13 Of The Very Best Metal Drummers

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  • 13 Of The Very Best Metal Drummers
    POSTED 20 Jul 2020

    Gene Hoglan + Danny Carey

    Photos - Gary Wolstenholme + Toby Canham / Getty Images

    You already know that drummers are a crucial aspect to metal music; they're the backbone of the entire operation, the heartbeat and the timekeepers.

    While there are a whole ton of different styles and genres of drumming, heavy music requires a certain dexterity, precision and stamina behind the kit not found anywhere else.

    And like anything else, there are some people out there who dedicate themselves to their craft, not only impressing us behind the kit, but elevating their band to new levels as a result.

    In no particular order, here's our list of 13 of the very best drummers to ever sit upon the throne in metal. We've tried to include a range of different subgenres, so be sure to watch each clip for amazing skills across the board!

     

    Aric Improta (Fever 333, Night Verses)

    Alec Improta

    Photo - Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

    If your only exposure to Aric Improta's drumming abilities have been through Fever 333, we'd forgive you for wondering how this guy made the list of best metal drummers ever. After all, it's not as if Fever 333 calls for anything overly technical, but there is a reason Aric was picked to hold things together in this band.

    Take a listen to some of the stuff from his other band Night Verses and you'll find Aric's skill and creativity levels are absolutely mind-blowing. On top of that, he's one of the most energetic live performers today - here's one of him running around on stage and doing backflips mid-song. 

    It's rumoured that Aric practices for 6 hours a day when able to, and you can tell when you watch his insane playthrough of the Night Verses track 'Copper Wasp' below. If you still aren't sold after that, go and watch his one-take, 40-minute drum performance where he uses everything from sample pads, effects pedals and more to create a drumming work of art - you will never be the same afterward.
     

    Matt Garstka (Animals As Leaders)

    Matt Garstka

    Photo - Daniel Knighton / Getty Images

    Matt Garstka has been living and breathing drums for most of his life; picking up the sticks at the age of 8, he's been playing in bands since he was 12 and took lessons with other professional drummers on the way up. He also attended the ultra-prestigious Berklee College of Music, before joining Animals As Leaders in 2012.

    Easily one of the most technically proficient drummers in metal today, Matt serves as the human metronome behind Animals As Leaders' winding, progressive songs, with an expert sense of when to lock in with guitars and bass and when to break away with flourishes of his own. 

    So much effortless groove, so many textures and some of the cleanest playing you will ever hear!
     

     

    Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok, Dark Angel etc)

    Gene Hoglan

    Photo - Gary Wolstenholme / Getty Images

    Gene is widely regarded as one of the best metal drummers of all time. The speed and power of the big man is the stuff of legend, with the ability to play accurately at extremely high tempos and pulverise with machine gun double kick drums.

    He's rightfully earned himself the nicknames 'The Atomic Clock' and 'Human Drum Machine' through his unmatched resume which includes Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok, Dark Angel, Death, Testament and Fear Factory. Basically, if you see Gene Hoglan's name attached to a metal record, you know it's going to blow your head off.

    Plus, as if he wasn't cool enough already, the dude plays in fucking combat boots. Hell yes!
     

     

    Mario Duplantier (Gojira)

    Mario Duplantier

    Photo - Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

    Equal parts technicality, groove and rhythm, Mario Duplantier is an irreplaceable component of Gojira's core sound. 

    It's not just the drum parts that impress, it's how Mario plays them. Almost as if the sticks he's holding are actually giant paintbrushes which he uses to paint the kit around him. Some of the drums found on the band's latest album Magma are downright nasty (listen to the song 'Pray'), serving as the perfect backbone for his brother Joe Duplantier's rhythm guitar and vocals.

    Most importantly, he's able to pull off the exact same level of mastery and detail in a live setting, where a drummer's biggest test lies. Watch the drum cam footage below to see for yourself:
     

     

    Nils "Dominator" Fjellström (Dark Funeral)

    Dominator

    Photo - Gary Wolstenholme / Getty Images

    The black metal genre is renowned for its heavy use of blast beats and double kick drums, and the endgame of that style lies right here with Nils Fjellström.

