10 Best Heavy Metal Drummers of All Time



Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich is one of Audio Ink Radio’s best heavy metal drummers of all time – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Ken Settle

Audio Ink Radio gives you its list of 10 of the best heavy metal drummers of all time

Why do guitarists and vocalists get all the fun? Often, for whatever reason, drummers and bass players are underappreciated when it comes to music. But, the heavy metal genre rules when it comes to the finest drummers and bass players, and it’s time for them to get the spotlight. Hence, in honor of those under-the-radar players, we’re spotlighting 10 of the best heavy metal drummer of all time.

Could you imagine Tool without Danny Carey? How about Metallica with Lars Ulrich? It’s safe to say that these bands wouldn’t be what they are today without those personalities sitting behind the kit. Read on for Audio Ink Radio’s list of the 10 best heavy metal drummers of all time. Moreover, send your picks to us on Twitter here and Facebook via this location.

10. Vinnie Paul, Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah

Vinnie Paul was often recognized for his driving double bass technique. With it, he combined brutal double bass drum beats and speedy, steady rhythms to great accord. He brought that heavy, thrashy sound to all of his projects, from Pantera to Damageplan to Hellyeah. He’s deeply missed.

9. Mike Portnoy, Multiple Bands

Mike Portnoy is one of the most recognizable names in progressive metal. From his work in Dream Theater to his many other projects, Portnoy brings a unique style and flavor to any music that he touches. Moreover, as with many metal drummers, he’s celebrated for his double bass technique.

8. Charlie Benante, Anthrax

I honestly think that Charlie Benante is one of the most underrated drummers out there. He has wicked drumming skills, and he also releases solo music, so he’s very well-rounded. Also, Benante is famous for his speedy double kick technique and was one of the originators of the double bass and blast beat technique.

7. Scott Travis, Judas Priest, Elegant Weapons, Thin Lzzy

Scott Travis brings his unique drumming skills to not only Judas Priest, but other projects, such as Elegant Weapons and Thin Lzzy. He has exceptional speed, power and drive behind the drum kit. While Judas Priest aren’t a band known for their speed, Travis can knock out the quick drum beats when the song calls for it.

6. Bill Ward, Black Sabbath

Without Black Sabbath, there is no heavy metal, and without Bill Ward, there’s no Black Sabbath. As the co-founder and original drummer for the legendary metal band, Ward introduced a heavy, simple, hard-hitting style to the music world. In turn, he influenced countless heavy metal drummers along the way.

5. John Bonham, Led Zeppelin

The late, great John Bonham pretty much created the heavy metal drum during his time in Led Zeppelin. He was known for his heavy, hard rock drumming style. Later in his career, he even added Latin grooves and influences into his music. More than anything, his drumming was instantly recognizable.

4. Brann Dailor, Mastodon

Brann Dailor bring an infectious heavy, groovy, sludgy drum sound to Mastodon and the Atlanta metal band’s music. He also works interesting influences into his music. Everyone from Phil Collins during his 1970s Genesis music to Dave Lombardo of Slayer have inspired Dailor. Basically, Mastodon simply wouldn’t sound the same without him.

3. Dave Lombardo, Slayer

Dave Lombardo is one of thrash metal’s most influential drummers. Even though he came after greats such as John Bonham and Bill Ward, he still influenced the next generation of rhythm-makes. Moreover, Lombardo is famed for his speedy, aggressive style of drumming and use of the double bass drum technique. He rips and roars.

2. Danny Carey, Tool

Okay, so Tool may not qualify as a “heavy metal” band. They’re more prog-metal. But, that doesn’t take away how influential Danny Carey has been to the rock and metal genres as a drummer. Carey is really the sound of Tool. Actually, if you take out any of Tool’s band members, whether it’s Carey, Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones or Justin Chancellor, the band just doesn’t exist in its real form. With Carey, what really stands out is the diversity of his sound and how be brings aspects of jazz into his drumming from years of studying jazz, including using odd time signatures, polymeters and polyrhythms.

1. Lars Ulrich, Metallica

It’s not a surprise that the drummer of one of the biggest heavy metal bands of all time is No. 1 on our list of the 10 greatest heavy metal drummers of all time. Not only is Ulrich a fantastic drummer, but he’s also a larger-than-life personality. Who can forget his tirade on Napster in 2000? What makes Ulrich an even better drummer his how his technique has changed over the years. At first, it was all thrash, with Ulrich’s fast, gutsy beats. But, over the years, Ulrich has also showed he can present a more rock-leaning approach for Metallica’s more melodic music. For his ingenuity and longstanding influence, Lars Ulrich of Metallica is No. 1 on our tally of the 10 greatest heavy metal drummers of all time.

Read Audio Ink Radio’s list of the best heavy metal guitarists of all time here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music