Black metal can be a tricky subject to tackle. To some, it’s a neat little sub-genre of heavy metal, to others it serves as a philosophical statement and aggrandizing way of life. While no one may agree on what exactly constitutes BM in this day and age [pink album covers, orchestras, and decipherable lyrics ist nicht krieg to some], it’s safe to say that most citizens of the metal realm show love for black metal drummers. Let’s face it, these guys do some serious work behind the kit; all while trying to conjure Satan at ridiculous tempos and worrying about runny mascara. This list isn’t a definitive ranking or scientific survey of BPMs, but rather a small tribute to some of the finest drummers in black metal.
Jan Axel Blomberg, best known as Hellhammer from Mayhem, is one of the most revered drummers in metal, period. He’s spent twenty five plus years in Norway’s most infamous musical export and has also lent his talents to BM giants liked Immortal and Dimmu Borgir on occasion as well. While his chops have evolved to tremendous heights over the years, we’re going to highlight the slower, unnerving style he first pioneered in the “Chainsaw Gutfuck” days. This clip proves that black metal isn’t all about speed, it’s about atmosphere.
Emperor helped redefine black metal in the 90’s, injecting a symphonic and highly technical edge to the genre. A large part of their innovative sound stemmed from Trym Torson’s phenomenal drum work. The dude’s blast beats sound like an angry metronome, while his unique jazz inspired fills and cymbal interplay brought a level of showmanship and sophistication to both Emperor and black metal in general. Trym’s innovative playing with Emperor is akin to what Gar Samuelson did for Megadeth: he injected a healthy dose of class and WTF-isms into the band’s sound. Even his playing in death metal offshoot Zyklon was sick!
Is it any coincidence that Goatwhore’s career kicked into high gear after Zack’s debut recording with the band, 2006’s A Haunting Curse? I think not. Zack Simmons was but a fresh face youngster when he joined NOLA’s favorite blackened thrashers, but his mastery of all things blasting and the perennial d-beat where apparent from the start. Zack’s playing is the perfect amalgamation of BM’s ever encroaching flirtation with punk, thrash and other extreme metal genres. He even wears bullet belts on occasion.
Nils Fjellström represents the speed freak quotient of the black metal equation. The man is both blindingly fast and precise behind the kit. This, blast first and ask questions later style of playing is pretty common throughout the genre, but few are as ferocious as our boy Dominator…and he’s a lefty! Injecting his own creativity, tasty double double bass runs and spazzy fills into newer Dark Funeral tunes, and just playing the shit out of their classic blast heavy material, there’s no denying that Mr. Dominator is a beast behind the kit…and has a really cool name.
And then…there was one. Frost, born Kjetil-Vidar Haraldstad, is the human battery responsible for bashing skins in Satyricon and 1349 respectively. His playing, especially in the latter, is nothing short of ridiculous. Apparently, he studied computer science or something back in college, which might explain how/why he plays drums like an inhuman machine. The staggering rhythmic patterns, time changes and ludicrous speed Frost lays down on the drums boggles the mind. Not to mention the dude looks crazy as hell when he plays.
Here's Frost conjuring the dark lord with Satyricon in the studio
Here he is again, slaying dragons with 1349
Yeah, Horgh is MIA from the list because finding decent footage of him playing in Immortal is rarer than a corpse painted unicorn. Here’s a pretty solid drum cover of "One By One" to quell your blood lust.
So what do you think? Who are some of your favorite black metal drummers in the game? Share your thoughts below.