Drums were the first instrument I ever fell in love with as a musician, and they still hold a special place deep within these battered bones. Ask anyone who’s spent more than a few hours with me, and they’ll attest to the irritating truth of how I drum on my lap or the nearest tabletop whenever a good song starts playing. It’s almost a sickness, albeit a much welcomed one from my perspective.
As someone who loves the production side of music making, a solid drum sound is key to creating a stable foundation to hold the structure of a song. Going back in time there are dozens of drummers whom I would deem inspirational, but only a few drum sounds that can get this black heart beating again.
The insane drums fills are one thing, but ultimately it was the dry and bombastic seventies tone that gives this kit the gusto to carry such a bad ass rock album.
Just like Eruption gave us an introduction to one of the best rock guitarists of all time, the motorcycle mimicking intro to Hot For Teacher gave the rock world one of its most memorable drum intros of all time.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the opening to 6:00 and Mike Portnoy’s octoban’s soaring into my subconscious in a way that would forever change the way I approached drumming.
Quite possibly the heaviest sounding snare drum ever recorded. Thanks in part to Bob Rock and Randy Staub spending days on end with Lars crafting a vast array of room microphones and baffles used to create such an iconic sound.
Led Zeppelin IV
Most often imitated, but never duplicated. For years there have been people who sampled and studied this legendary drum tone, all the way down to the material used in the very room the kit was recorded.
Death Cult Armageddon
Despite the change of scenery when he jumped ship from Cradle of Filth to Dimmu Borgir, Nicholas finally reached a drum sound worthy of his insanely articulate speed. Out of all the albums he recorded with them, Death Cult Armageddon remains my favorite for it’s polished production, and flawless performance.
Queens of the Stone Age
Songs For the Deaf
One would assume that drums performed by Dave Grohl would be drowning in room reverb and sound larger than battleships crashing into each other, but the production held back on the polish and let Dave’s playing shine through. They even isolated the cymbals from the drums, recording them separately to create a more focused environment.
Since we’re on the topic of Dave Grohl, why not mention the album that drew me in as a drum addicted teenager. While Nevermind was still making the rounds for its groundbreaking influence, In Utero was the sweet spot for me. The drums were powerful, erratic, and yet carefully focused to deliver a solid groove for each song.
Now that we’re in Nirvana territory, what better place to mention my favorite Melvins record? While Kurt Cobain did try to lend a hand with the production, his talents were ultimately subsided by abuse problems according to Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne. Despite those production issues, there’s no denying the drums on this album contribute to the bands larger than life sound.
When I used to imagine what heavy drumming would sound like for any given band that plays heavy music, I would conjure up deep tones that would compliment such a large sound. Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham worked tirelessly with producer Terry Date to break that perception by using such high pitched and punchy sounding drums that tastefully contrast the down-tuned guitars.
It would have been sacrilege for me to continue this list without mentioning at least one of Danny Carey’s dynamic drum recordings. I could easily list any Tool album here, but 10,000 Days finds my interest thanks in part to the variety of percussion used alongside some of his best and most creative playing to date.
Capping off the list with a band I have just recently discovered, the first thing I noticed about Spotlights was how massive they sound. During a time when the vast majority of heavy bands copy each-others production techniques, Spotlights take a unique turn by carving their own sonic landscape with a gigantic sounding drum kit that plays host to equally massive melodies.