overground scene

My 15 all-time favourite drum intros

In my early contact with metal as a teenager drums were of tertiary importance compared to guitar and voice. My first love was Iron Maiden, and although over the years I came to appreciate Clive Burr’s and Nicko McBrain’s skills and contribution to Maiden’s sound, my untrained teenage ear could not appreciate the nuances. My second love was Dio, and just like with Maiden what I fell in love with was the voice and the guitar-playing. I obviously enjoyed listening to Appice’s hard hits, McBrain’s speed on songs like “Deja vu“, I remember falling in love with Ulrich’s fills on “For whom the bell tolls“, or Columbus’s double-bass attack on “Black wind, fire and steel“, but I did not start really noticing the drums until I started listening to thrash, and specifically when I listened to Reign in blood by Slayer. After that, and the more my taste would gravitate towards extreme metal the more attention to the drumming I would pay. Who doesn’t like a great drum break in the middle of a song (*a future post is in order*), or an awesome drum intro?! Through memory work (so, simply by trying to remember) I came up with many awesome drum intros that have stayed with me throughout my life as a metal fan, and after subsequent filtering (as a result of which amazing songs by Hypocrisy, Judas Priest, Death, Xentrix, Ozzy and Kreator, among others, were left out) I present 15 of them here in chronological order.

1. SlayerEpidemic (1986)

Reign in blood blew my mind and continues to blow my mind no matter how many times I’ve listened to it. It’s funny how, as years go by and new trends in metal emerge, many younger people are no longer impressed by this masterpiece (which is something that I once thought impossible). “When was the last time you truly listened to Reign in blood?”, asks Gavin O’Connor. Seriously, Gavin O’Connor? Still, I would imagine for most people, it is a guilty displeasure not liking this absolute masterpiece and they wouldn’t dare admitting it (as opposed to Gavin who owns his opinion, is proud of it, and so I can make fun of him for being a poser who only listens to “Angel of death” and “Raining blood”). “Epidemic” has always been one of my favourite songs off Reign in blood, as it has a different groove to the dominant skank beat throughout the album. The drum intro has a lot to do with how much I like this song. Whenever I think of a drum intro this is honestly the first song that comes to mind. Nowadays, and after three decades of extreme metal drumming, this intro sounds quite “primitive”, but when I first heard it I would just play it over and over again, for several times before I continue with the rest of the song. Nothing compares to Dave Lombardo‘s intense and quite instinctive old school drumming massacre. The simply devastating drum sound captured on tape by Rick Rubin is not bad either.

2. King DiamondWelcome home (1988)

Mikkey Dee, now famous for being the drummer for Motörhead for almost 25 years, used to be in King Diamond. With him the King released some of his best albums (and my two personal favourite, namely Fatal portrait and Conspiracy), and I actually remember seeing or reading an interview with King Diamond where he said that Mikkey has been sorely missed (I personally think that Snowy Shaw did an awesome job as well). Indeed, the impressive drum performances in King Diamond’s early albums compared to the almost mechanical drumming in this last few albums is like comparing night and day. “Welcome home” is a masterful track off Them, and the intro is one of the most memorable and classy drum parts I can think of. Overall, this song represents the pinnacle of King Diamond’s progressive dimension. Agressor did an accurate cover of this song on their Medieval rites (1999) album, although the drum intro is neither entirely accurate nor has the feel of the original.

3. Holy TerrorNo resurrection (1988)

Holy Terror released two albums in the late 1980s, at a time when thrash was still alive and well but slowly losing ground as the first death metal albums, as well as the more extreme thrash bands of Germany, began to surface. The second album by Holy Terror is a minor thrash masterpiece and this song is a testament to that. Their peculiar style of metal that combined traditional heavy metal melodies and singing, with rougher and at times growling vocals, super fast riffs and drums, deserved more recognition in my opinion. Joe Mitchell‘s expertly executed super fast beats perfectly complement the super-fast vocal delivery. The intro to this song is an all-time favourite, and is the perfectly manic start for a perfectly manic song. I have been listening to it since my teenage years and it still does not fail to excite me. They don’t make them like this anymore.

