Sometimes a drummer, band, or song comes along that simply raises the bar. You may remember when you first nailed down the part to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” Anthrax’s “A.I.R.,” Dream Theater’s “Dance Of Eternity,” or fill in the blank with your favorite nemesis.
We’re going back in time a bit for this month’s column, back to 2001. The album: Slipknot’s Iowa. The drummer: the masked walking-nightmare Joey Jordison, who simultaneously raised the metal drumming bar, and paid homage to master basher Dave Lombardo, with the blistering 4:15 of “The Heretic Anthem.”
It’s no secret that Jordison, who also fronts The Murderdolls, is not just a drummer — he’s a guitarist as well, and writes a healthy share of Slipknot’s psychotic metal. “The Heretic Anthem,” like many of the band’s songs, originated from Jordison’s fretwork.
“All of it except for the chorus riff,” the drummer answers when asked how much of the song was done before he brought it to the rest of the band. “I basically had the structure. During the second Europe run that we did for the first record, I had it that much in advance before Iowa. I was just messing around in my hotel room on guitar, and came up with it pretty quickly. I was trying to come up with a crazily aggressive song that had an aggressive vibe to it, so I had the guitar parts way before the drums developed.
“I had the lyrics written down. The only lyrics I didn’t write in the song is that part where it’s really loose, that’s Corey’s verse. All of the other lyrics I wrote, and how I wrote the chorus was really odd. I was driving to practice when we were still doing the song, and drove by a mailbox that said ’555,’ it was ’555’ something street, and it just hit me. I brought it to practice and we thought, ’There’s an anthem!’”
As blistering as the drumming is, and as through-composed as it appears to be, there really isn’t much forethought when it comes to constructing an appropriate drum part.
“I never sit down and think about drum parts, ever,” Jordison stresses. “I’ve never sat down, ’Man, what does this part need?’ It just comes out of me. I never think about it, dude. When I write songs, I write them on guitar first, and I already know how the drums will go. I write weird. I don’t put too much thought into them, to tell you the truth. They just happen.”
There are several interesting twists in this song that “just happen,” and we’ll spotlight three. The first comes when the song goes into the verse for the second time, and vocalist Corey Taylor bellows in polyrhythmic fashion, “Everybody defamates from miles away, but face to face, they haven’t got a thing to say.” Jordison accents the vitriol right along with him.
“That was just playing with the vocals,” he says simply, “because the vocals were written like that, so I decided to accent Corey’s lyrics like that. We didn’t do that intentionally until we heard the lyrics. When Corey first did that in rehearsal I was just playing it straight, but when I heard him I was like, ’Okay, since you’re phrasing like that, I’ll accent and make the part more powerful.’ I just mimicked it.”
The second section to spotlight is the drum break that comes immediately after the second pass through the half-time chorus. Double-bass insanity, yes, and an obvious nod to one of his heroes, Dave Lombardo — and another notable raise-the-bar fill.
“During the middle part, obviously, is the Slayer drum fill from ’Angel Of Death,’” Jordison explains. “It’s probably the most famous drum fill in speed metal and death metal that’s ever been done. If you don’t know that one, then you don’t know your metal. That’s what he’s most known for. The ending is a little bit different than his, but that is a total nod to him.”
Then Jordison laughs as he remembers the fill’s origin, “I did that double bass fill as a joke during practice one time, just because I [was joking that I] didn’t have my own fill, and everyone laughed their asses off and said, ’Dude, you should keep it like that.’”
The third twist is more of a natural build. To close out the song the eight-bar chorus is repeated four times, and Jordison ups the intensity each time through. For the first pass there are no drums, and then the second time through Jordison plays loose, and somewhat displaced, beats.
“The whole first part is a lazy part,” he says, “going back and forth. Then I wanted to keep it sporadic and loose, before the last chorus kicks in and it gets straight and heavy, it makes that part lift up.” He lifts it up with a normal groove on the third pass, before ending it off on the final pass with lumbering eighth-notes on the kicks — and, quite noticeably, without the blast beats that have peppered the rest of the song.
“No, it’s just straight eighth-note double bass. I just thought it was a lot heavier that way. Sometimes people think that the faster it is, the heavier it is, but to me, I tend to think that the slower it is, the heavier it is. At the end, it just seemed like a train moving, to repeat that part. If it was really fast double bass … I already did that through the rest of the song! I just wanted to keep it pummeling towards the end, a repetitive motion, kind of hypnotizing.”
The song has hypnotized many drummers into a trance while trying to replicate its many nooks and crannies, a point not lost on Jordison.
“If I’ve inspired people that far,” he humbly concludes, “if there are young kids who are able to play that track, that I worked a long time to be able to get to — I think I’ve surpassed it now, but at the time that was a big deal for me — there’s going to be some incredibly sick drummers in the world. That’s pretty scary for the music scene, if kids are already nailing that at a young age. That rules. What an honor.”
Are you ready? Give it your best shot, and find out what it’s like to be a “Heretic.”
Drums: Pearl MMX Masters Series
1. 22" x 18" Bass Drum
2. 13" x 6.5" Joey Jordison Signature Snare
3. 14" x 12" Championship Snare
4. 8" x 7" Tom
5. 10" x 8" Tom
6. 12" x 9" Tom
7. 13" x 10" Tom
8. 14" x 12" Tom
9. 16" x 16" Floor Tom
A. 14" Rude Hi-Hats
B. 16" Rude Crash/Ride
C. 18" Rude China
D. 17" Rude Crash/Ride
E. 8" Signature Splash
F. 6" Signature Splash
G. 8" 2002 Cup Chime
H. 18" Rude Crash/Ride
I. 13" Signature Power Hi-Hats
J. 20" 2002 Rock Bell Ride
K. 18" Rude China
L. 14" Signature Thin China
M. 13" Signature Mega-Cup Chime
Joey Jordison also uses Pearl hardware and pedals, and Ahead sticks.