This past March 9, the seasoned progressive-metal outfit Between the Buried and Me released Automata, Part 1, the first of a two-part concept album that will collectively mark the eighth full-length for the band. Throughout the effort, BTBAM deftly tackles odd time signatures, juxtaposes brutal parts with serene melodic interludes, and pushes technical boundaries.
As he’s done since joining the group in 2005, drummer Blake Richardson matches BTBAM’s intense technical demands with a mix of agile independence, blazing chops, and odd-time dexterity. But it’s the drummer’s creative gusto that shines throughout, as he complements brutal riffs with inventive patterns not typically heard in the genre. Let’s check out a few of the album’s drumming highlights.
“Condemned to the Gallows”
On the album’s opener, at 3:08, Richardson sets up the bridge with this fill in 12/8. Notice how the left-hand lead facilitates the melody voiced around the toms. (130 bpm)
Next Richardson breaks into this linear-inspired pattern in which he orchestrates sextuplets between the floor tom and bass drum. The right hand plays 8th-note triplets, and starting with the left foot, the drummer fills out the sextuplets with alternating double bass strokes in between the right hand’s pattern. The left hand plays quarter notes on the snare and open hi-hat with occasional offbeat triplet strokes interspersed.
Richardson also peppers in this tom fill throughout the bridge. Starting on beat 2 of the first measure in the following example, he splits his hands and feet on the toms and bass drum in this repeated order: left hand, left foot, right hand, right foot.
While taking a look at the section as a whole, notice how the open hi-hat notes accentuate the vocals and guitar riff throughout the repeated six-measure structure.
At 1:53, after a blazing tom fill, Richardson plays this driving quarter-note pattern while accenting the guitar riff with the crash cymbal in the second measure. In the third bar of 17/16, a snare accent on what would be beat 3 of a 4/4 measure sets off the last eight unison hits between the kick, snare, and hi-hat. (95 bpm)
Next Richardson plays two beats of time before diving into a fiery fill between the crash, snare, and bass drum on beat 3. If you take a close look at the accents starting on beat 4 in the first measure, notice that they outline a three-beat 16th-note pattern. Richardson continues this phrasing throughout the rest of the figure.
Richardson closes out this section with some tricky cymbal-stack interplay before launching into another fill in 17/16. Again, try to isolate the accented snare on what would be beat 3 in a measure of 4/4, and think of the last grouping of 32nd notes as an independent two-beat phrase.
At 4:21 on the album’s closer, Richardson orchestrates the 9/8 guitar riff with this unique hi-hat groove. Check out how he incorporates quick 16th-note triplets, hi-hat openings, and splash and China orchestrations to accent the phrase. Richardson also turns around the end of each pattern with a quick fill between a rack tom and snare in the second and fourth measures. (150 bpm)
Blake Richardson plays Tama drums and Sabian cymbals, and he uses Vic Firth sticks and Remo drumheads.