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Top 10 Heavy Metal Drummers

Updated on February 4, 2015

These guys brought the fast paced rhythm to the heavy metal scene. Today I rank the top 10 heavy metal drummers of all time.

10. Danny Carey- Tool

He brought the progressive sounds of Tool to the heavy metal audience.

Danny Carey's popularity among drummers and non-drummers alike stems from the diversity of his sound and dynamics through his years of learning jazz music, his technical ability, frequent use of odd time signatures, polyrhythms and polymeters. He has stated in interviews that he effectively treats his feet as he does his hands; he practices rudiments and even snare drum solos with his feet to improve his double bass drumming, hi-hat control, and foot independence.

Carey has also been associated with acts like Zaum, Pigface, and Skinny Puppy

9. Charlie Benante- Anthrax

He is one of the more under appreciated drummers in any genre.

While being Anthrax's main songwriter, Charlie Benante has made a name for himself on the drums. Benante joined Anthrax in 1983, prior to the recording of the band's debut album Fistful of Metal, and has been the band's drummer to the present day. He is known for having a very fast double kick technique and has been credited as one of the pioneers of double-bass, as well as with popularizing the blastbeat technique with thrash metal.

Benante has also been the lead guitarist for the Stormtroopers of Death.

8. Scott Travis- Judas Priest

He may not have been Judas Priest's first drummer, but he is definitely the most skilled.

After joining the band in 1989, Scott Travis has been with Judas Priest ever since and the first non-Brit to be in the band. He is commonly mistaken to be left-handed. In reality, he is ambidextrous, and plays with an open style. His first album with the band, Painkiller, gave fans a faster paced and louder sound that they had never heard before and he has garnered critical acclaim ever since.

Travis also handles drum duties for his earlier band Racer X. He played drums in Rob Halford's band Fight from 1993 to 1995.

7. Nicko McBrain- Iron Maiden

He kept the fast paced rhythm of the band.

After the firing of Clive Burr, Iron Maiden hired Nicko McBrain in 1983. McBrain's drumming has been an important element of Iron Maiden's sound from 1983's Peace of mind onwards. He is often considered among the best and most influential heavy metal/hard rock drummers of all time. McBrain often employs the back end of his left hand drumstick to allow for more powerful "snare hit." He is known for not using a double bass pedal unlike many heavy metal drummers.

Prior to joining Iron Maiden, he was the drummer in the French hard rock band Trust.

6. Bill Ward- Black Sabbath

He set the blueprint for what heavy metal music could be.

Bill Ward has been labeled as "the mastermind behind the unholy birth of heavy metal drumming." As Black Sabbath's original drummer, Ward concocted drum beats that helped set the blueprint for heavy metal. Despite his numerous stints and departures from the band, fans still consider him the best drummer in the band's history.

5. Lars Ulrich- Metallica

He was one of the first great American heavy metal drummers.

As one of Metallica's founders and main songwriters, Lars Ulrich has made a name for himself on the drums. His drumming style has changed throughout his career. During the 1980s he was known for his fast, aggressive thrash beats. He would often utilize the double bass technique in Latin breakbeats. Ulrich uses groove in his drum style, including clean and fast double bass beats in many songs and heavy drum fills. He has been known to drum in sync with the rhythm guitar. However, during the 1990s and early 2000s he simplified his drum rhythms in order to fit the simplification in Metallica's overall musical style. It was a huge contrast to his previous performance.

With Metallica being one of the biggest acts in the world, Ulrich has to receive some of that praise for their success.

4. Mike Portnoy- Dream Theater

He has proven to be one of the most versatile drummers ever to pick up a pair of drumsticks.

As one of the co-founders, songwriters, and backing vocalist of the progressive metal band, Mike Portnoy has proven he can play just about any style of music. The award winning drummer brought a decidingly heavy metal beat to the progressive rock groups sound. Portnoy's sound can be heard on every song and instrumental during his tenure with the band.

He is also known for laying down the drum tracks on Avenged Sevenfold's album Nightmare after the passing of their drummer The Rev.

3. Joey Jordison- Slipknot

"#1" has almost quietly garnered on of the best drumming reputations of anyone in heavy metal.

The third member to join Slipknot, Joey Jordison helped pioneer the new wave of American heavy metal. While he may have been influenced by the greats, but Jordison has become one of them based on his faced pace frantic style of playing. Having laid the ground work for Slipknot's sound, he saw it that the band would have success for years to come. In 2010, he was voted the best drummer of the past 25 years.

2. The Rev- Avenged Sevenfold

His legacy may be short, but is one that will live for a long time.

As co-founder, songwriter, and vocalist of the American heavy metal band, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan took influence from heavy metal drummers to become one of the most talented drummers of the century. He is known for his "double octopus" technique where he doubles up at a fast tempo between the double bass and ride cymbals. He was critically acclaimed for his work on Avenged Sevenfold albums, and contributed entire songs written by himself, such as Chapter Four, Afterlife, A Little Piece of Heaven, and Almost Easy.

The Rev died in 2009 from an enlarged heart at age 28. The band's album Nightmare was dedicated in his honor.

1. Dave Lombardo- Slayer

He isn't called "the Godfather of the Double Bass" for nothing.

As one of Slayer's founders, Dave Lombardo is most widely known as a very aggressive and exceptionally skilled heavy metal drummer. His use of the drums have been called "astonishingly innovative." Over his career, he has had a significant influence on the metal scene and has inspired many modern metal drummers, particularly within both thrash metal and death metal. Just listen to songs like Raining Blood for proof.

Even after leaving Slayer, Lombardo has had success with bands like Testament.


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    • A Bones profile image

      A Bones 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Nice. Good call on Nicko and Dave. Two drummers I really like are Frost from Satyricon and Chris Adler from Lamb of God.

    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 

      4 years ago from The Garden State

      Cool list. One drummer that I remember impressing me very much was Igor Cavalera, formerly of Sepultura. When I saw him with that band many years ago he was amazing to watch, like a machine!! I dare say that when he was in his prime Igor could've given Dave Lombardo a run for his money.

    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 

      4 years ago

      My favorite is Lars Ulrich.


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