The intensity of focus that defines Jordan Mancino’s drumming is just as palpable in other aspects of his personality, especially when he’s discussing his true labor of love — that is, doing very badass things to a set of drums (things so badass they require at least a two hour warm-up before each live performance). And his enthusiasm for the freshly recorded As I Lay Dying effort, The Powerless Rise, is all but tattooed on his face. Mancino touts this album as being easily the group’s finest work to date. With sophisticated, dense arrangements and a more “part-focused” approach to song writing, the record is clearly a major source of pride for him. As he puts it, “They’re just better songs.” Of course it didn’t hurt to have producer Adam “D” Dutkiewicz, himself a drummer and guitarist of distinction, critiquing Mancino’s performance and offering valuable creative guidance throughout the recording process.
Tracked in a period of about five days — a feverish pace by almost any standard — Mancino’s parts are packed with punishing grooves and crushing fills. A simple rule guides his part-writing strategy: “Every section should help to make the next really shine.” Impact is the overall objective here, and “Anodyne Sea” is carefully constructed to deliver in this category. Following a jaw-dropping opening fill, the first two verse/chorus cycles chug along before the true architecture begins at 2:00 with Mancino introducing a pounding half- time groove. Uncomplicated and straightforward, this moment complements the emotive harmonized guitar leads nicely and acts as a sort of palate cleanser for the mayhem that lies ahead.
Drums: PDP Platinum Series (Pearlescent White
to Candy Black Fade)
1 22" x 20" Bass Drum
2 14" x 7" Edge Snare Drum
3 10" x 8" Tom
4 14" x 12" Floor Tom
5 18" x 14" Floor Tom
A 14" K Hi-Hat (top)/14" A Mastersound Hi-Hat (bottom)
B 18" A Custom Projection Crash
C 19" A Custom Projection Crash
D 21" A Sweet Ride
E 20" A Custom China
F 22" A Custom Medium Ride
Jordan Mancino also uses DW hardware and DW 5000 series pedals, Remo heads, Pro-Mark 747B Super Rock sticks, Ultimate Ears in-ears, Neumann, AKG, Audix and Shure microphones, and SKB, Anvil, and Calzone cases
What follows are two passages that each build on the intensity of the previous — first with a sixteenth-note groove around the toms (2:15), then a backbeat with the sixteenths moving to the feet (2:29). This leads to the official breakdown — also a two-part event — the first of which (2:45) again serves to prepare the listener for what follows. In this case it’s the song’s brutal climax (3:01), a stunningly precise display of absolute rhythmic unity between guitar and drums.
Mancino happily acknowledges this demanding passage as the intellectual property of (obviously masochistic) guitarist Phil Sgrosso, and alludes vaguely to some sinister enjoyment Sgrosso receives from punishing his drummer with difficult rhythms. “That was definitely the hardest part of the song to record,” Mancino admits, adding that it came only after a solid four hours of session. A particular challenge for him was seamlessly performing the two consecutive right-footed notes that end and begin each two-bar phrase, though you would never know by listening to this flawlessly executed bit of double kick madness. Of course, these types of things are possible when you begin your usual warm-up with 15 minutes of straight sixteenth-notes in the feet at 175 bpm (you know, “a comfortable tempo”).
When asked about his enviable foot skills, Mancino describes himself as having “grown up with two kicks.” He recalls a few early lessons where numerous old-guard instructors cautioned him against the immoral excesses of double bass drumming. Fortunately, Mancino paid them no mind and decided from day one that it would be as fundamental a part of his setup as the snare drum. The Powerless Rise has no shortage of death-defying footwork, and “Anodyne Sea” exhibits an array of exciting techniques that go way beyond absurdly fast singles (not that there aren’t plenty of those).
For example, devising interesting hand/foot combinations is a favorite pastime for Mancino. And these aren’t your typical Bonham combos (R-L-F-R-L-F) either. Check out his blistering introduction to the song at 0:05. Mancino employs a unique RLRLFf/RLRLFf for this, performed as straight thirty-second-notes with the hands split between the snare and the high tom. (Don’t worry about playing this at 134 quarter-notes per minute. This fill sounds cool even at half the tempo he takes it at!) More of these crafty combos can be found in smaller doses at 1:18 and 3:18.
Of course, this isn’t the only weapon in his arsenal. Mancino has a way of making it sound like there is more than one person playing at the same time. He creates a sort of “section” feel by playing extended unison passages between his hands and feet. This can be heard a number of times in the song beginning with the over-the-bar-line fills at 0:44 (which happens again at 2:37) as well as in the aforementioned tom groove that occurs at 2:15 (and later at 4:14). Then listen at 1:01 where he accompanies a three-against-four polyrhythm in his hands with straight sixteenth-notes in the feet. The impact this provides to the fill is undeniable. Later, at 1:55, he uses this again to great effect, bolstering an already powerful two-bar-long sixteenth-note fill that spans the entire kit.
As standout a track as “Anodyne Sea” may be, every song on The Powerless Rise is a tightly arranged package of well-crafted parts and memorable performances, and Mancino is clearly just getting started on a long and triumphant career. All he has to do is maintain his current intensity of focus (and the handlebar moustache) and he could be well on his way to the status of bona fide Drum God.