4. Malevolent CreationCoronation of our domain (1992)

Alex Marquez gave his best performance on Malevolent Creation’s Retribution. His contribution on this album cannot be overestimated, and never before or after did Malevolent have such a colourful drum sound and playing, and orchestrations. I suspect that Scott Burns had a lot to do with fine-tuning Marquez’s playing, especially the blastbeats, as in subsequent releases his blastbeats are all over the place (I am thinking Divine Empire‘s second album where the blastbeats often seem to chase the guitar riff, but are unable to catch up with it. Still, it is an awesome album!). Anyway, this drum intro is probably the best out of all the intros in this list. This is the definition of finesse in drumming.

5. Dismember – Fleshless (1993)

This is an extremely simple fast single stroke drum roll (I think so) spread across two toms, opening one of the best songs in one of the best albums in the history of music (yes, not only death metal). One of the reasons I love it so much is because to me this intro is like saying “get ready for some non-stop relentless beating”, and indeed this is exactly what follows throughout the album. Remember, this is not a playlist with the “best” drum intros, but rather my favourite drum intros, and this is definitely one. I simply adore the drum sound on this album, and Fred Estby‘s playing is really exciting. Indecent and obscene is probably my all-time favourite death metal album, and Fred’s playing is one of the reasons.

6. GorefestPeace of paper (1993)

It’s no big surprise that all of the songs on this list come from albums characterised by great drum performances. In both False (1992) and Erase (1993) Ed Warby gives lessons in extreme metal drumming. His sound is clear, he hits hard, and his blastbeats are a force of nature. “Peace of paper” is an astonishing song off an amazing album, and it is also the song where Warby goes crazy with his snare-kick gymnastics. The drum intro is not anything special, but I love it. I think that his performance in these two albums opened up doors for him, as I recall seeing his name in many projects over the years. Gorefest did a very impressive comeback in the mid 2000s and then unfortunately folded again, and in those two comeback albums Warby also did an amazing job.

7. SlayerKilling fields (1994)

Divine intervention is a galore of outstanding drum work by Paul Bostaph. Quite honestly, when I bought this album I could not believe how someone can play like this, and to this day I consider Divine intervention a masterpiece with state-of-the-art drumming. This album is chock-full of drum highlights, and apart from this song, “Sex, murder, art” and “Serenity in murder” are personal favourites. There is no doubt that Paul knew that filling Lombardo’s shoes would be hard, mostly in terms of acceptance by the hardcore fans rather than actual performance, and did his absolute best to prove himself with this album. In my opinion, the intro of “Killing fields” is one of the heaviest and attention-grabbing moments in metal history.

8. BenedictionThe grotesque (1994)

Benediction is not a band known for its virtuoso musicianship. It is known, however, for its absolutely awesome and unique-sounding death metal.  “The grotesque” is one of Benediction’s best songs and it comes from the Grotesque/Ashen epitaph EP. This EP marked the departure of Ian Treacy, Benediction’s original drummer, whose improvement from Subconscious terror (1990) to Transcend the Rubicon (1993) was nothing short of stellar, and the short-lived collaboration with Paul Brookes (who has been very ridiculously photoshoped into the photo of the band on this release). I personally prefer Treacy, who has also provided some really cool drum parts, but nevertheless, Brookes offers a very memorable drum intro to this beast of a song.

9. UnleashedIn the name of god (1995)

“In the name of god” starts with a very simple double stroke roll, yet constitutes an extremely effective drum intro which has always stayed with me. The fact that it opens one of the catchiest songs in death metal history, composed by Fredrik, obviously adds to the importance of this drum intro, but there is no doubt that Anders Schultz‘s contribution to Unleashed’s sound is significant (also check out the awesomely placed double bass à la Slayer at the end of the song). Victory is, in my opinion, the last great album by Unleashed, and it is not a coincidence that it is also the last album with Fredrik Lindgren. He is one of the composers that is missed in the death metal genre.

10. Dying FetusJustifiable homicide (2000)

1999 was the year my friends and I found out about the then new wave of North American brutal death metal. A fiend of mine got hold of three awesome cassette-tapes; one with Deeds of flesh‘s Trading pieces (1996) and Inbreeding the anthropophagi (1998), one with Nile‘s Among the catacombs… (1998), and one with Dehumanized‘s Prophecies foretold (1998) and Dying Fetus‘s Purification through violence (1996). When Destroy the opposition came out we didn’t listen to anything else for a month. This is probably the least interesting song on the album, but what a great and memorable intro! Kevin Talley is a great drummer hailing from the American brutal death metal underground who has rightfully been recognised as one. His drumming on albums like Killing on adrenaline and Destroy the opposition are unbelievable. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the separation of Jason and Kevin from Gallagher resulted in inferior subsequent output from both Dying Fetus and Misery Index. Anyway, this whole album is a drummer’s pleasure.

