudiment geek to know there are triplets all over Lamb Of God’s drums. “It’s kind of my thing,” Adler says. But push him to explain, and he draws a blank. “I’ve never been able to break apart my own playing and understand it on that level. While I certainly think that is a handicap in other regards, it’s very freeing because there’s nothing I can really do wrong. “I’ve been told that I play a lot of these songs in six,” he continues. “Well, on the guitar riffs they come in on four so the guitar players are always looking at me like, ’What are you doing to my riff?’”
As LOG’s double-kick demon, many fans assume Adler is doing blastbeats all the time when, in fact, except for Wrath’s brief flirtation with metal’s most annoying tic, he never does any.
“Blastbeats are obviously cool and aggressive, but a lot of times I think they’re overused and it just kind of sounds like white noise after a while. I think the impact of the dexterity in a blastbeat is almost negated by the sound of it. I don’t mean to take away from the guys who are out there making a living doing that. For me I’d rather use it as one of many, many flavors, and not try to get amazingly great at that one thing.”
On the flipside, he may just have a future in instructional DVDs with that whipping motion of his feet on the pedals, which brings to mind a poor man’s Moeller technique. Whatever you call this Adlerism, he stumbled upon it purely by accident when the track “Ruin” gave him trouble on consecutive nights during the Sacrament tour.
“I just couldn’t get back to the downbeat after doing a triplet, and out of frustration I went to kick my right drum pedal or whatever happened to be in front of my foot – I was just pissed – and it did this weird thing where as my heel came down, the pedal hit the drum, and as I pulled back realizing that I was going to break something, the front of my foot hit the pedal and it did it again. So I kind of created this quick double which, while it didn’t have a whole lot of power and force behind it, I realized pretty quick I might be able to do something kind of cool with it.”
But like geologic eras, a band’s previous album is ancient history, and over the last few years Adler has now developed the kind of control in his legs that doesn’t require him to depend on gimmicky techniques. “For me to try to stomp out double bass, you know, 190 bpm, really probably shouldn’t require much from my thighs when you work those smaller muscle groups in your ankles and shins. I’ve learned about not only my body but how the physics work on the kit and what I’m capable of if I take the time to think about it.”
Once A Luddite
Along with click tracks, you can add triggers to the list of percussion gadgets Adler refuses to adopt. “I would never call it cheating by any means,” he says. “I know a lot of people pick on guys who use them but, you know, you do actually have to play to make the trigger work. The reason I don’t use them is that there’s so much going on in a live show setting the last thing I want to do is plug in my drums. There’s enough that could go wrong already.”
Listeners will notice an increase in cymbal strikes, fills, and overall hand work on Wrath, an interesting change for the lower-limb-oriented drummer whose style at one time could be roughly divided as Gatling-gun spray below the waist, and loping 4/4 pulse above. “I had a lot of control with my feet, a lot of speed, and that’s kind of what I became known for. Not to get away from that, but I did want to develop some of my hand speed, and that was a weakness of mine. Before, on our first album, probably a couple songs had no toms whatsoever, and in the writing process on this record I focused on incorporating the whole kit.”
Never one to half step, Adler tackled this objective until he got the results he wanted. This meant sitting in the dark at the rehearsal space with his eyes closed practicing single-stroke rolls for five minutes at a time and increasing them in 5 bpm increments over a period of three hours.
“It was mind-numbingly difficult to just sit there and do something that simple, but that is what has made the difference in my playing on this record. Just get that muscle memory, build that control, and to be able to focus on breathing, feeling how certain things sound, if they’re hit just a certain way the drum has a different voice.”
Lamb Of God couldn’t be more stoked about the new record. But even within that excitement drummers tend to single out tracks that are favorites as far as playing pleasure goes. In Adler’s case that would be “In Your Words,” Wrath’s first single. “It’s a bit of a departure for us. I think a lot of people at this point would expect us to maybe dumb things down a little bit and maybe try to sell out and get a little more commercial and maybe radio friendly to get a hit out there. You know, make a few dollars and go off into the sunset. But we went in totally the opposite direction, and I think this track embodies that. It’s a long, six- or seven-minute track that has multiple parts that build on each other and some pretty quick drumming. But at the same time, parts of the song are laid-back, in-the-pocket drumming. It just covers all the bases of what we do and what I’m able to do as a drummer.” He also says that Wrath comes the closest of any album to what Lamb Of God is all about. So, dude, what exactly are you all about? “Wow!” he says, as though pondering it for the first time. “I don’t know how to define our sound any more. I listen to bands everyday like Despised Icon and Arsis and Decapitated, which are taking things to a level that I just can’t imagine how these people are doing what they’re doing.
“I love it, you know, but the evolution is happening so fast. But I think we’ve remained steady. We know what we’re good at, and I can’t think of a better way to still say this but ’pure American metal.’”