My Top Ten Favorite Drummers

10. Claude Coleman Jr. – Ween

Coleman Jr. is a drumming chameleon, which is fitting considering who he’s playing with. Ween is widely renowned for their ability to mimic any style of music while adding their own quirky, unique charm to it and doing it shockingly well. While Gene and Dean Ween (no relation) are the undisputed driving force of the band, I think Coleman Jr.’s contributions elevate the band to new heights, and is something that can’t be overlooked when listening to their music. Be it speed metal, punk, progressive rock, country, or any other style for that matter, Coleman Jr. has got it covered like no other drummer.

9. Anonymous – Deathspell Omega

Deathspell Omega’s is one of the black metal’s strangest birds, not only for their avant-garde take on black metal, but also for their anonymity, which is impressive in the age of album leaks and online sleuths. So while I may not know their drummer’s name, I can say with certainty that this man is a technical beast. He lays out these intricate and heavy hitting blast-beats, perfectly complimenting their alien and layered guitar work. I love the fills that this man does. They sound like a jagged boulder being pushed down a cavern that reaches the Earth’s core. 

8. Flo Mounier – Cryptopsy

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Mounier’s drumming on None So Vile, one of the best technical death metal records to be put to wax. First is that terrifying roar from “Exorcist III,” then Brad Dourif smugly stating “I do it rather well… don’t you think?” and finally the record rushes at you right out of the gates, Mounier’s double bass drumming and laser-precise blast-beating pounding you. He never lets up for the rest of the album, his frenetic drumming working perfectly with vocalist Lord Worm’s manic howls and the polished guitar and bass-work. Mounier is one of Canada’s finest metal exports. Change my mind. You can’t.

7. Jason Roeder – Neurosis, Sleep

The only drummers that I can think of that are as devastating as him are the drummers that held tenure with Swans. While Neurosis (his primary act) is a punk turned atmospheric sludge metal band, I don’t really consider Roeder a metal drummer, or a punk drummer, or any drummer of any discernible style for that matter. You can say it’s metallic or punkish, but at the end of the day what this man drums is strictly primal. It sounds ancient, like it was uncovered after being immersed in amber for a thousand years and brought another thousand years of darkness after it was cracked open. The drumming on “Through Silver and Blood” (and the album) is some of the most harrowing and crushing I’ve ever heard. What a monster.

6. Britt Walford – Slint

I think a lot can be said about Slint’s second and final album, Spiderland. Here these four, good ol’ Kentucky boys reach their artistic apex within a manic recording session lasting only four days. Walford’s drumming perfectly captures this insanity. It sounds like the man is about to collapse from exhaustion, but he snaps himself awake before he does so. Between his deliberate, mid-tempo drumming we get these desperate bursts of energy on every song of the album, particularly on “Washer” and “Good Morning, Captain.” Walford’s drumming is something that haunts me to this day, and keeps me on edge when listening through Spiderland.

5. Chris Haikus – Om, Sleep

If there’s one thing that Chris Haikus proves it, is that there’s beauty in repetition. There’s nothing too extravagant or flamboyant about his drumming or fills compared to some of the technical powerhouses on this list. He more than makes up for that, however, in his ability to build tension through his powerful, deliberate drumming for the stoner-metal band Om. Every hit feels like a hammer smashing into you, and when he shows off with a fill, you feel each and every single hit. His drumming also acts as a bed where his partner, Al Cisneros, can improvise and play some rumbling bass riffs that are as dense as a black hole. A perfect combination that makes Om one of my favorite bands, and Haikus one of my favorite drummers.

4. Jaki Liebezeit – Can

Die wahr mensch-maschine of Krautrock, Liebezeit hybridzies soulful, funky drumming with Krautrock’s iconic Motorik beat. His drumming was way ahead of its time, predicting the advent of a lot of electronic music we hear today. It’s hard to believe that a song like “Vitamin C” was released nearly 50 years ago with drumming of that calibre. He’s incredibly dynamic as a drummer, playing perfectly with bassit Holger Czukay on every album they’re together for. The interplay he has with guitarist Michael Karoli and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt can’t be ignored either. Liebezeit was a true drummer’s drummer, elevating and elevated by the work of his bandmates and being a driving, rhythmic force.

3. Zach Hill – Hella, Death Grips

Hill is as wild as he is technical. When you hear him play it sounds like he’s just flailing on the kit, but every single hit of his is deliberate as he brazenly changes through time signatures. This is more true with his work on Hella; he’s a much more focused force when he plays for Death Grips. His hip-hop inspired drumming is still insane while keeping you grounded in the noise that MC Ride and Andy Morin produce. His stage presence is undeniable too. Fear is placed in the heart when he’s up on stage half naked, lean from the crackhead drumming he does, his hands drenched in sweat and blood. When Hill plays his kit, there’s no such thing as 4/4, 5/4, 9/8, or any time signature for that matter. There’s only Zach/Hill.

2. Michael Giles – King Crimson

While most progressive rock drummers like Neal Peart, Phil Collins and Bill Bruford are rock drummers influenced by jazz, Giles is a jazz drummer that is transposed onto the distorted vision of rock music that King Crimson plays on their debut, In the Court of the Crimson King. Every snare hit, cymbal crash and fill this man plays is strictly jazz, and is wild and unhinged for the most part. The sheer insanity that Giles brings to the table on “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “In the Court of the Crimson King” and “Epitaph” stops your breath, and any moments of peace on these three tracks are like the calm before a maelstrom. His work on “I Talk to the Wind” and “Moonchild,” on the other hand, present his gentler, more peaceful side. Despite his short tenure, I’m glad that Giles was a member of the King’s expansive court.

1. Charles Hayward – This Heat, Camberwell Now

One of the most criminally overlooked post-punk and rock drummers would have to be Charles Hayward. Hayward was the mastermind behind This Heat and Camberwell Now before their dissolution, and his style is hard to pin down. Sometimes he sounds tribal, sometimes industrial, sometimes sounding like the jazzier side of progressive rock. He can chug and methodically beat the hell out of his kit on songs like “S.P.Q.R.,” “Horizontal Hold” and “24 Track Loop,” or he can be incredibly expressive and improvisatory on songs like “Working Nights” and “The Ghost Trade.” He’s such a unique drummer that I can’t help but admire him.