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Lists of Domination

GD's Top 10 Best Metal Drummers

16/04/10  ||  Global Domination

Introduction by InquisitorGeneralis: Who’s the best metal drummer ever? It has to be either Animal the Muppet or the nuclear mutant zombie corpse of Buddy Rich! Fooled you fuckos, read on if you want to know the truth about who is the top dog. Here’s more truth for you: behind every good man there is a woman… playing with his balls. And behind every good metal band there is a drummer slaving away feverishly behind the kit. I know for me personally it was drumming that got me into metal, and when I go see a band live I try to get a good view of the blasting snare or flying feet of the skinsman.

Here are our ten favorite insane, high-powered hummingbirds who bring the ultimate pain to the drums. Some of them are legendary ground-breakers who changed the drumming game. Others are spastic, multi-tempo maniacs who are often mistaken for haywire drum-machines. One thing is for sure: they all fucken dominate and each one’s respective band (or in Hoglan’s case – thousands of bands) would not be the same without them.

Ok, trolls and trollettes; be ready for a list that will definitely inspire pages upon pages of heated forum debate. There was no set criteria related to speed or style for this list; just the level of individual domination. For each one of the following ten stick-wielding madmen, that level was extremely fucken high.

10. Adam Jarvis - Misery Index 10. Adam Jarvis – Misery Index

Jarvis is an insane death/grind drumming machine who has powering Misery Index since the departure of Kevin Talley. Jarvis has surpassed his predecessor in every conceivable way. Don’t believe me? Check this out. Jarvis may not be as well-known as most of the other drummers on this list but in terms of speed, precision, skill, and overall intensity he’s up there with any of the crazy fuckers that follow. His work on ‘Traitors’ and “‘Discordia’” is insane: he blasts and grinds on ‘Meet reality’ and “Partisans of grief” with serious intensity.

However, Jarvis is not a one-trick pony. On slower (which for Misery Index is still pretty fucking fast) tracks like ‘Occupation’ and ‘Unmarked graves’ he lets the kicks fly and tosses in a bit of groove too. I managed to hear a few tracks from Misery Index’s upcoming “Heirs to Thievery”, and I promise you – more fanfuckentastic skinsmanship from Jarvis is on the way.


9. Martin Lopez - Opeth 9. Martin Lopez – Opeth

Despite the mind-boggling exclusions of Igor Cavalera and Vitek from our list, at least ol’ Marty still made it; while he initially drummed for Amon Amarth on “Once sent from the golden hall”, and his work on that album is pretty decent, Lopez really earned his spot on the list for his work with Opeth from “My arms, your hearse” to “Ghost reveries”. And, though a good amount of his drumming on “hearse” was relentlessly intense, precise blastbeating, Lopez didn’t stick with that style for the subsequent Opeth records, but instead, tailored his style to fit the evolution of the band’s sound from album to album.

He reigned back the intensity for the easier-going, more melodic “Still life” & “Blackwater park”, but still put in very skilled, expressive performances there, and for my favorite Opeth album, “Deliverance”, where the band’s heavy and soft sides were in their greatest balance, Martin put in his finest drum performance to date, virtuosically combining the “My arms, your hearse”-era intensity with uniquely jazz-style drumming. Seriously, just go listen to the title track and admire how well Lopez pulls off both the blastbeating and the light, subtle jazzy stuff, as well as how precisely he matches his drumming to the riffing during the song outro, from the 9:58 mark onward; it’s a thing of fucken beauty.

As for “Damnation”, Lopez also did a pretty good job there, continuing with the jazzy drumming (though I do lament the complete lack of blastbeats from the record, but that’s what you get when you do a completely girly acoustic album). After his sixth fucken album with ‘peth, “Ghost reveries”, Lopez finally left because of health reasons, and, while Martin Axenrot is doing quite a good job as his replacement (though not as good a one), and Lopez is now drumming for a band no one really knows (or cares) about, I’ll always miss and cherish my LOpezth.


