Top 10 Best Metal Drummers of All Time

What makes a metal drummer legendary? Is it their speed, technical skill, creativity, or influence on the genre? Or is it a combination of all of these factors? The world of heavy metal drumming is a diverse and fiercely contested one, filled with iconic figures who have pushed the boundaries of what is possible on the kit.

Throughout heavy metal's history, drummers have been the driving force behind some of the most powerful and innovative music ever created. They've laid down the thunderous beats that define the genre, and they've inspired countless musicians to pick up the sticks and join the mosh pit.
The Top Ten
1 Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment) Michael Portnoy is an American drummer primarily known as the former drummer, backing vocalist, and a co-founder of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater. Known for his technical skill as a drummer, Portnoy has won 30 awards from the Modern Drummer magazine.

It is such an amazing feeling to click on a best metal drummers list and see your favorite at number one. Mike has done so much for me in my personal life, through his work and perseverance in Dream Theater, and how much Dream Theater has done for me. In my drumming, I would be nowhere near as good as I am now without Mike. His drumming inspired me not only to play drums but also to enjoy it.

Every time I play Octavarium - yes, the whole thing - on the drums, there is just something about it that is incredible. His drumming and personality have so much energy and flamboyance that Dream Theater was never the same without him. I love Mike Mangini's playing, but he lacks that extra element that Mike Portnoy brought to the band. He is absolutely number one.

2 Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan (Avenged Sevenfold) James Owen Sullivan (February 9th, 1981 - December 28th 2009), better known by his stage name "The Rev" (Short for "The Reverend Tholomew Plague") was an American musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the former drummer, backing vocalist and co-founder of the American alternative metal/ metalcore... read more

Not just the drummer but the heart and soul of Avenged Sevenfold. Without him, they're lost.

P.S. Waking the Fallen has cemented his status as the GOAT.

First off, I just want to say I think it's dumb how people are saying, "Lars should be number one because if it wasn't for his influence, none of these other guys would exist." How do you think any good drummer becomes good? They are influenced by somebody. They listen to other drummers and learn from them. They develop a style that sometimes, not all the time, may sound a tad bit similar to their influences.

Secondly, this is a list for the "Best Metal Drummer" that anybody can vote on. Essentially, this is a list of people's opinions, or in other words, a list of popularity. That being said, I bet more than half the people who voted on this list know little to nothing about drumming. People are going to vote for their "favorite" drummer or the drummer from their favorite band.

Thirdly, I want to say why I voted for Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan. Some of my reasons may sound hypocritical. The first reason is that he was a part of my favorite band, Avenged Sevenfold. Second, I love his personality and would have loved to have known him in person or gotten to meet him. He was a crazy guy who was friends with basically everybody. Third, and most importantly, I truly think he is one of, if not the best, metal drummers there has ever been.

If you really just listen to his drum tracks and the songs he's written, you can truly hear the musical genius that he was. He could do basically anything on the drums. He invented his own technique, the "double ride thing." He could play basically any style of rock on the drums. Not to mention, he was a pretty good singer. To be honest, I don't know that much about drums, let alone how to play them. But just from what I hear between him and other drummers, I can honestly say my opinion is that he is one of the best drummers and musicians in metal history.

Please keep in mind that this is MY opinion, and I'm not trying to start any big fights or anything like that. Thanks! A7X forever! Love you, Jimmy!

3 Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Testament) David "Dave" Lombardo is a Cuban American drummer, best known as a co-founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer.

Slayer is not as mainstream as Slipknot and A7X. Plus, Dave is not dead. That's why he is number three. The Rev gets voted up only because he is dead.

Lombardo was far more advanced, heavier, and more technical than Jimmy. As for Jordison, he is also better than The Rev. He is very technical and extremely fast. Dave is number one, though. Number two should be Mike Portnoy, who is equally good as Dave. Joey can come in at number three, followed by Ulrich at number four.

Slayer is, in fact, mainstream because Metallica made it so. Dave Lombardo, despite being in second place, has always been the greatest metal drummer in history.