    While he's played in many black/death metal bands before, his work in Dark Funeral under the moniker Dominator is some of the most ridiculous stuff we've ever heard.

    How is it possible to play that fast without tiring out, and with superhuman precision? How is it possible to play that fast at all? Years and years of practice, we'd wager.

    Watch the live video below, which is an absolute spectacle:
     

    Nic Pettersen (Northlane)

    Nic Pettersen During Drum Playthrough

    There is no denying that the drumming behind Northlane is a key factor in what puts them at the top of their genre's heap.

    Nic spent his early days building up a name in Sydney's metalcore scene with the band Maze before ultimately joining Northlane soon after, and it's been pretty clear from even their earliest material that this guy is something special behind the kit.

    Just like many others on the list, Pettersen plays with a feel that is unique only to him, which results in some super creative and intricate parts that never feel too overbearing or distracting.

    Nic just has this way of creeping over his kit while he plays, which looks great too. Here's a great playthrough of 'Genesis/Scarab' from their 2013 record Singularity, and he's only gotten better since:
     

    Tomas Haake (Meshuggah)

    Tomas Haake

    Photo - Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

    Stop panicking, we included Tomas Haake! It would be a crime not to - the man (alien?) doesn't appear to be of this planet, consistently demonstrating that although Meshuggah are regarded as the forefathers of djent as we know it, they're still by far and away the best at what they do.

    A lot of drummers have Haake to thank for both his groove influence and a skill level to aspire to; the song 'Bleed' in particular is infamously hard to play thanks to complex kick patterns and odd time signatures, but really it's just the tip of the iceberg. 

    Even if you think you're starting to think you're getting it down, it's a whole different kettle of fish to play it as tight as Haake can.

    If you've yet to acquaint yourself with Haake's mind-bending sorcery, you need to dive into Meshuggah's catalogue ASAP - almost anything will do!
     

    Matt Greiner (August Burns Red)

    Matt Greiner and Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red

    Photo - Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images

    While other kids were off at school, Matt Greiner was using his home-schooled childhood as a means to spend more time practicing the drums, and the results are evident.

    As a founding member of the successful metalcore band August Burns RedGreiner has become a well-recognised and highly-influential figure within the genre, whose name is often thrown around when talking about best metal drummers.

    And we're inclined to agree; his crisp playing and obvious natural talent are a total joy to listen to, helping make August Burns Red the tight band that they are.
     

    Spencer Prewett (Archspire)

    Spencer Prewett

    With super quick technical death metal comes super quick technical drumming. It's been interesting to watch the genre's boundaries get pushed further and further in recent years, and Archspire have played a pretty big role in doing so, so it's no surprise that their drummer is truly something else.

    It was honestly a very difficult choice between him and Aaron Kitcher of Infant Annihilator, as both are godlike at their instrument, but Spencer's tight and controlled bursts of chaos edged it out for us.

    Have a listen to 'Involuntary Doppelganger' below and feel normal time around you slow down. We know you have to practice relentlessly to get this good, but come on. It's just not fair!
     

     

    Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)

    Mike Portnoy

    Photo - Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

    Though Mike Portnoy has played with a large amount of bands, it's his 25-year stint with Dream Theater that earned him an endless amount of accolades and respect from peers, critics and fans alike.

    Being able to constantly change between different time signatures at the drop of a hat is one of the hardest things to do as a drummer, but Portnoy does it as smooth as butter, all the while retaining impressive chops throughout.

    Some of his best work (in our opinion) is on their 2002 record Six Degrees of Inner Turbulencewhich adds so much flair and flavour to the mix.

    Mike Mangini now does an excellent job as the band's current drummer, but Mike Portnoy has carved out one hell of a legacy for himself.
     