8. Brann Dailor - Mastodon 8. Brann Dailor – Mastodon

For some reason, I have no idea what the names of Mastodon’s band members are. At least with the drummer this has been rectified now. Brann Dailor he is. And he deserves that you know his name, as he’s pushing forwards one of the most interesting bands of today’s metal scene with unusual, at first glance seemingly hectic patterns, neverending snare roll insertions, odd, jumpy rhythms and a tightness that makes the whole thing work time and time again – luckily, as Mastodon’s outputs are nothing that you listen to once and fully grasp. Layer over layer the instruments are piled on top of each other, and the drum tracks alone would sound more interesting than 90 % of actual songs released these days.

Notably enough, though, Dailor’s playing, though in a constant flow itself, never gets too much by drawing the listener’s attention away from the big picture. Which is a sign of firstly, skill and secondly, a greatly appreciated sense of proportion in the days of gravity blasting, drum school DVD-releasing, fraction number-juggling human drum computer wannabes. This dude is not one that gets lost in technical hummingbirdery, gently caressing his tom skins from time to time, but an energetic, hard-hitting drummer that packs a lot of punch underneath the creative, versatile finish – part of the reason while Mastodon, while certainly “whimping out” in terms of heaviness lately, are still a metal band through and through. And now go out and getcha groove on.


7. Inferno - Behemoth 7. Inferno – Behemoth

Inferno is not a bandwhore – my brain told me otherwise but since I don’t entirely trust it I found it wise to check with The Metal Archives before claiming anything at all. Turns out the dude isn’t even slightly slutty, two bands “all” he has to show for, Behemoth and Azarath exactly. The former is renowned on par with the Poop, a great ensemble it is, but those severely into blasted death with an edge of black might end up thinking more highly of Azarath. In short, the last mentioned orchestra is a fine one also.

And part of what make both bands great is the enthusiastic and energetic drumming as performed by a human whirlwind known to us as Inferno. His parents most likely greet him as Zbigniew Robert Prominski, a fucking difficult forename there, but whatever you chose to call him this guy bash and kick with the best of them. Steady as a steady clock whatever the tempo, his footwork every bit as impressive as his handwork, and we have one impressive drummer summed up pretty well already.

Inferno sounds as if he was born to be a drummer, not just some guy who bought a drum-set. Think Lars Ülrich.


6. Sean Reinert - Cynic, ex-Death 6. Sean Reinert – Cynic, ex-Death

This guy may just be the drummer of all technical drummers. He plays with already one of the most technically out there metal bands (Cynic, that is), and Cynic’s “let’s meld odd jazz-fusion with death metal approach” on Focus gained them quite a cult following – which they then didn’t build upon until a few years ago when they released their second album “Traced in Air”. Reinert was one of the most solid composers and players for both those records – his metronome beats and “what the hell is he doing in that time signature” style fills are just – whoa. Cynic shows that this man knows his fucken drumkit inside out and can play it like a real man.

But the best thing he played on is a Death album, namely their pinnacle “Human”. I can safely say that if it wasn’t for Mr Reinert, that album wouldn’t be half of what it is. Of course, Chucky S. was and Paul Masvidal is a superb guitarist (and Masvidal is integral to Cynic too) but the drumming on there just screams GROOVE. Monstrous, monstrous, monstrous, the way he bashes that kit while Chucky gets the freedom to pound out heavy riffs. And on instrumental “Cosmic Sea” – I bow. I bow to the man that knows what a fucken drumkit is inside out.

I saw Cynic live a few years ago in Amsterdam and my friend next to me, when the band started playing, he just exclaimed “I think my jaw just dropped”. He was floored from beginning to end by Reinert, whose playing live is equally good as it is in the studio. This man just knows power, groove, and technicality inside out. I daresay some of the Florida death metal classics wouldn’t be what they are without him keeping it all together. Withour Reinert, “Focus” would be a mess. “Human” would not groove nearly as much as it does now. And we wouldn’t be able to drop our jaws and pick them back up when the record ends.