The sheer brutality on Reign in Blood, Silent Scream, and the unparalleled technicality shown on South of Heaven is face-melting. I couldn't care less about popularity. Dave Lombardo has always been metal's greatest drummer.

4 Joey Jordison (Slipknot) Joey Jordison, was an American musician, songwriter, and record producer, best known for his work as the former drummer and co-songwriter for the heavy metal band Slipknot as well as guitarist in the Horror-punk band Murderdolls. He is the co-founder and drummer for the Blackened Death Metal band Sinsaenum... read more

Nobody even comes close to Jordison. If you vote for the Avenged Sevenfold drummer over this "ex" Slipknot drummer, I suggest you try to notice how perfect the drum beats go with each song. Plus, it's basically Slipknot vs. Avenged Sevenfold. If someone were to ask me who has the better drummer, I might laugh. I mean, Avenged Sevenfold, are you kidding me?!

They are just New Metal, and REAL metal is ending with Slipknot, Spineshank, older Trivium, Ill Nino, and Pantera (the best ever). Tool is my favorite band, and I think their drummer is a badass. He's the most unique drummer I have ever heard. Tool can't be put in the same category as Slipknot and Metallica.

5 Danny Carey (Tool) Daniel Edwin "Danny" Carey, born May 10, 1961 in Lawrence, Kansas, is an American drummer and instrumentalist best known for his work in American Grammy Award-winning progressive rock band Tool. He has also contributed to albums by and played with such artists as Zaum, Green Jellÿ, Pigface, Skinny... read more

The most creative drummer on this list, to be sure. While he doesn't make a conspicuous effort to display his technical ability and agility as much as Joey Jordison does, his rhythms are far more intricate and versatile. Both are very fun and incredible to listen to.

However, most metal drummers' rhythms become stale somewhat quickly. It's usually up to the guitarists and vocalists to keep the music interesting and relevant. Tool is driven by rhythm, and Carey's drumming is absolutely the force behind that.

6 Gene Hoglan (Death, Dark Angel, Testament, Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad)

Gene 'Atomic Clock' Hoglan's works include Time Does Not Heal, Individual Thought Patterns, Symbolic, and Dark Roots of Earth. He is the reason that maybe one day I'll try to give some spins to SYL or Dethklok stuff. In one word: innovation. This includes improvisation and precise recording material after only two or three takes. It speaks for itself.

It's not just about BPMs, blast beats, or double bass kicking. But there are many other fantastic drummers: Vinnie Colaiuta, Mike Mangini, Portnoy, Richard Christy, Thomas Lang, Dave Lombardo, and many others I have no clue about until I listen to some stuff played by them live. I laugh out loud when I read references to Dyers Eve, which was programmed so they could hardly play it live.

7 Tomas Haake (Meshuggah) Tomas Haake is a Swedish drummer and main songwriter of the experimental metal band Meshuggah. He is known for his polyrhythms and technical ability. In 2012, he was named the 5th best Modern Metal drummer by MetalSucks.net. He was named the number one drummer in the "Metal" category, in the July 2008... read more

Everyone mentioned above is good. Most of them are my favorites. But Tomas is my idol. He is a beast when it comes to drumming, and he also writes the insane lyrics for Meshuggah.

Okay, I know we're talking about drumming, so let's focus on that. He has speed and one of the greatest techniques in metal. He even influences Danny Carey. Listen to Meshuggah, and you will fall in love with him, just like I did. He really deserves a spot in the top three.

All the drummers listed above are very talented gentlemen. However, when compared to Haake's tenacity, technical mastery (note the use of the word mastery and not just skill), and the fact that he has two brains (one controlling his arms and one controlling his feet), he stands above the rest.

Whether you rank drumming by skill, speed, soul, badassness, or the brain-demolishing factor, Haake excels.

8 Chris Adler (Lamb of God) Christopher James Adler is an American drummer, best known as a member and founder of the groove metal band Lamb of God, and Grammy Award winning member of Megadeth.

