Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Jazz for Metal 3: Stanton Moore

Photo used from press kit found on Stanton Moore's home page.

The early days of hard rock, the sixties and seventies were an interesting, chaotic primordial sludge that only hinted at where the genres would go in the future. Loudness, bombast, distortion and excess were the defining characteristics of the nascent genre. Harmonically, still grounded by the blues yet rhythmically and melodically taking flight, electrified, white boy blues, hard rock and heavy metal were just starting to take shape. Guitarists along with singers stood at the forefront, Hendrix and Jimmy Page encouraged virtuosity, mad genius.

So what about the rhythm section?

Drummers and bassists still played like they were in jazz bands, only louder. Where bassists would later break out of their traditional role thanks to imminent funk, soul and fusion revolutions (James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke), they were still boxed in by walking lines, poor amplification and hifi setups not yet capable of reproducing their representation (the excellent work of Jack Bruce notwithstanding)..

Drummers meanwhile would experience a remarkable simplification after birth. Listen to John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell and Bill Ward, in addition to playing hard they boogie, swing and play in what sounds at times like an undefined cyclone on top of, around and underneath the guitars. Time has seen a transformation in the concept of time, contemporary drummers, hemmed in by the urge to create "perfect" recordings have become far more linear, precise and deliberate. This is not inherently negative, after all even today, Fear Factory's Demanufacture still holds a powerful robotic, metronomic thrill and the crystal clear drum sounds on Behemoth's Evangelion are equally moving. Then there is Stanton Moore.

New Orleans native Stanton Moore better known for his hip hop groove and jazzy swing had a famous encounter with metal via Corrosion of Conformity's In the Arms of God. Do not be mistaken, Reed Mullin is more than a competent drummer, he has served the band well for two decades. Mullin is frequently inventive, groovy and knows how to hold the pocket. However, Moore in the same situation is a revelation on how things could be in metal if that is we want.

Moore's snare work alone is outstanding, he caresses, bashes and shakes that single drum in so many directions as to render obsolete the concept of ghost notes. Where many drummers wanting to fill would get tom happy-heavy, Moore summons up squalls of snare white noise. His hat and cymbal work is simple and unadorned yet unmistakably jazzy and where most drummers in the present tend toward double kick excess, Moore's work is an exercise in syncopated, push-pull restraint. When the guitars gallop forward Moore ducks, dips and bobs.  When he goes nuts it sounds like the drum kit is about to start falling over.

Moore is an exemplary rock, jazz, groove drummer and renowned for his ability to lay back and let others shine, yet when dropped into a hard rocking doom context he managed to recall a time, spirit and approach seldom seen today. I for one could stand to hear far mo(o)re jazzy drumming by jazz drummers in metal. Or at least more of Mr Moore in metal.
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