Heavy metal wouldn't be heavy metal without the guitar. However, the drums will always be the adhesive that holds all of the band's insane shredding together. Percussionists are sometimes overlooked in many genres of music, but this isn't the case when it comes to heavy metal. To be a metal drummer, one has to acquire more than the art of musicianship. Heavy metal drummers need to have precision when it comes to speed, rhythm, keeping and holding down a beat, timing, flexibility, endurance and power. It is not just force and speed alone that makes a great metal drummer. Some of the following drummers showcase their talent and creativity by playing in more than one band and expanding to play more than one sound. We now present our list of the Ten Best Metal Drummers.
See also: The 10 Douchiest Drummers of All Time
10. Emilio Marquez-Asesino, Brujeria, Posesessed, Sadistic Intent…
Emilio Marquez is the drummer for the Mexican themed brutal death metal band Asesino- an offshoot of Brujeria, led by Dino Cazares on guitar and Tony Campos on bass and vocals. Truly some of the sickest, most intense grind core drums you'll ever experience live and on record. The drums seem faster than the speed of sound, and Marquez has proved he is on fire with his fast sounding death metal drums. His uncanny stamina allows him to make pounding the drums seem effortless.
He has also served time behind the drum kit for Brujeria, as well as LA's underground extreme black metal band, Sadistic Intent, and a current incarnation of Death Metal pioneers Possessed. Aside from this, Marquez also plays drums in a horde of other local underground LA Extreme metal bands like Meat Shits, Coffin Texts, Engrave, all of whom stand within the true sounds of underground extreme metal from LA.
9. Danny Walker-Intronaut, Exhumed, Phobia, Uphill Battle…
This talented SoCal native has been in the metal scene for over a decade in a plethora of underground extreme metal bands like Phobia, Murder Construct, Exhumed and of course his main band, Intronaut. Walker also plays in, or has previously played in/recorded with Bad Acid Trip, Bastard Noise, Jesu and Uphill Battle. It was recently announced that he would also be tracking the drums for the next album by Arizona-based death metal band Job For a Cowboy. Walker was also onstage for DEATH TO ALL, the recent tours featuring reunited members of the band Death, with other guest musicians playing all Death songs live. He is definitely one of the most skilled drummers in metal, when it comes to switching tempos at light speed as can be evidenced with Intronaut's catalogue; but he is also a damn fast drummer when it comes to grind and death metal, with machine gun style blast beats fast enough to burn rubber.
Walker's signature, tribal-inspired sound also shows his extreme levels of stamina and power, most drummers in extreme metal can only hope to reach. One of the hardest working drummers in metal, he is on tour most months of the year with Intronaut, and during his time off from that band, he goes back and forth in the studio and jumping back to playing shows and touring with the various projects he's involved in. It's amazing the dude finds time to sleep.
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8.Johny Kelly-Type O Negative, Danzig, Seventh Void, A Pale Horse Named Death….
Johnny Kelly was the drummer from NY based Goth/Doom metal veterans Type O Negative, from the band's early days in 1994, to the band's demise in 2010, when Peter Steele, vocalist bassist and main song writer passed away at age 48 from apparent heart failure. Kelly's role in Type O Negative was vital to the band's sound with heavy, slow-yet-precise beats and eerie drumbeats and sound patterns. Since 2002, Kelly has also been playing and recording music with Danzig, even performing songs by Misfits and Samhain during various Danzig Legacy Tours. Kelly has also played with Seven Witches, Seventh Void, A Pale Horse Named Death, and Black Label Society. In his spare time he plays in a Led Zeppelin cover band called Earl's Court. His diversity and comfort in playing hard rock/metal music, and his always mellow, seemingly happy attitude has made him one of metal's most loved and respected drummers.
7.Joey Jordison-Slipknot, Anal Blast, Korn, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Satyricon, Otep….
Joey Jordison's extreme style of drumming took Slipknot's 'nu metal' to another level. As one of the founding members of the band of nine masked maniacs from Des Moines, Iowa, Jordison kept the music true and brutal, with his death metal inspired drum sound. Jordison, a drummer from a young age, was like mechanical Octopus, playing at often-unfathomable speed. Even through the success of Slipknot's selling of millions and touring the world, Jordsion's brutal edge behind the drum kit kept the band's sound, mystique and live shows at a constant level of chaos and rage. Along with Slipknot's founding member and bass player, the late Paul Gray, who died in 2010 from a drug overdose, the duo also played in the very dark, sick and disturbed Mid West porno death grind band Anal Blast in the early to mid '90s, before Slipknot hit it big. During Slipknot's live shows, Jordison was surrounded by pyrotechnic explosions shooting flames, and a stage show that included a panoramic, moving drum set he was strapped into; and rotated upside down in the middle of a song.
Jordison's talent as a drummer and multi-musician/producer has also led him to play, produce or record with the Murderdolls, Korn, Metallica, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Satyricon, Ministry, Otep, 3 Inches of Blood, and more. Unfortunately, for reasons still yet unknown, it was recently announced that Jordison has parted ways with Slipknot. A replacement drummer has not yet been announced, and he still performs with his band Scar The Martyr who is on tour supporting a debut album.