By far the best metal drummer out there. He plays every bit of his drum set and commands as much attention as every other member in Lamb of God. Go to YouTube and try to find a reason why he shouldn't be the number one metal drummer.

The Rev was a great drummer, but not even close to the skill level of Chris Adler. Tomas Haake from Meshuggah is probably the only one who could run a close race as far as metal drummers go.

Clearly, only drummers should be voting for the best drummer, regardless of genre. Popularity and talent are not mutually exclusive, but neither are technical execution and soul.

Neil Peart is technically adept, but John Bonham is all soul. That said, Chris Adler is one of the most technically adept and soulful rhythmic composers in metal, and many in the industry are saying so.

9 Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) Michael Henry "Nicko" McBrain is an English musician, best known as the drummer of the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, which he joined in 1982.

The opening track of "Where Eagles Dare" famously displays McBrain's ability to use the single drum pedal very quickly, just like a double pedal. McBrain often employs the back end of his left-hand drumstick to get a more aggressive sound from the snare drum. He is able to play a variety of styles.

Take, for example, the 7/8 riff that follows the second chorus of "Alexander the Great." The 7/4 riff on the song "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" and the 14/8 riff that follows the second chorus on the song "The Longest Day" are other examples of his versatility.

10 George Kollias (Nile) Georgios "George" Kollias is a Greek heavy metal drummer and music teacher best known for his work with American technical death metal band Nile.

Seriously, George is only number 10? Do any of you have ANY idea about drumming? Do you even know half of these people? My hunch is that you're all voting for your favorites, not for the 'best metal drummer.'

George is absolutely insane. He can reach 280 bpm (proven and recorded), which is badass, and his double bass is insane. His technique is flawless, and I have to say he is like a god compared to half of these "number one drummers." I don't even like Nile.

What? People really think that The Rev, Lars Ulrich, and Yoshiki Hayashi are better than George Kollias? No, these little girls who vote for Lars Ulrich just don't know anything about real metal drumming, double bass, blast beats, etc. Why George Kollias? He's the best metal drummer in the world. Just listen to his double bass. And I'm not even a Nile fan!

The Contenders
11 Lars Ulrich (Metallica) Lars Ulrich is a Danish drummer and one of the founding members of the American thrash metal band Metallica.

A true musical genius! People always hate on Lars and say he's a bad drummer, but the man changed the essence of drumming. Not to mention, he is one of the biggest drumming influences in the world. People complain because he changed his whole approach, but it's for the better good, in my opinion.

If he's so bad, how did they sell over 130 million albums and sell out stadiums left and right? I started listening to Metallica back in '84, and yes, I was a tad upset after And Justice. However, listening to everything they play and how this man is so in tune with James Hetfield is mind-blowing.

12 Bill Ward (Black Sabbath) William Thomas "Bill" Ward is an English musician and visual artist, best known as the original drummer for the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath.

Bill Ward has an instantly recognizable drumming style. It's jazzy while at the same time being as metal as everyone else. He should definitely be a lot higher on the list.

Bill should be at least in the top 5. That guy was amazing. Hell, I don't even play drums, but he is the only drummer that really got to me because he stands out from the rest.

Don't believe me? Listen to War Pigs, Beyond the Walls of Sleep, or just about any Sabbath song.

An absolute legend in the making, Bill Ward was and still is the most inspiring metal drummer today. He's one of a kind, and his skills were most incredibly showcased on stage or wherever he played.

Bill Ward is a monster on the drums, and his skills show it all. God bless him and Black Sabbath.

13 Brann Dailor (Mastodon) Brann Timothy Dailor is an American drummer/singer best known as a member of the Atlanta, Georgia metal band Mastodon, in which he is the drummer, backing vocalist, lead vocalist and primary lyricist.

Danny Carey is my favorite, and I really want to upvote him for a higher spot than 5. But Brann Dailor is criminally far down on this list. It's really sad that the fact that Mastodon isn't as well-known as some of the other bands puts Brann at such a disadvantage. His drumming is definitely enough to place him higher on the list.