     

    Danny Carey (Tool)

    Danny Carey

    Photo - Toby Canham / Getty Images

    Sticking with the prog theme, Danny Carey can't be ignored when it comes to a discussion about all-time greats.

    An extremely diverse and technical style borne from years of studying jazz music, Carey is able to serve as an odd-metered, pulsing heartbeat throughout Tool's complex song structures and shifting rhythms.

    And of course, let's not forget about the track 'Lateralus'. Yeah, that one written in the Fibonacci sequence.

    Check out the live video of him performing 'Pneuma' off their latest album Fear Inoculum below, where at one point he's playing four different rhythms at the same time! 
     

    Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies)

    Dave Lombardo

    Photo - David Wolff-Patrick / Getty Images

    It might be a big call to make, but we think Dave Lombardo IS thrash metal drumming. It's his power, speed and ferocity that made Slayer sound so palpable on albums like Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven, with relentless double kicks, galloping punk beats and savage drum fills.

    While Lombardo's involvement with Slayer ended during 2013 after a couple of on-off periods which saw Paul Bostaph take his place, he continues to hone his craft with Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Cross today.

    We have to give a big shout out to Anthrax's drummer Charlie Benante as well, but Lombardo is the best of the big four in our eyes.
     

    Alex Bent (Trivium)

    Alex Bent

    Photo - Ollie Millington / Getty Images

    Trivium had been through four different drummers until they stumbled across Alex Bent in early 2017, but boy did they hit a goldmine!

    If you needed proof that a drummer can make all the difference, you got it right here. Only 27 years of age, Alex has already demonstrated skills well beyond his years and has taken Trivium's sound to places we didn't think were possible.

    Not to say that older Trivium songs were bad, and we have to give props to previous members Travis Smith and Nick Augusto, but Alex's ability to move around the kit and make full use of everything in front of him is astonishing.

    Here's hoping he's a mainstay!
     

    Honourable Mentions

    Joey Jordison (Slipknot)

    Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah)

    Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)

    Brann Dailor (Mastodon)

    Who did we miss? Who are your favourite drummers out there? Let us know!

     

     

     

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Submitted by Site Factory admin on Mon, 07/20/2020 - 02:48

Gene Hoglan + Danny Carey

Photos - Gary Wolstenholme + Toby Canham / Getty Images

You already know that drummers are a crucial aspect to metal music; they're the backbone of the entire operation, the heartbeat and the timekeepers.

While there are a whole ton of different styles and genres of drumming, heavy music requires a certain dexterity, precision and stamina behind the kit not found anywhere else.

And like anything else, there are some people out there who dedicate themselves to their craft, not only impressing us behind the kit, but elevating their band to new levels as a result.

In no particular order, here's our list of 13 of the very best drummers to ever sit upon the throne in metal. We've tried to include a range of different subgenres, so be sure to watch each clip for amazing skills across the board!

 

Aric Improta (Fever 333, Night Verses)

Alec Improta

Photo - Scott Dudelson / Getty Images

If your only exposure to Aric Improta's drumming abilities have been through Fever 333, we'd forgive you for wondering how this guy made the list of best metal drummers ever. After all, it's not as if Fever 333 calls for anything overly technical, but there is a reason Aric was picked to hold things together in this band.

Take a listen to some of the stuff from his other band Night Verses and you'll find Aric's skill and creativity levels are absolutely mind-blowing. On top of that, he's one of the most energetic live performers today - here's one of him running around on stage and doing backflips mid-song. 

It's rumoured that Aric practices for 6 hours a day when able to, and you can tell when you watch his insane playthrough of the Night Verses track 'Copper Wasp' below. If you still aren't sold after that, go and watch his one-take, 40-minute drum performance where he uses everything from sample pads, effects pedals and more to create a drumming work of art - you will never be the same afterward.
 

