” I know those guys must be smart to use computers in such a way. Just not the same.”
nora j mckiddie (@mckiddie_j), January 18, 2014, Michigan, USA.

I don’t know much
about heavy metal drumming, but this post is about exactly that. My experience in
this area stretches to witnessing live performances by Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham
and Black

John Bonham. jamesfortunephotography.com

Sabbath’s Bill Ward, banging away live in concert; and watching an
early Uriah Heep drummer beating the polyester live in the recording studio in
1970. He could have been Alex Napier, Keith Baker or even Elton John’s
long-time drummer, Nigel Olsson. All drummed for Heep in 1970 but who I saw I can’t
be sure.

I’ve
also seen one or two West Indian steel drum bands in my time, each with many
drummers beating their oil drums and the like. While this may count as metal, I
doubt you could call it heavy. 
So
why am I writing about heavy metal drumming if my knowledge is zip? Blame it on
The Wall Street Journal. I saw this article the other day by a writer called
Neil Shah, in the WSJ talking about how machines are taking over from human
drummers in the world of heavy metal. If drum machines offend you, better look
away now; or maybe not, the news gets a little brighter further along.  
It’s
all about a sub genre of metal called “speed metal”. Author Ian Christe put the
idea into context in his book, “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging
History of Heavy Metal”. Metal sped up in the 1980s, he says, when drummers in
bands like Metallica*, Slayer and Testament one-upped

Grindcore band, The Nails, originally from Boulder, Colorado

more established groups by
making metal more about fast rhythms than melody. Over the next decade, the
90s, “Grindcore” and “Death Metal” groups became even more extreme, Christe
writes. If you don’t believe him, take a look at U.S. grindcore band The Nails performing their track Scum Will Rise on the following link:

Since
spinning out of rock & roll in the 1970s, says Neil Shah, metal has got
faster and faster. “Speed Metal has become so fast that drummers can’t keep up.
Instead, more bands have quietly switched to using computerised drum machines. When
new technologies arrived, metal drumming entered the realm of the physically
impossible. Today, many bands write songs using computers without even
rehearsing them.”
Darkthrone’s Fenriz. Drum machines are for losers
When
an English band went into the studio recently, Shah reports, the drummer didn’t
play a single bass-drum track on a single song. Since the foundation of metal
songs is the bass-drum track, this had to be digitally constructed.
Paradoxically,
to make drums sound more human, metal producers deliberately introduce mistakes
into their own programming, he says. “Some bands say they like the cold,
inhuman quality of machine sounds, but the trend raises hackles among purists
because metal aficionados put a premium on authenticity and virtuosity, and
sometimes don’t know they are being duped.”
There
are even “live” metal albums that aren’t really live at all. Says producer Russ
Russell, 44, from Northamptonshire, England: “Bands often rely on some computer
drum tracks for concerts – especially if performances are being recorded for a
live album.”
But
as I hinted at earlier, the news isn’t all bad, and some metal bands are
bucking the trend. The drummer of Norway’s influential black metal duo,
Darkthrone, Gylve Nagell (aka Fenriz) has appeared in print saying that bands
who overuse computers are “losers”. More recently, Darkthrone have been mixing
speed metal with traditional heavy metal and crust punk.
Dave
Lombardo, the former Slayer drummer, thinks today’s metal drumming sounds
sterile. “They’re missing the whole point. You’re going to lose the feeling if
you try to achieve it (drumming speed) in an artificial way”, Lombardo says.
The fastest
drummers in the world
You
don’t often find heavy metal drummers such as Gene Hoglan quoted in The Wall
Street Journal.

The Human Drum Machine, Texan Gene Hogan

Known as both The Human Drum Machine and The Atomic Clock,
Hoglan was one of the metal speed demons whose high-speed drumming in the 1980s
paved the way for today’s speed metal obsession. One of the quickest and most precise
drummers in heavy metal, Hoglan, 46, has drummed for metal bands as diverse as
Dark Angel, Death, Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad, The Devin Townsend Band,
Opeth, Unearth and, more recently, Dethklok and Testament. He told the Wall
Street Journal, “There are young dudes coming up behind me who want to take my
throne, but I’m not going to give it up that easy.” Being a fast drummer is
like “running a marathon while screaming,” Hoglan says. Mind you, at over 136
kg (as reported in the WSJ), I doubt the skinsman has actually run a marathon
lately, let alone while screaming. 136 kg is nudging 300 lbs so we could easily
call this strapping young lad, Hulk Hoglan. He literally is a heavy metal
drummer.

However,
he does work out. To keep ahead of the competition, Hoglan warms up with drum
sticks twice as heavy as the norm and practices foot-drumming with 1.5 kg ankle
weights.
Tom Grosset hits 1,208 beats per minute. See below
The
world’s fastest drummer, however, is officially 23-year-old Tom Grosset from
Toronto, Canada. Tom broke the world record with 1,208 drum beats in 60
seconds, at The World’s Fastest Drummer competition in Nashville, Tennessee, in
July. That’s as fast as some hummingbirds beat their wings. The previous record
of 1,203 beats per minute was held by Mike Mangini, the 50-year-old drummer for
progressive-metal band, Dream Theater. If you want to watch Tom Grosset’s feat, hit the link below. It beats watching paint dry but not much else.
Grosset
and Mangini are the only two drummers in the world to break 1,200 single
strokes in a minute. Beat that aspiring drummer boys.

*MetalUpdate: Metallica going into studio soon? 
20 January, 2014. Metallica might finally be going into the recording studio soon, almost six years after they last released their last full-length album which was Death Magnetic in 2008. Metallica guitarist, Kirk Hammett, said the band had run out of excuses for delaying recording their 10th studio album. Expect the band to start work in weeks rather than months.

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