Just to add, he also has one of the greatest voices in the entire genre. Sometimes it's insane how he manages to sing while holding some insane beats and adding cool fills. Brann and Danny should be up in the top 3 with Mike Portnoy. Mario Duplantier also deserves to be close up there!

14 Blake Richardson (Between the Buried and Me)

Obviously, the people voting here have never actually listened to any music, let alone metal. There are very few men that can compare with Blake, and the few that can are depressingly low on the list as well.

Watch Blake Richardson recording Obfuscation on YouTube. You'll realize why he deserves a spot on this list!

He's definitely number one in my opinion. Watch the Telos demonstration on YouTube. Enough said!

15 Mario Duplantier (Gojira) Mario Duplantier is a French musician and artist best known as the drummer of technical death metal band Gojira.

He definitely deserves to be in the top 5, at least. He's by far my favorite musician. He plays with so much groove but maintains pristine precision.

He manages god-like accuracy without sounding robotic at all. Gojira is one of the best, if not the best, modern metal bands.

He completely melts your mind when you're listening to Gojira. His performance is iconic - extremely technical, fast, precise, and jaw-dropping in every way.

Just listen to Heaviest Matter of the Universe or any other song, for that matter.

16 Mike Mangini (Dream Theater) Mike Mangini is an American drummer. Since 2010, he has been a member of progressive metal band Dream Theater, following the departure of founding drummer Mike Portnoy.

Mangini kicks it off in the new 2012 Dream Theater album. With four World's Fastest Drummer Records and his insane technical abilities, I think Mike Mangini deserves a spot in the Top 10.

He performs a mind-blowing keyboard-drum duet in Illumination Theory and consistently finds ways to impress me more than even Rudess or Petrucci. It's a great start for Mike Mangini, and I expect that he'll continue to impress everyone.

He is one of the most musical drummers, with amazing rhythmic perception and a unique style of playing. Sometimes he's subtle, other times he's in your face. He is probably one of the most versatile and non-egoistic drummers in the metal world.

17 Casey Grillo (Kamelot)

He plays for Kamelot, a symphonic metal band. Many of their songs must mix the beauty and melody of classical rhythms with the drive and aggression of metal. It takes an unbelievable drummer to do this with the amount of feel he does. He has the ability to balance four-on-the-floor thunder with technical flair without distracting from the song.

He plays to the needs of the music, not his own ego. He's perfect for his band and his genre, while the philosophy of his drumming can be applied to any other. Any drummer will tell you that these are among the most important qualities to look for in a drummer and set him apart from the other technical beasts of the metal genre.

(Note: His drumming live easily matches or exceeds that which is recorded. That compliment for Casey also extends to the whole band.)

18 John Dolmayan (System of a Down) John Dolmayan is a Lebanese-born Armenian-American songwriter and drummer. He is best known as the drummer of System of a Down. During System's hiatus, he made a solo album based solo on covers called These Grey Men, which featured vocal performances from Serj Tankian, M. Shadows, Franky Perez, Jonathan... read more

Dolmayan really should be higher on this list, given all his work with different musicians. John's rhythms are spot-on, and he can keep a fast beat.

Plus, he does some pretty good drumming on those timbales, which is very unique for a metal drummer. Instead of showing off with a blast beat, I think a drummer with skills in different areas of percussion deserves the number one spot.

He is one of the best drummers I have ever heard in my life. If you listen to the Toxicity album, I can guarantee that you will understand why he is by far one of the best drummers out there. He never misses a beat live.

19 Vinnie Paul (Pantera) Vincent Paul Abbott, better known as "Vinnie Paul" (March 11, 1964 - June 22nd, 2018) was an American professional drummer and producer. Alongside his late brother Dimebag Darrell, he co-founded the Heavy Metal Bands Pantera and Damageplan, with whom he would find success with in the former. After the... read more

I'm not sure who made this list, but the only one in the top ten who should be there is Dave Lombardo. He should be number one. What are the Rev and Jordison doing in the top three? Drumming isn't just about speed, you fools!