Matt Garstka (Animals As Leaders)

Matt Garstka

Photo - Daniel Knighton / Getty Images

Matt Garstka has been living and breathing drums for most of his life; picking up the sticks at the age of 8, he's been playing in bands since he was 12 and took lessons with other professional drummers on the way up. He also attended the ultra-prestigious Berklee College of Music, before joining Animals As Leaders in 2012.

Easily one of the most technically proficient drummers in metal today, Matt serves as the human metronome behind Animals As Leaders' winding, progressive songs, with an expert sense of when to lock in with guitars and bass and when to break away with flourishes of his own. 

So much effortless groove, so many textures and some of the cleanest playing you will ever hear!
 

 

Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok, Dark Angel etc)

Gene Hoglan

Photo - Gary Wolstenholme / Getty Images

Gene is widely regarded as one of the best metal drummers of all time. The speed and power of the big man is the stuff of legend, with the ability to play accurately at extremely high tempos and pulverise with machine gun double kick drums.

He's rightfully earned himself the nicknames 'The Atomic Clock' and 'Human Drum Machine' through his unmatched resume which includes Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok, Dark Angel, Death, Testament and Fear Factory. Basically, if you see Gene Hoglan's name attached to a metal record, you know it's going to blow your head off.

Plus, as if he wasn't cool enough already, the dude plays in fucking combat boots. Hell yes!
 

 

Mario Duplantier (Gojira)

Mario Duplantier

Photo - Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

Equal parts technicality, groove and rhythm, Mario Duplantier is an irreplaceable component of Gojira's core sound. 

It's not just the drum parts that impress, it's how Mario plays them. Almost as if the sticks he's holding are actually giant paintbrushes which he uses to paint the kit around him. Some of the drums found on the band's latest album Magma are downright nasty (listen to the song 'Pray'), serving as the perfect backbone for his brother Joe Duplantier's rhythm guitar and vocals.

Most importantly, he's able to pull off the exact same level of mastery and detail in a live setting, where a drummer's biggest test lies. Watch the drum cam footage below to see for yourself:
 

 

Nils "Dominator" Fjellström (Dark Funeral)

Dominator

Photo - Gary Wolstenholme / Getty Images

The black metal genre is renowned for its heavy use of blast beats and double kick drums, and the endgame of that style lies right here with Nils Fjellström.

While he's played in many black/death metal bands before, his work in Dark Funeral under the moniker Dominator is some of the most ridiculous stuff we've ever heard.

How is it possible to play that fast without tiring out, and with superhuman precision? How is it possible to play that fast at all? Years and years of practice, we'd wager.

Watch the live video below, which is an absolute spectacle:
 

Nic Pettersen (Northlane)

Nic Pettersen During Drum Playthrough

There is no denying that the drumming behind Northlane is a key factor in what puts them at the top of their genre's heap.

Nic spent his early days building up a name in Sydney's metalcore scene with the band Maze before ultimately joining Northlane soon after, and it's been pretty clear from even their earliest material that this guy is something special behind the kit.

Just like many others on the list, Pettersen plays with a feel that is unique only to him, which results in some super creative and intricate parts that never feel too overbearing or distracting.

Nic just has this way of creeping over his kit while he plays, which looks great too. Here's a great playthrough of 'Genesis/Scarab' from their 2013 record Singularity, and he's only gotten better since:
 

Tomas Haake (Meshuggah)

Tomas Haake

Photo - Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

Stop panicking, we included Tomas Haake! It would be a crime not to - the man (alien?) doesn't appear to be of this planet, consistently demonstrating that although Meshuggah are regarded as the forefathers of djent as we know it, they're still by far and away the best at what they do.

A lot of drummers have Haake to thank for both his groove influence and a skill level to aspire to; the song 'Bleed' in particular is infamously hard to play thanks to complex kick patterns and odd time signatures, but really it's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Even if you think you're starting to think you're getting it down, it's a whole different kettle of fish to play it as tight as Haake can.

If you've yet to acquaint yourself with Haake's mind-bending sorcery, you need to dive into Meshuggah's catalogue ASAP - almost anything will do!
 

