Peter Wildoer: "I Will Not Break" By James LaBrie
What's typical for Peter Wildoer is probably not typical for you. That is to say, making insanely inventive metal drumming moves on a symmetrical kit, while playing precision double bass beats at 215 BPM, and recording with Dream Theater’s noted prog metal front man James LaBrie is pretty standard stuff for him.
Just keep that in mind when this good-natured Swede analyzes what he consistently calls a “typical” performance on “I Will Not Break,” the intensely inspiring final cut on LaBrie’s second solo album, Impermanent Resonance. Recorded in the giant environs of Sweden’s Fascination Street Studios, Wildoer's intricate and powerful patterns on “I Will Not Break” make for an ideal drum part for us to dissect and analyze.
For the first :20 you won’t hear Wildoer at all, just a swirling effect on LaBrie’s vocals, which leads to a spare but fierce texture of kick, stacked cymbals, China, and hi-hat opening up the drum action from :21—:28. “It’s a big buildup in that initial 20 seconds,” says Wildoer. “You really feel something is coming. What I play to start is a typical buildup for me, and is kind of a homage to the playing of Dirk Verbeuren, the drummer for Soilwork. I like the vibe of the kick drums taking place together with China and the hi hat, with the kicks playing eighth-notes, and then sixteenths.”
From 00:29-00:51, hang on as Wildoer launches a ballistic beat that bridges the intro and the first part of the verse. Ornamented often with super-fast fills and double kick/tom combos, Wildoer’s rhythm is constantly changing things up under the vocal. “That's really at the very top possible speed for me to play, which is 215 bpm,” he says. “In metal we call this the ’skank’ beat. I have a stack combination to my left — a combination of 14" and 16" cymbals — and another 17" and 18" on my right. I use them to accentuate the blast beats, and keep them in the rhythm of the music — not just play it straight.”
[Editor’s note: Please don’t be confused by Wildoer’s reference to playing at 215 bpm and our 107 bpm tempo marking on the following transcription. We simply ’felt’ the pulse of the song at half the speed he does.]
Wildoer wields his power through a highly symmetrical kit setup, influenced by the classic Gary Chester book The New Breed. “I have a center snare,” he explains, “with floor toms to my left and right, centered toms, the ride to my right, and the bell to my left above the hi-hats, stacks to my left and right, two crashes to my left, and two to my right, and the same with the splashes.
“When I write drum fills, I think about the sound in the stereo field – I like the stacks and cymbals coming out of the left and the right, so that it's a stereo experience for the listener. Likewise, when I play both floor toms from left and right, it really fills out the space. I like the low-end sound coming at you from both directions, rather than just from the right side."
From 00:55-1:12 is the prechorus – a tough, snare-centric beat that stays on target with much less deviation and fills than in the verse. “The snare is playing on all the quarter-notes," Wildoer states. "That’s kind of a pushing beat. The hits have to be in the pocket, of course, but it’s more about moving the song forward, so it should sound pushy, but not like it’s pushing the tempos, so to speak."
At 1:13 the chorus arrives, pulsing ahead on a half-time feel, with riding on the China cymbal that makes the heart of “I Will Not Break” dig very deep. “When I played the crash in the prechorus it’s what we call ’saucy’ — not really accentuated, more like noise,” Wildoer says. “In the chorus I play it straight-on, really accentuated, and much more articulate. I play accents on the quarter-note and ghost beats on the eighth-notes. That’s what makes it very quarter-note sounding.”
One tiny ride ping at 1:31 serves as the transition into the verse, followed by a classic roll around the toms, which launches the verse/prechorus/chorus song structure anew. When the bridge arrives at the 2:24 mark, Wildoer has a secret weapon behind the syncopated feel that breaks out around the four-on-the-snare beat. “What I do there is play a Meinl Turbo Crasher with my left foot, while I play my right hand on the stack,” he says. “Once again the snare is playing on the quarter-notes, and the kick drum is playing in time with eighth-notes.”
At 2:49, listen for a big drum drop that officially finishes the bridge and kicks off the next prechorus. “That’s very typical,” says Wildoer. “There are four kick drum hits, really fast, and then I hit both floor toms — the 16" on my right and 18" to the left. This is what I was talking about previously, when you hear the low end coming from the left and right, it’s much more fat sounding than just coming from one side.”
The final chorus kicks in at 3:04, and Wildoer’s ferocious half-time groove seems to have even more space than before. At 3:26, however, he fills some of that up with a firm but even display of double kick sixteenth-notes propelling underneath. “Those sixteenths start the buildup to the end. At 3:34, the snare starts playing on ’1 2 3 4’ to build it up even more — it shows the last stuff is happening. On the James LaBrie albums, the final choruses often have this element.”
The song’s outro commences at 3:43, and Wildoer helps usher it out with an artful combo of toms, hats, and cymbals. “The song ends with the same guitar riff as it starts with, so I'm doing one hit on the China and the hi-hat — exactly like I did in the beginning,” he says. “Then I play a fill with my hi-hat, splash, and bell on the left, a splash on my front, and then in the fill on my right with the crash and tom. For being such an intense song, it’s a cool way of ending it – it’s like, 'Enough said!'"