3. Mike Mangini
I am one of the most vocal Mangini fanboys in this forum. He's not a perfect drummer. If you want something jazzy or with some swing, he's not the man. If you want an emotive ballad, he might "metal" it up. What Mangini does to me, though, is to open my mind to a world of possibilities.
I first heard him in Extreme's Waiting for the Punchline album. I was playing along to the groove of Hip Today. Very catchy, this drummer is not a bad replacement for Paul Geary.
Then the guitar solo came.
WTF was that I heard? The cymbals were following Nuno's off beat lead, but the bass and snare is still doing the 7/4 basic beat...what? How is that...? What just happened?
Then I next heard him in Steve Vai's Fire Garden album. I thought maybe I would hear more limb independence like in Extreme. By the end of the Fire Garden Suite, I was silent. It was the first time I heard drums matching melodic runs up and down the scale. And it involves even rim clicks. Even rim clicks are used melodically, how is that...?
That is the running story of my fanboyism of Mangini. He's the drummer who always challenged my notion of what can be done on the drums and how to apply them musically. When he was setting those World's Fastest Drummer records, I thought, this guy is just showing off. Then I heard his work on Annihilator and I went, shit, so you can use those chops in a song.
He also showed me how the bass drum can be so musical, that he almost always put the groove in the bass, especially in his work with LaBrie and in Tribe of Judah.
Don't get me started on the song Egg Zooming which is a world of possibilities on its own.
I am so happy he's now in Dream Theater. Not only does he now get the spotlight and recognition he deserves, but he now has a regular vehicle to test his ever-expanding ideas on what the drums can do.
My Mike Mangini 1-CD Length playlist:
On the Backs of Angels - it's not the best of Dream theater songs, but I always cherish this song not just as Mangini's debut with the band but also the first time I heard a single song that has a flavor of all the different Mangini-isms. He's following Jordan's keys with the cymbals while playing the rhythm on the bass and snare with JM and JP like what he did in Extreme's Hip Today. He's going up and down the scale in melodic runs like what he does with Vai. He's doing fast single strokes on the ride like what he did in Annihilator. He's playing with great control on the bass like his work with JLB. It's a song that became a demo for what Mangini has been doing all these years and it's amazing.Alone (James LaBrie)
- One of Mangini's catchiest grooves. The bass drum work here is topnotch.Chasing the High (Annihilator)
- My legs get tired just by listening to this song. I don't think Mangini can still do this after he had his knee injury, but I would love him to do brief spurts of otherworldly foot speed in future Dream Theater songs.No One (Tribe of Judah)
- This sounds like a simple danceable groove until you start playing it and find that all four limbs are moving with great coordination. It's like the Paradox of the Black Light section in Illumination Theory. Deceptively simple but actually difficult to play.Bangkok + Fire Garden Suite (Steve Vai)
- if you want to understand Mangini's philosophy on how to orchestrate in the drums, this is the best song to begin with. I don't know if it's really Mangini's style or if it is something he learned working with Steve Vai, but what's important is that he now gets to showcase this approach to melodic drum playing in Dream Theater.
Surrender to Reason - Mangini introduced another technique here, playing what should have been ghost notes on the snare with his left and right hi-hat and rides, which gives this unique stereo cymbal sound most prominently heard in the chorus. This guy just doesn't run out of ideas. This is also the song where I heard the drums most locked in with what John Myung is doing. They make a great rhythm section.Iberian Jewel (Steve Vai)
- This song has some of the best drum fills by Mangini.Weapon X (Annihilator)
- If Chasing the High has crazy fast footwork, this is the counterpart when it comes to hand speed. And Mangini still keeps it freaking musical.
Egg Zooming (Mike Keneally and Beer for Dolphins) - CRAZY.
Illumination Theory - perfect. The best drumming in a single Dream Theater song.