Matt Greiner (August Burns Red)

Matt Greiner and Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red

Photo - Chelsea Lauren / Getty Images

While other kids were off at school, Matt Greiner was using his home-schooled childhood as a means to spend more time practicing the drums, and the results are evident.

As a founding member of the successful metalcore band August Burns RedGreiner has become a well-recognised and highly-influential figure within the genre, whose name is often thrown around when talking about best metal drummers.

And we're inclined to agree; his crisp playing and obvious natural talent are a total joy to listen to, helping make August Burns Red the tight band that they are.
 

Spencer Prewett (Archspire)

Spencer Prewett

With super quick technical death metal comes super quick technical drumming. It's been interesting to watch the genre's boundaries get pushed further and further in recent years, and Archspire have played a pretty big role in doing so, so it's no surprise that their drummer is truly something else.

It was honestly a very difficult choice between him and Aaron Kitcher of Infant Annihilator, as both are godlike at their instrument, but Spencer's tight and controlled bursts of chaos edged it out for us.

Have a listen to 'Involuntary Doppelganger' below and feel normal time around you slow down. We know you have to practice relentlessly to get this good, but come on. It's just not fair!
 

 

Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)

Mike Portnoy

Photo - Miikka Skaffari / Getty Images

Though Mike Portnoy has played with a large amount of bands, it's his 25-year stint with Dream Theater that earned him an endless amount of accolades and respect from peers, critics and fans alike.

Being able to constantly change between different time signatures at the drop of a hat is one of the hardest things to do as a drummer, but Portnoy does it as smooth as butter, all the while retaining impressive chops throughout.

Some of his best work (in our opinion) is on their 2002 record Six Degrees of Inner Turbulencewhich adds so much flair and flavour to the mix.

Mike Mangini now does an excellent job as the band's current drummer, but Mike Portnoy has carved out one hell of a legacy for himself.
 

 

Danny Carey (Tool)

Danny Carey

Photo - Toby Canham / Getty Images

Sticking with the prog theme, Danny Carey can't be ignored when it comes to a discussion about all-time greats.

An extremely diverse and technical style borne from years of studying jazz music, Carey is able to serve as an odd-metered, pulsing heartbeat throughout Tool's complex song structures and shifting rhythms.

And of course, let's not forget about the track 'Lateralus'. Yeah, that one written in the Fibonacci sequence.

Check out the live video of him performing 'Pneuma' off their latest album Fear Inoculum below, where at one point he's playing four different rhythms at the same time! 
 

Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies)

Dave Lombardo

Photo - David Wolff-Patrick / Getty Images

It might be a big call to make, but we think Dave Lombardo IS thrash metal drumming. It's his power, speed and ferocity that made Slayer sound so palpable on albums like Reign In Blood and South Of Heaven, with relentless double kicks, galloping punk beats and savage drum fills.

While Lombardo's involvement with Slayer ended during 2013 after a couple of on-off periods which saw Paul Bostaph take his place, he continues to hone his craft with Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Cross today.

We have to give a big shout out to Anthrax's drummer Charlie Benante as well, but Lombardo is the best of the big four in our eyes.
 

Alex Bent (Trivium)

Alex Bent

Photo - Ollie Millington / Getty Images

Trivium had been through four different drummers until they stumbled across Alex Bent in early 2017, but boy did they hit a goldmine!

If you needed proof that a drummer can make all the difference, you got it right here. Only 27 years of age, Alex has already demonstrated skills well beyond his years and has taken Trivium's sound to places we didn't think were possible.

Not to say that older Trivium songs were bad, and we have to give props to previous members Travis Smith and Nick Augusto, but Alex's ability to move around the kit and make full use of everything in front of him is astonishing.

Here's hoping he's a mainstay!
 

Honourable Mentions

Joey Jordison (Slipknot)

Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah)

Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)

Brann Dailor (Mastodon)

Who did we miss? Who are your favourite drummers out there? Let us know!

 

 

 

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