They said it couldn’t be done. They were clearly wrong. But the fact remains that after Dave Lombardo left Slayer in 1992, it was hard to picture the original lineup playing together again. The smell of bad blood was in the air, and Lombardo never considered it to be a possibility, after all. “No. I think I’m a little too stubborn for that,” he confides. “I just went off and did my own thing. I never had any concern for what they were doing. People would bring me their records, but I would never go buy them. I never cared what they did. I was fending for myself.”
Slayer moved on and hired former Forbidden and current Exodus drummer Paul Bostaph, who lasted almost ten years and in the process developed his own worldwide reputation for brutal double bass bashing [read our Bostaph interview in issue #119]. Lombardo gives props to his doppelganger’s performance on Slayer’s 2001 release, God Hates Us All: “He’d been in the band eight or nine years, and he was adapting. He was starting to express himself.”
But love gets lost when asked to describe the difference between his drumming and Bostaph’s. “Feeling and no feeling,” Lombardo says firmly. “I have feeling when I play drums. I make the drums speak. When he plays, he plays machine-like. That’s what I think distinguishes drummers. There’s the mechanical player, and there’s the player with feeling and groove.”
All Hell Breaks Loose. Then Bostaph left in 1996. Former Testament drummer John Dette lasted only a few months before Bostaph returned and stayed until 2001. Stranded again without a drummer, necks craned as Slayer invited Lombardo to fill in as a hired gun. “When they called me back, it was great. I gave them my answer in about 24 hours.” But he had a proviso, agreeing to fill in only temporarily while the band continued to search for a new drummer. “I was doing them a favor,” he clarifies.
Meanwhile, Slayer accepted a truckload of audition tapes, but no drummer rose to the occasion. In truth, it was difficult to imagine anyone filling such colossal shoes. Soulfly’s Joe Nunez was reportedly offered the gig but turned it down. Still no direct hit. Five years later, Lombardo was still “filling in,” still not a full bandmember. “It was weird,” he ponders. “The first tours, it would hit me like, ’What the hell am I doing?’ I was on stage, and here I see Kerry, Tom, and Jeff; seeing these guys in front of me, it was odd. I soon overcame that.”
By sheer brute force, the band’s chemistry reanimated in the guise of its original creation, which was captured in stark, brutal glory on the Still Reigning DVD, filmed during a memorable 2004 tour. Nearly every night, Slayer played the Reign In Blood album in its entirety, and select cities witnessed the band drenched in fake blood during the closer “Raining Blood.” Not only does it look wicked on DVD, Lombardo is probably still trying to wash some of that sticky gook out of his mane.
“It was a mess,” he states. “It was an absolute mess,” he emphasizes. “For the video, I did it only one time, but they chose to do it almost night after night. I had two drum sets — one I spilled blood on and one I played for the rest of the tour. My stick bag got full of that stuff. Sticks were flipping out of my hand.”
But despite the odds, Lombardo stuck around and made history. Again.
He thought he was recording some demos with guitarist Kerry King in mid-2003, but Lombardo was in fact working on material for Slayer’s new album, still untitled when this issue went to press, his first studio release with the band since 1990’s Seasons Of The Abyss. “Kerry had a bunch of ideas, and we had demoed them,” says Lombardo. “We worked on those ideas, and eventually we started elaborating on certain sections and creating other parts that would go together and have it flow together. Basically it stems from that demo.”
Slayer got the green light to go into the studio, and the band started to assemble the pieces. “The basic structures and rhythms and the drum tracks were done. All the drums were ready in three and a half days,” Lombardo brags. “After I did my drum tracks with the scratch guitar, they came in and found some nice guitar sounds and layered their rhythm tracks, and then they worked on vocals and leads. Everything pretty much stayed the same, except for one of Jeff’s songs — we extended the end a little more.”