Few drummers dare to venture into the depths of progressive metal quite like Travis Orbin. His seemingly effortless ability to perform mind-bending compositions with flawless execution has landed him plenty of session and touring work. On Silly String II, Orbin’s debut solo long-player, the drummer continues to forge ahead. “I set out to write a full-length album with half of the tunes being instrumental and the other half containing vocal parts,” explains Orbin. “Before I knew it, I’d amassed more material than my initial goal. So I decided to do two full-lengths. The instrumental portion was more akin to Silly String, my second EP. Because of this, I sought to insert quotes from that EP into this album to tie it in as a conceptual sequel.”
Orbin says that he employs a variety of approaches for writing music. “But after that first spark that commences song composition,” he says, “generally it all rolls along in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. I also tend to obsess over small details as I go, but sometimes I’ll notate placeholder ideas before fleshing them out later. After the song is complete, I’ll usually make a custom click track that makes it easier for me to navigate any labyrinths of odd meters or subdivisions. If I have time, I’ll print out a chart and begin rehearsals. I usually start at half of the performance tempo and work my way up incrementally until I can play the piece with relative ease. After adhering to this process for several days, I’ll track the song.” Let’s check out some of the album’s highlights.
“Hand of the Giant”
The record opens with a soft guitar intro that slowly builds up to this driving 11/8 groove. Note the 8th-note triplet toward the end of every other bar. (1:04, 112 bpm)
The song eventually drops into this aggressively funky drum and bass riff, which is a stark contrast to the heavy, chaotic section preceding it. (4:02, 140 bpm)
“Overreacting Bad-Karma Boy”
“I set out to write a bluesy song, and this track came out instead,” Orbin says. “The time signatures and implied feel lead the listener to believe it’s based in triplets, but that’s not the case.” The opening groove features a four-bar cycle of 11/8, 5/4, and 6/4. (0:22, 140 bpm)
Orbin says that the B section of this track was largely improvised. At the 1:07 mark, he erupts into blazing six-stroke rolls that perfectly complement the guitar solo runs. The phrase ends with some huge triplet flams between the floor tom and snare. (1:07, 140 bpm)
This track features an interesting groove with a quick 16th-note hi-hat pattern in a cycle of 6/4 and 13/8. Orbin composed “Inextricable” toward the end of 2014 and says that it represents one of the more outlying moments on the album. “Everything on this song was written pretty linearly and in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. I was also listening to some Maudlin of the Well, so perhaps that trickled into it.” (3:24, 137 bpm)
“The Adventures of Nerd Wolf”
The D section of this track morphs into this mind-bending groove based on eleven-note tuplets. It sounds like the tempo increases and the time signature shifts to 11/8, but in reality it remains in 4/4 at the same tempo. (1:11, 112 bpm)
“The End of an Error”
The album’s closing track begins with this tricky groove featuring short bursts of double bass and an elusive backbeat placement. “I enjoy the A section’s playful rhythmic pattern,” Orbin says. “The snare placement seems like it’s on the downbeat, but it’s actually on the 8th-note upbeat.” (0:07, 110 bpm)
Orbin closes the album with a blazing run of 16th-note triplets. (4:29, 110 bpm)
Orbin plays Pearl drums, Zildjian cymbals, and Remo heads.(Pictured above)
Austin Burcham is a drummer, educator, and graduate of the Musician’s Institute. He’s the creator of the YouTube lesson series Study the Greats, which you can visit at youtube.com/abbdrums. For more info, visit abbdrums.com.