5. Trym Torson - Emperor, Zyklon 5. Trym Torson – Emperor, Zyklon

Before doing this special on Trym Torson the most I had heard of him was in an Enslaved interview. Apparently he wanted to wear a cape so he joined Emperor. Now, I’m not the biggest black metal fan. I can appreciate aspects of Immortal and Ulver, because they lack that retarded “trve kvlt” attitude, but Emperor and Enslaved have always been outside of my circle.

On the early Enslaved material Trym generally plays the typical kick-snare pattern and switches it up a little. Trym does some cool rolls as well and can keep up with the music. It’s when he moved to Emperor when he started really working with cymbals and just accentuates so much stuff. It’s almost mindblowingly fast and atmospheric, I think that’s the only time drums have been used atmospherically in metal. That’s what it is about Trym, he knows how to fit in just behind the music.


4. Doc - Vader 4. Doc – Vader

No list of “best drummers” is complete without Docent. Simply put, his style was mostly based on the standard blast and the standard thrash beat with some double kick parts and other basics thrown in, but the way it’s all put together and performed is awe-inspiring. Forget about 300 bpm blasts, dual ride wankery and general flamboyance, as Docent was all business.

While a lot of extreme metal drummers nowadays are the equivalent of a highly strung F1 car, he was a goddamn tank . His playing was not extremely challenging from a technical point of view, but nobody can make those parts sound as good as he did. Small details in the thrash beat here and there, an endless supply of brilliant fills, and an amazing ability to make everything sound intense and effortless at the same time. Where death metal drumming of today often seems to have become more of a contest to see who can get the most hits in at the shortest time, his relatively simple style always complemented the songs first and foremost.

One can only wonder what would have happened if he had still been around, as his main band Vader has become a sterile and synthetic shadow of its former self without him. Doc knew good drum sound, and the identity of Vader was largely due to his brilliant and characteristic drumming and sound. Not only was Doc a fabulous drummer, but it is my understanding that he was also a really nice and friendly bloke, and it is nothing less than a tragedy that he is no longer with us.

-Floodhorse (forumer and drumnerd de luxe)

3. Tomas Haake - Meshuggah 3. Tomas Haake – Meshuggah

Imagine a machine. A fine-tuned industrial device of the utmost precision, ruthless and strict in its actions. Even though the complexity of the sounds emanating from it may induce an illusion of randomness, absolutely nothing is uncalculated, half-finished or sloppy. This mechanical assault is nothing but pure chaos, meticulously kept in frames. An aural death machine, a giant M2 weaving earth-shattering patterns in the fabric of time. Worlds crumble. Black holes are born. Michael Jackson is brought back to life. In short, the sound of the end of the world. Now imagine that this hellish barrage of mathematical precision grooves.

Tomas Haake, of Meshuggah fame, is this fucken machine. That grooves. He can deliver it all, and then some. Without Haake’s stability and chops the intricate polymetrics of Meshuggah would be either an incomprehensible mess or as stale as the six-months-old loaf of bread you found in your pantry last week. Or both. Meshuggah’s signature sound is that they somehow sound all easy, square and right, while something is still kind of off time or just “almost right”, making it all sound complex, interesting and purely fucken awesome. Most often this sound is created by the guitar and bass riffs being played in some odd time signature (like 5/8, 9/8 or 11/16) with Haake following these crazy patterns with his kicks (and snare, at times) while at the same time holding a steady 4/4 beat with the hi-hat or crash. This is fucken not easy to play. Now try to make it groove.

For you YouTube lovers and yearners for examples, check out this amazing song. Or this one. Or this live clip. Or just about anything you can find of Haake or Meshuggah. It’s all filled with nasty goodness for you fine drumming connoisseurs out there. Enjoy, and try not to get your mind blown.


2. Gene Hoglan - Every band 2. Gene Hoglan – Every band

Gene Hoglan. Gene the Machine. The Atomic Clock. Now, the dude from Meshuggah might be marginally better when it comes to sheer technical ability (marginally), and Lombardo might be able to put shit out slightly faster (slightly), but for me, there can really be only one drummer who can completely convey the sheer awesomeness that is metal, and that’s the man who is a heavyweight in more than one sense of the word.