11. The CrownI won’t follow (2000)

The Crown has always been a hit and miss band in my opinion. I never liked any of their albums in their entirety, just individual songs, and if I had to pick a favourite album I would choose Hell is here (1999). This song comes from Deathrace king, an album from which I worship two songs and the rest of them I listen to once every ten years or so. “I won’t follow” is one of the songs I worship, and the other is the inimitable “Back from the grave”. Janne Saarenpää‘s style is very intense and out-of-control and often reminds me of Chris Witchhunter from Sodom (I’m thinking of “Baptism of fire”). This is the definition of in-your-face extreme metal drumming of the type that inspires kids to pick up drumsticks and learn to play.

12. Deeds of FleshMaster of murder (2001)

Mike Hamilton‘s stint with Deeds of Flesh started with an album (i.e. Mark of the legion) which, for me, marked the creative downfall of the band. However, just like the drummers that preceded him, Hamilton’s drumming is amazing, and this song is a case in point. A beautiful, yet cold and lifeless, phrase composed of super fast double strokes and double bass, introduces an awesome riff. The way Hamilton switches from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal during the blastbeats, and the effect this has on the riff is also great. Later on in their career Deeds of Flesh tried to reinvent themselves and switched to super-technical death metal and, in my opinion, lost their distinctiveness that is still present in this song.

13. Pig DestroyerSnuff film at eleven (2001)

Just like Dying Fetus’s Destroy the opposition, Pig Destroyer’s Prowler in the yard was a game changer in the world of extreme metal. Brian Harvey provides super fast blastbeats, grooves, and insane drum fills.  This song is one of the most death-oriented songs on the album, and has such an awesome drum intro, representative of the musical and lyrical insanity that reigns throughout the album. What contributes to the awesomeness of this intro is that it does not lead to a fast beat but a tensely controlled slow beat. Harvey’s performance on the next album (i.e. Terrifyer) is also stellar. Having a drummer like this at one’s disposal is an amazing privilege, because it gives one absolute freedom to write anything they want, no matter how fast and complex.

14. Lock UpFeeding on the opiate (2002)

Nick Barker is one of those drummers who make extremely fast drumming seem easy. I fell in love with his drumming when Cradle of Filth‘s Dusk and her embrace came out, and I loved him even more in Lock Up, although his repertoire in the latter is much more limited. His performance with Cradle of Filth rightfully opened doors for him as over the years he has played with many prominent bands. This is actually one of the best album intros ever, and I cannot believe that I forgot to mention it in the respective post I wrote a few years ago. Overall, Hate breeds suffering is my favourite Lock Up album too. Bill Hicks’s inspiring statement, “Play from your fucking hearts!”, sampled at the beginning of the song is also genius.

15. Dark FuneralThe eternal eclipse (2016)

The final entry in this list comes from a recent album, namely Dark Funeral’s very impressive Where shadows forever reign. Dark Funeral has a history of great drummers, including the brilliant Matte Modin (who offered devastating drumming for Defleshed back in the day). In this album the drums are provided by Nils Fjellström, another master of inhuman speed in drumming (check out videos of him performing live with the band on YouTube, you won’t be disappointed). “The eternal eclipse” is my favourite song off this album, and the drum intro is perfect.

What music the first decade of the millenium gave us

I can approach this question in two different ways, the following: what personally blew me away, what appears to have made an impact on the music scene. Let’s start with the second one and some comparison with the 90s. The 90s introduced some hallmark records and even scenes. The early 90s kicked off in the underground with swedish death metal and a sound that is being copied today by thousands of bands. These monumental albums include Entombed‘s Left Hand Path, Carnage‘s Dark Recollections and Dismember‘s Like an Ever Flowing Stream. The mid-90s offered the definitive death metal album, At The Gates‘ Slaughter of the soul, which also created a school of its own and even mainstream nu-metal bands today rip it off without even knowing they’re doing so! I won’t refer to the USA since the death metal revolution came earlier in the late 80s there, although there is still technical death metal monuments like all albums from Death, Cynic, and brutal technical death metal like Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and Monstrosity. The late 90s, however, in the USA introduced a style that would eventually make its impact in the first few years of the 2000s. Other notable musical revolutions of the nineties include of course Grunge and Nirvana‘s Nevermind, whose success led to an unprecedented parade of grunge bands, Radiohead‘s OK Computer, which reinvented progressive rock, the Bristol scene with bands like Portishead, The Hives, whose monumental first album (accompanied by some post-punk albums of the late 70s-early 80s) sowed the seeds for an awful pop-rock generation of bands like Franz Ferdinand et al, and of course the re-invention of Garage-punk-rock, first with American bands like The Humpers, later on with Scandinavian bands like Turbonegro and The Hellacopters. Many other novel things can be said about this decade, on cover art (Dan Seagrave), video-clips (Tarshem Singh’s Losing My Religion), etc.  Now what about the 2000s?

