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genehoglan400 Neil Shah of The Wall Street Journal reports:

When it comes to playing fast, few can beat Gene “The Human Drum Machine” Hoglan.

“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,” says Mr. Hoglan, 46 years old, who warms up with drum sticks twice as heavy as usual, a trick he learned from baseball that makes his normal sticks seem lighter. To tone his legs, crucial for foot-drumming, he wears 3-pound ankle weights. When he pops these off, he can really fly.

Though he weighs nearly 300 pounds and is, in his own words, “really lethargic,” Mr. Hoglan has been called one of the quickest and most precise drummers in heavy metal.

Ever since spinning out of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1970s, metal has gotten faster and faster. Like many drummers of his generation, Mr. Hoglan left the drum-pounding abilities of his heroes in the dust, fueling an arms race that has sparked an unlikely crisis. Speed metal, as this subgenre is called, has become so fast that drummers can’t keep up. Instead, more bands have quietly switched to using computerized drum machines.

How did heavy-metal drumming get so fast?

Ian Christe, author of Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, says the genre speeded up in the 1980s, when drummers for bands Metallica, Slayer and Testament one-upped older groups by making metal more about fast rhythms than melody.

When new technologies arrived, metal drumming standards entered the realm of the physically impossible. Today, many bands write songs using computers without even rehearsing them.

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 that they are being duped. Paradoxically, to make drum tracks sound more human, metal producers deliberately introduce mistakes into their own programming. “They cover it up,” Mr. Mynett says. “The idea is to make people think the virtuoso is real.”

Mike Mangini, the 50-year-old drummer for progressive-metal band Dream Theater, used to be the world’s fastest drummer, with a record for hand-drumming of 1,203 b.p.m.—as fast as some hummingbirds beat their wings. He was beaten in Tennessee in July by 23-year-old Tom Grosset at the World’s Fastest Drummer competition, a contest in Nashville founded by Boo McAfee, an inventor of a gizmo called a “Drumometer” that clocks drummers’ speeds.

Some of metal’s elder statesmen are encouraging drummers to slow down.

Dave Lombardo, former drummer of Slayer, has removed the parts of his drum set that once helped him play superfast and thinks today’s metal drummers sound sterile. “They’re missing the whole point,” he says. “You’re going to lose the feeling if you try to achieve [speed] in an artificial way.”

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.



  1. It’s conceivably possible that in the future a song could be so fast that it would just sound like white noise to the human ear, as all the sounds blend together at ridiculous speeds. I don’t believe that is music.

  2. No Bill Ward in SABBATH and now digital drum beats. The personality of a wild man type drummer is part of rock folklore. THE WHO and LED ZEPPELIN, two of the best ever did not continue after they lost their great drummers. This is awful shit and a way to save money on musicians. The AMERICAN IDOL concept of a star singer surrounded by digital machines and sessionists has taken music to new lows. Imagine no Ringo, Charlie Watts, Neil Peart, Artemis Pyle, Tommy Lee, Steve Riley, Roger Taylor, Clive Burr, Vinny and Carmine Appice. Think of the intro to I WANNA BE SOMEBODY done with a keyboard.

    1. Actually, The Who did continue – first with Kenney Jones as an official member, and then with Simon Philips and Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son) as hired guns (much the same way Sabbath uses hired-gun drummers now in Bill Ward’s absence). I’m not saying they SHOULD’VE continued, I’m just saying it’s a fact that they did.

      1. I know that they picked it up and toured in ’88, but it never felt right. I’m trying to make a nice point about the value of drummers and bad shifts in the music industry and you re getting all wikipedia on me. My point was heartfelt, I m trapped in a f@#king blizzard and you re talking about Simon Phillips and Kenny Jones and stupid f$%king s*&t like that. NA NA NA F@#KING NA NA. Check out Roger s song UNDER A RAGING MOON written by John Parr which is a tribute to Keith Moon. That is a close as Roger can get to heavy metal and it is a killer f@#king classic. Sometimes facts get in the way of progress. Zakk Wylde was an ALLMAN BROTHER, NEIL YOUNG made music with Rick James and no one cares.

        1. Zakk Wylde played one show with the ABB and that was it. The Who were already playing again within a few years of Moon’s death, not in 1988. There is some more Wikipedia for yo’ ass.

          1. That’s a fact? What are you, the decider of facts in the music industry? Ringo Star was officially the luckiest SOB in the history of the world for getting the gig alongside McCartney, Harrison, and Lennon.

  3. I guess everyone needs a gimmick. Louder, faster, slower, make-up, pyrotechnics, tattoos, showing skin, goofy outfits, shaved heads, longhair, drugs, yada yada yada. How about the effin’ music?

  4. I’m far more fascinated with the viscosity (viscosity – the state of being thick, sticky, and semifluid in consistency, due to internal friction) of whale feces than who can play drums FASTER than who…. Thank God the likes of Bill Ward, Clive Burr, Phil Rudd, Mitch Mitchell, Ian Paice, and Jon Bonham werent worried about how FAST they were playing.

  5. Does any of this really matter? Considering how much dynamic range compression exists in most of today’s music, you can’t really hear the power of a real drummer anyway. Bring back metal with some decent dynamics & you’ll easily hear the difference between man & machine. When the trend to make everything as loud as possible fades & people hear what music is supposed to sound like then I’ll care (read: Buy stuff again) Otherwise , none of it matters much.

  6. This is a dumb ass article. Is speed really so important that it merits an article? For the most part, speed can be learned, so it stands to reason that if it was that important that more of us would learn to do it. To a certain degree, it’s just not important. It’s got nothing to do with muscles, nor using heavy sticks & weights, or any of that horse shit. Speed is all about rebound and being relaxed…letting the stick/pedal do the work.

    1. Don’t agree. As a drummer for 30+ years, speed can be achieved in the studio over many takes – to your point. However try it night after night on a tour where physical fitness is not exactly a top priority. Then try it for 20, 30, 40 years. The physicality is incredible. This is why I’ve never liked a lot thrash or speed metal that is out there. I don’t get playing the snare drum on every eighth or 32nd note over the period of a song. It just sounds like noise. Mike Mangini is out of this world amazing. One of the few in the world who could replace Portnoy in Dream Theatre. But when he plays fast, it just sounds stupid and one cannot appreciate how hard it is to do. For as much as I diss the Winery Dogs, Portnoy is one of the few players I have ever heard who can transition from fast to slow during a song tastefully and (seemingly) effortlessly. Bobby Jarzombek is another and is probably the most studius of drummers that I have ever read of. The thrash drummers are impressive in their own right, but its just unpleasant noise to me.

  7. In the words of the late great John Lee Hooker,”Throw away those fancy chords. It don’t mean nuthin’ if you ain’t got that beat.” It works the same way with drums. I would rather listen to Ringo or Phil Rudd over these 8 million beats per second drummers all day long. NO SOUL, whether its a drum machine or the real deal.

    1. Yes she’s a good player. But she needs to stop posting videos of herself playing other guys’ stuff and get some original music going. Her version of Tom Sawyer is spot on though.

  8. Richman, I agree with you except for your rant. You don’t have to be wikipedia to know that The Who didn’t pick up again in 88. They never stopped, in fact they made 2 albums with Jones. Trapped in a blizzard or not, you showed you didn’t know what your talking about, Twice

    1. Go easy on Richman there Stryper fan. I’ll put his knowledge of the obscure against anyone. Just because The Who weren’t relevant until 88 is all we’re saying.

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