Everybody loves Gene. I’ve never met anyone who knew Gene’s work and said “yeah, you know, I just don’t like his drumming”. And with good reason, because when you play in bands ranging from pure progressive metal (Devin Townsend) to progressive death (Death) to pure thrash (Dark Angel) and a bunch of acts in between, there ought to be something you like. But while Gene can shine in any of these styles, his true power is to meld technicality with the sheer awesome adrenaline-rushing feeling the really great metal always has. Many of his tracks in Strapping Young Lad are good examples of this.

It’s actually hard to write down the feeling Hoglan’s drumming can give me. The extensive kick triplets alone can induce a raging boner (just pop Strapping Young Lad’s “We Ride” from the “Alien” album in) but he’s versatile as well, never sticking to the obvious. And yet, whether it’s drums or cymbals or anything he chooses to use for percussion (‘the obvious’ would also include things you can buy at a drums store), he is always spot on, precise like an atomic clock and tight like the cunt of a 12 year old nun. I think the reason I cannot describe this feeling is because thousands of poets and writers have tried to capture it in words for centuries, and never succeeded. “Love?”:

So to conclude, yes, I can imagine some people placing Lombardo a step above Gene. But I don’t agree. Gene is the man, has always been the man, and will always be the man, until one day he will hit a tom so hard it splits in two, slams into the ground, springs open, bounces upward and decapitates him. Hopefully, that day will never come, because the longer I can lie on my bed, listen to Gene pummeling the skins, weep a sigh and write another poem about it, the better. Gene is the fucking king.


1. Dave Lombardo - Slayer 1. Dave Lombardo – Slayer

I used to play drums, you know. For 10 fucken years or so. I was actually quite decent as well, as with everything else I dedicate myself to. I was no Dave Lombardo though. Few drummers are. Actually, only Dave Lombardo is Dave Lombardo. I know, I know – that’s some weird shit right there.

I worshiped Slayer when I was a kid, back when they actually knew how to write fantastic music (from “Reign in blood” to “Seasons in the abyss”. “Hell awaits” is not fantastic though it has a few gems and “Show no mercy” ends up being the lesser of those 2 first albums – and a quite sucky one when you think about it). I kind of worshiped Dave as well though he was actually never an actual influence to my playing. I preferred Uli Kusch and used to rehearse to Holy Moses’ “New machine of Liechtenstein” all by myself. But Dave was always an idol drumming-wise, simply becoz he used to play shit no one else could play and with a complete unique approach towards fills compared to every other skinbasher of that era. He is one of those very few drummers I would say actually plays his own “songs” within the actual material. You are likely to remember his fills as much as you remember the riffs, and that’s definitely an achievement.

I would say his finest hour is displayed on “South of heaven”. The shit he pulls off in the title track’s intro, f.e, is nothing spectacular, but it’s innovative and it reeks of dedication, passion and determination. Dave plays like he means every fucken hit; be it on the kicks, the snare, his penis or the toms – it all sounds so planned, like there’s a deeper purpose to his drumming than just going along with the tune. That’s what sets him apart from the rest of the world’s drummers. Not that I give a shit about the stuff he plays nowadays, ofcourse it’s fine, but back in the golden days he was unbeatable on all accounts.

Ol’ Dave is the winner of this Top 10 list and while there are plenty of drummers out there who are generally better, more technical, faster and play with greater precision; Dave Lombardo deserves the top spot for groove and incredible feeling alone. Few drummers have made their mark in the metal scene like Mr. Lombardo. He is a legend and an icon to metal drumming. There are a lot of drummers missing from this list (and the bitching about it can be found at the forums) and a few may not deserve their spot here, in my opinion, but what counts is the fact that Dave Lom-fucken-bardo walks away with the win.

Your drumming is immortal. I salute you, good sir.

-Lord K. Philipson