I am afraid that as far as death metal goes, the only notable records that had an impact on the scene would be Dying Fetus‘s amazing Destroy the Opposition (2000) and Pig Destroyer‘s Prowler in the Yard (2001). Destroy the Opposition is a monument of sheer brutality, full of the infamous break-downs and blast-beats that today’s kids value so much. Of course, the origins of the new wave of brutal death metal scene that rose in prominence in the early 2000s (Origin, Disavowed, Disgorge, Severe Torture, many many more) can be found earlier in early Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Carcass, or even early Deeds of Flesh and Dehumanized. Nevertheless, the more recent additions to the scene, such as The Red Chord and more uninspired and plain silly bands such as Suicide Silence that seem to plague the brutal scene today, definitely owe much to Pig Destroyer and Dying Fetus. As far as softer metal goes, the first thing that comes in mind is System of a Down‘s Toxicity. A perfect album which has a little bit of something for everyone. I can describe it as thrash fuelled mainstream hardcore-punk. Many utterly insignificant nu-metal boy-bands tried to copy them and failed miserably, I don’t even remember their names. In pop-rock, the Hives‘ second album Veni Vidi Vicious (2000), with songs like Hate to say I told you so, gave the ultimate push to bands like Franz Ferdinand who then established this obnoxious “hiccups” pop-rock that half of the bands featured in NME (a british pop-rock magazine) play. In hardcore-punk some kind of an innovation that had an impact the scene hadn’t seen for many many years, came with brutal hardcore bands like Tragedy, Severed Head of State and From Ashes Rise. These bands influenced hundreds of underground bands around the world with their death metal infested d-beat hardcore. In a way, through paying attention to production and adopting a dark image, they have made hardcore-punk mainstream again. Cornerstones from this scene include Tragedy’s self titled album and Vengeance, Severed Head of State’s Anathema device and From Ashes Rise’s Nightmares. I honestly cannot think of something else that can be considered to have an impact on music the last ten years…

Now what personally blew me away! I have to admit that 80% of what I listen to came out before the mid-90s. However, there are some records that have definetely had a huge impact on me the last ten years. Here’s 20 of them:

1. Napalm Death – Enemy of the Music business (2000) The band’s first album for the millenium is their undisputed masterpiece, surrounded of course by previous and after masterpieces. However, this album’s  collaboration among musicians, musical variety, intensity and production are beyond belief! And the way it kicks off, ohhhhhh!!!

2. Dying Fetus – Destroy the Opposition (2000) The band’s third proper album, and not that much different from the previous one. However, the production in this album does justice to the capabilities of the musicians. Amazing break downs and grind, Kevin Taley is really unstopable, amazing vocals especially by Netherton, and the lyrics are just genious! It certainly kept me busy for at least two years and I still think that it paved the way on how modern death should sound. And the way it kicks off, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

3. Nomeansno – All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt (2006) After more than two decades the band keeps delivering awesome music. Less dark, a bit more happy but equally pessimistic with One and also a bit more punky, this album comprises a remedy in a world of talentless and uninnovative popular bands. And yes…the way it kicks off, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

4. Paradise Lost – Faith Divides us, Death Unites Us (2009) The entire Paradise Lost’s output over the last ten years deserves to be here! Probably the best thing metal music has to offer. The latest album is among the few albums that I feel like saying “I am proud I have lived to experience the release of this album!”. Hands down the best album of the year. My ears still cannot believe what they hear

5. Bad Religion – Process of Belief (2002) A great comeback for the band, after a couple of not so amazing albums. The new drummer definetely spiced things up and of course the same goes for the return of Brett Gurewitz. The power of this album and the diversity of songs is unique.

6. Tragedy – Vengeance (2002) A cornerstone of the new wave of brutal hardcore. Some Bolt Thrower and Amebix touches mixed with british and swedish d-beat (and why not some melodies bring in mind Strebers!) and two AMAZING singers make the difference. Dolefull, polemic, offensive, heavy and intense. Vengeance is among the best songs ever writen.