Watch Vinnie Paul play behind some of the heaviest riffs of all time. He plays some sick, off-beat licks that blend beautifully and turns on the speed when he needs to. Like Lombardo, he doesn't just throw it all together in a blurred mess. He hits with intensity, fast or slow, that makes you rock your body.

You need to give the right people the respect they have earned. This isn't a popularity contest! Work on your ear for music before you make a list like this. Unreal!

20 Scott Travis (Judas Priest) Mark Scott Travis is a Grammy Award winning American rock musician, best known as the drummer for the English heavy metal band Judas Priest and the American heavy metal band Racer X.

Scott is a powerhouse. His notorious solo on Painkiller will rip your face off. But he's also much more technical than many of the drummers on this list. Definitely in the top 10. (Is anyone else confused about why you have to go beyond the top 5 to find Judas Priest on any list?)

Of course, the Painkiller solo is an insane drum experience. But come on, guy, look at his live performances. He'll show you that his techniques are stronger than just one song.

Scott is THE master of the drums in a heavy metal band.

This should be in the top 10, not 21. He had an epic drumming solo in Painkiller, but besides that, I guess he is still pretty good.

21 Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel, Terrorizer)

He's the fastest and most technical drummer! Morbid Angel is one of the most brutal and technical bands ever in metal. They are one of the few death metal bands that influence most other death metal bands.

To summarize, they have great technical skill and play the heaviest and fastest metal. Without Pete Sandoval, the band is not the same. They need to go back to the old-school metal they had before the last album. The album isn't bad, but it's not the old-school Morbid Angel.

Yes. When I first heard him on Altars of Madness and Blessed Are The Sick/Wicked (I forget which), it was out of this world. It's one of those you had to see it to believe it sort of things.

22 Nick Menza (Megadeth) Nick Menza (1964-2016) was a professional drummer best known for his work in Megadeth from 1989-1998 and in 2004. He recorded drums on four of Megadeth's albums "Rust In Peace", "Countdown To Extinction", "Youthanasia", and "Cryptic Writings".

I wouldn't say he's the best heavy metal drummer out there, but he fits with the band really well. I've never seen anyone who's able to do that. In fact, most metal drummers just play fast and don't care about what the other band members are playing.

I would listen to Menza's simpler beats and drum fills rather than listening to Joey Jordison's boring solo. Joey plays only one drum fill and repeats it over and over again. Another good metal drummer is Thomas Lang, who is more legendary and technical than Menza. I vote for Menza because his work impresses me the most.

23 Jay Weinberg (The Reveling) Jay Weinberg is an American drummer and the son of drummer Max Weinberg. He has played with the punk band the Reveling and toured in 2009 as a drummer with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, substituting for his father.

He combines jazz with aggressive metal drumming perfectly. We cannot compare him with Joey. They are different, but he fits and upgrades his band.

I like this drummer better than Joey Jordison. Jay looks like he actually enjoys playing the drums in Slipknot, unlike Joey Jordison from 2004 through 2013.

New Slipknot drummer. He should do well!

24 Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) Matt Cameron is an American composer, and musician. He is mostly famous for being the drummer of the three grunge bands Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Temple of the Dog.

Matt is like my mom's Sunday dinner. Simplest ingredients, nothing fancy, and the most satisfying meal ever.

Thanks, Matt.

Probably the most underrated drummer of all time.

25 Ariën van Weesenbeek (Epica)

Speed, power, and unbelievable control. Along with some others that come to mind, he doesn't always get the recognition he deserves in this genre, in my opinion.

Also, check out his work with MaYaN. It's seriously good. He deserves to be way higher on this list.

He lives up to his nickname "The Beast." It's totally amazing when you discover at the end of the show that he is completely wet because of sweating. He is a real monster on stage and shows tons of energy when he's playing.

Respect for this incredible drummer.

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