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.


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  • Scott on

    All I can say (and I am a drummer) is Justin Bieber is the anti-Christ.

    • richman on

      Are you a real drummer or a machine pretending to be a blogger?

    • Scott on

      Well played sir.

  • Paulie Kotch on

    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.

  • Locutus on

    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.

  • Jason on

    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.

    • DR on

      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.

  • Nathan on

    One thing this article didn’t do is name anyone. If you’re gonna talk about trends, you need to cite examples. Call some folks out.

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