7. Propagandhi – Today’s Empires, tomorrow’s Ashes (2001) See previous post on the best punk albums from North America…

8.  Sokratis Malamas – Ena (2002) A composer that has influenced me a lot and is capable of doing what greek people say “education of the soul” (ψυχαγωγία), instead of entertainment. An album that sounds extremely personal, even though most of the lyrics belong to other artists/poets. Nevertheless, this somewhat outright cooperation with some genious lyricists gave birth to this gem of contemporary music. Traditional, ethnic, classical and modern influences blent together make this album so precious to me. (της σιωπης)

9. Thanasis Papakonstantinou – Vrachnos Profitis (2000) Everything I say for the previous artist apply here as well. The only difference is that here rock music is ever present  in the mix, a venture tried many times before by various greek artists but never had this result.

10. The Hellacopters – High Visibility (2000) One of the best things that happened in the world of music the last 20 years. This album, which kicks off exactly like TYR from Black Sabbath, has both the energy of the previous ones with the bluesy feeling of the ones that followed. What is amazing about this album, and this band in general, is that it manages to distill all the good elements of 60s and 70s rock and to throw away all the cock-rock mentality. This album makes me wanna play the guitar!

11. Broken Hope – Grotesque Blessings (2000) Monumental album which also set new standards in death metal. This album is unconventional and honest. It is totally unique in the sense that it sounds like nothing else. The melodies are from another dimension, and the lyrics are ingenious! An album that I never got bored of, because it has so much detail in its inventive structures. Masterpiece!

12. Immolation – Unholly Cult (2002) I was not sure if I should put this or the previous album here. The reason why I chose this one, is because it is more accessible. It has songs that you can remember, with bridges, choruses and everything. And they are all inspired like hell! I realised after years of listening to death metal, that at the end of the day what matters is not a thousand notes per minute or a hundred riffs per song. What matters is a good structure with a begining and an end, and songs that will be different from each other on their entirety as entities and not as riffs glued together. This is what Immolation always delivered.

13. Death Breath – Stinking Up the Night (2006) You have Nicke’s compositional skills, music and lyrics,  and Jorgen’s and Scott’s voice in one album. What else can one wish for? Christ all fucking mighty must be one of the best songs ever writen…

14. Entombed – Serpent Saints (2007) New line-up and a fierce return to 100% death metal for Entombed. Arguably the record I’ve been looking forward to for more than a decade (although I love all entombed albums before that)! Again here we have an amazing beginning and ending of the album, just like old times. In between we have a big variety of amazing songs, one better from the other! Once again old bands show how music should be played, and that does not include flawless musicianship, a thousand notes per minute and fake plastic productions, just passion and inspiration.

15. New Model Army – Carnival (2005) Surrounded by new musicians, Sullivan makes an impressive return with both this and the previous album (Eight). Much heavier and organic sound in relation to a glorious past, this album has made me think, close my eyes and travel to places I’ll never be and it has made me cry.

16. Slayer – World Painted Blood (2009) Not too much to say here. Slayer are gods! Are they the best group to have walked the earth? Why not! With their new album they demonstrate that only they can do what they do and no matter how many years will pass, no matter how much more extreme scenes will emerge, Slayer will always be able to make you wanna jump out of your body!!! Since I got the new album a couple of months ago, each time I listen to it I feel like I’m in a Slayer concert and I seriously want to hit somebody. Best song of the decade is Beauty Through Order!

17. The Partisans – Idiot Nation (2004) See previous post on the best punk albums from the UK…

18. Disfear – Live the Storm (2008) A monolith of brutal hardcore and a testimony of the state of humanity in the 21st century. All the angst and fears that we experience in an average day and refuse to admit to ourselves. At the same time it is a call to arms, although it does not spell out how… What can you do? Anyway music is supposed to heal the soul, if that will eventually cause a revolution it will be coincidental and I doubt it.

19. The Knife – Deep Cuts (2003) Not exactly my type of music, but still this album is so attractive that I don’t think is possible for anyone to resist. I don’t know how to describe it or why I think it is so important, I just love it.

20. Zeke – Death Alley (2001) Finally the record which I think symbolises the lust for life, having fun, partying and listening to all types of rock ‘n roll music, hehe. Oh, and of course our love for Satan…Amen.