1/  Your Inviolable Freedoms                   (Zorn,Laswell,Drake)          20.29
  2/  DPM                                        (Zorn,Laswell,Drake)          16.24
  3/  Prophethood of Chaos                       (Zorn,Laswell,Drake)          6.23

          Recorded live at Tonic NYC, Sept. 06. 2003, 10 pm by Daniel Goldaracena
          Produced by John Zorn
          Executive Producer: Kazunori Sugiyama
          Mastered by Scott Hull at Jigsaw Sound NYC
John Zorn: saxophone; Bill Laswell: bass, Hamid Drake: drums; Special Guest - Mike Patton: voice.

          2005 - Tzadik (USA), TZ 5012 (CD)


What a difference a drummer makes! Painkiller in its original incarnation a trio of John Zorn on sax, Bill Laswell on bass, and ex-Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris made some of the most annoying music imaginable: just about everything I don't like about John Zorn neatly packaged into one hellaciously shrill band. Apparently, Harris' death-metal drumming was a big reason I didn't care for the Painkiller material I'd heard, because here on this recording, he's replaced with jazz drummer Hamid Drake, and whaddaya know this recording blows my mind.

Drake's drumming swings in a way that Mick Harris never could (and would never have wanted to). The result is that this version of Painkiller, though it pulls no punches, is less claustrophic and much spacier than the original. Drake gets only partial credit for this, because, very importantly, Laswell picks up on his grooves in a big way, and his greasy bass work provides consistent highlight-reel material here: at times dead-serious and propulsive, at others funky and playful. Atop this enormously entertaining rhythm section, Zorn's squalling, squealing sax lines manage to be intense and aggressive without being gratingly obnoxious; in fact, his solos are actually surprising melodic. A wild-card element is Mike Patton: his unpredictable screaming, like Zorn's sax work, is somehow abrasive and loud without being irritating. Well, he is too far up in the mix, but that's probably not his fault.

Describing the parts of this band, of course, gives no indication of the power of the whole but suffice it to say that even Naked City doesn't make me want to spontaneously headbang the way parts of this recording do. Zorn's 50th birthday series has had some real highlights, but none of them rock quite as hard as this one does. Even if you hated the original incarnation of Painkiller, as I did, you might want to give this version a shot.

Brandon (courtesy of the Ground & Sky website)


John Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration series has yet to disappoint-- the remarkably consistent his quality of the material has been stunning, and certainly this the 12th entry in the series, is no exception.

Billed as Painkiller, the band features 2/3 of the original Painkiller lineup in John Zorn and Bill Laswell, but replacing Napalm Death drummer is Hamid Drake. This changes the sound of the music eventually-- Drake, with a pedigree in free jazz, reggae, and African percussion, brings a far different sound to the band. Rather than rhythmically moving in the death metal/grindcore directions, Drake instead lays down funky grooves, marchish cadences, and tribal rhythms. Laswell, for his part, seems far more at home with this, sinking way into the groove alongside the drummer. But certainly as big an influence on the sound of hte disc as Drake is vocalist Mike Patton. Eschewing anything typically resembling singing and running his vocal through a processor, Patton screams, clicks, pants, chants, mumbles and burbles, as often serving as part of the rhythm section as a "soloist". Zorn, for his part, seems inspired by the whole preceedings-- alternating between frantic wailing and extended saxophone techique and funky lines pairing alongside the rhythm section.

Patton fans should note there is no doubt this is a John Zorn record-- Patton contributes frantic vocals to the piece more in line with his solo records or Fantomas.

Bottom line-- its another superb release in the birthday series. If you picked up the Hemophiliac disc, it's quite similar in terms of the sort of sounds coming from Zorn and Patton, with Laswell and Drake's considerable presence adding a deep rhythmic groove to the piece. Highly recommended.

Michael Stack (courtesy of the Amazon website)