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6.Chris Adler-Lamb of God
As the drummer in American heavy metal band Lamb of God, Chris Adler, acts as the percussion based cohesive force that codifies the guitars, bass and vocals into a single powerful machine that is heavy and epic in its presentation. Lamb of God, also features guitarist brother Willie Adler as well as guitarist Mark Morton, vocalist Randy Blythe, and bass player John Campbell. The band, from Richmond, Virginia, helped to usher in a sound of heavy metal that picked up where Pantera left off, with the groove centric yet crushingly heavy songs, full of rage that can be accentuated by the drums. Adler's style of drumming in Lamb of God is clearly influenced by thrash metal and prog rock and influences of Dream Theater, Rush and King Crimson are heard among the extreme parts of Lamb of God's modern metal.
5.Frost-Satyricon, 1349, Gorgoroth
Frost is a drummer from the Norwegian old school of black metal. This means he is harsh and can play at inhuman speed. The sounds of the blast beats can be very intense, and Frost plays with such a high level of endurance, that truly encapsulates the evil, raw power of black metal music. He has played in Satyricon and 1349, as well as Gorgoroth, Keep of Kallesin and Zyklon B. As a veteran drummer among the first wave of the Norwegian black metal scene in the '90s, he helped to create the drums to make the notorious evil sound that black metal is known for by almost exclusively using blast beats, but also evolved to play more slow, mid temp songs with Satyricon.
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Nicholas Barker is an extreme metal drummer from the UK, and has played live and recorded with numerous metal bands such as Dimmu Borigir, Cradle of Filth, Brujeria, Lock Up, Exodus, Testament, Divine Heresy, Old Man's Child, Atrocity, Borknagar, and Ancient among countless others over the past 25 years. He has a fast, thrashy style of drumming that fits perfect with any variation of extreme metal; from grind core, to symphonic black metal. Playing loud is where his skills are best utilized, the man is a live drumming monster, akin to a human drum machine.
Along with his late brother Dimebag Darrel, Vinnie Paul founded Pantera in Texas, and first started off as a harder rock/glam metal band, before becoming the ultra-groove heavy metal band they became famous for. Paul is another drummer credited with mastering the sound of double bass and his chugging, double bass chops and ability to play both fast and slow leads has not only inspired tons of followers, but it has created a sound that still sounds as heavy, thunderous and fresh as it did in the '90s. Paul's drumming with Pantera was what complimented the virtuoso style guitar playing of his brother Dimebag. Along with the harsh growling vocals of singer Phil Anselmo, Paul's drums mixed with the low bass of Rex Brown truly created the sound that defined Pantera's sped up version of Iron Maiden Back Sabbath Motorhead and Judas Priest only louder and with more adrenaline.
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2. Gene Hoglan-Dark Angel, Death, Testament, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok
Gene Hoglan didn't earn the nickname 'The Atomic Clock' for nothing. He has earned a reputation for his amazing, unconventional, machine like speed and precision on the drums and in particular use of blast beat and double bass. He is also considered a master of timing and structure of songs, and is known as a drummer who can adapt to any style in a heartbeat, from power metal to black metal and everything in between.
Hoglan began his career with the thrash metal band Dark Angel in the mid '80s, but over the years has both played and recorded with Death, Testament, Anthrax, Opeth, Fear Factory, Dethklok, Old Man's Child, Strapping Young Lad, Unearth, Forbidden, and many more. His creative, signature, insanely fast drumming sound is full of groovy, supersonic bursts of intensity that leave listeners in awe. He is revered among the elite of metal drummers of one of the most skilled and talented, and has even put out a line of instructional DVDs to teach his skill of drumming to anyone interested. Hoglan will be reunited with his first band, Dark Angel in 2014 for the Maryland Death Fest.
1. Dave Lombardo-Slayer
As the original drummer of Slayer, Lombardo is known internationally with for his speed, signature style of aggression and epic performances with the mighty thrash band. Lombardo recorded quite possibly one of the best thrash metal albums ever made, Reign In Blood (1986), and smashed the drums into oblivion for every single song. Many drummers refer to him as the 'God Father of Double bass drum,' and he has proven his skills and speed in utilizing their intense sound in Slayer's music. Lombardo also played a pivotal role in Slayer's heyday, and recorded the three seminal albums, Hell Awaits (1985), South of Heaven (1988) and Seasons in the Abyss (1990). He then took a hiatus form the band in the '90s but returned in 2005, to record the band's last two studio albums Christ Illusion (2006) and World Painted Blood (2009). Even though his presence in Slayer was off and on, his drumming style and sheer power of his percussion brought the spirit of Slayer to life on record and at live shows. His gigantic wall of percussion made fans rabid during live performances. Unfortunately, before the tragic death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman, Lombardo became estranged from Slayer, apparently over contract, and payment issues. Despite this, he continues on with his more rock based experimental band Philm and other projects. He has also worked with Grip Inc, Fantomas and DJ Spooky among other artists spanning different genres of music.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.