The Originators of Double Bass Drum in Metal Music: Origins, Evolution, Impact

by Patria

Metal music, characterized by its heavy riffs, thunderous drumming, and intense energy, has seen countless innovations and evolutions since its inception. One such innovation that significantly shaped the genre is the use of double bass drumming. The double bass drum pedal allows drummers to play two bass drums simultaneously, creating a ferocious and relentless rhythm that has become a hallmark of many metal subgenres. In this article, we embark on a journey to uncover the trailblazers who first introduced the double bass drum technique into the world of metal music, tracing its origins, evolution, and the impact it has had on the genre.

The Birth of a Beast: Early Metal Drumming

Metal music, a genre known for its intensity and aggressiveness, emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In its infancy, metal drumming was more straightforward, with drummers relying on single bass drums and relatively simple beats. Bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin laid the foundation for what would become a global phenomenon, but it was clear that the genre had room for evolution. Metal music needed something to match the power of its riffs and soaring guitar solos, and that something turned out to be the double bass drum.

The Dawn of Double Bass Drumming in Metal

While metal music was still finding its identity, it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s that drummers started experimenting with the double bass drum pedal in a more serious manner. This era saw the rise of several influential bands that would play a pivotal role in the evolution of metal music, and, unsurprisingly, they were at the forefront of the double bass drum revolution.

Metallica: The Trailblazers

In the world of metal music, few bands have left as significant a mark as Metallica. Formed in 1981, the band’s debut album, “Kill ‘Em All,” released in 1983, is often credited with introducing the double bass drum technique to a broader metal audience. Lars Ulrich, the band’s drummer, was the man responsible for the double bass drumming onslaught that took the metal world by storm.

Ulrich’s double bass drumming in Metallica’s “Battery” and “Fight Fire with Fire” showcased a level of speed and precision previously unseen in metal music. It wasn’t just about playing fast; it was about creating a wall of sound that complemented the aggression of the guitar work. Metallica’s early use of double bass drumming set a precedent for many metal bands to follow.

Slayer: Reigning in Blood with Double Bass

In the mid-1980s, Slayer, one of the “Big Four” bands of thrash metal, further solidified the role of double bass drumming in metal music. Drummer Dave Lombardo’s exceptional skill and blistering speed were instrumental in shaping Slayer’s brutal and unrelenting sound. The 1986 album “Reign in Blood” featured tracks like “Angel of Death” and “Raining Blood,” which showcased Lombardo’s remarkable double bass drum technique. These songs became iconic in the metal world and are often cited as examples of groundbreaking double bass drumming in the genre.

Death Metal: Taking Double Bass to Extremes

As metal music diversified into subgenres, the double bass drum technique found its way into the realm of death metal. Bands like Death, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse pushed the boundaries of speed and brutality, and their drummers played a crucial role in defining the genre’s sound.

Death: Chuck Schuldiner’s Progressive Vision

In the late 1980s, Death, led by the visionary Chuck Schuldiner, embraced the double bass drum technique as an integral part of their progressive death metal sound. Schuldiner’s use of double bass drumming in songs like “Crystal Mountain” and “Flattening of Emotions” showcased its potential to add complexity and depth to the genre. Death’s innovative approach to blending melody with brutality left an indelible mark on the development of death metal, and the double bass drum played a significant role in achieving this balance.

Morbid Angel: Pete Sandoval’s Fury

Pete Sandoval, the drummer for Morbid Angel, brought double bass drumming to new heights in the early 1990s. His machine-gun-like speed and precision in songs like “Immortal Rites” and “Maze of Torment” set the standard for technicality and aggression in death metal drumming. Sandoval’s use of double bass pedals was instrumental in creating the relentless, chaotic sound that became a hallmark of the genre.

Cannibal Corpse: The Brutal Masters

Cannibal Corpse, known for their extreme lyrics and brutal sound, featured drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz, whose double bass drumming added a level of intensity that perfectly matched the band’s gruesome themes. Songs like “Hammer Smashed Face” and “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled” highlighted Mazurkiewicz’s ability to seamlessly integrate double bass drumming into Cannibal Corpse’s uncompromising style.

The Evolution Continues: Modern Metal Drumming

In the 21st century, the double bass drum technique in metal music has continued to evolve. New subgenres like djent and metalcore have emerged, each with its take on double bass drumming.

Djent: A Progressive Twist

Djent, characterized by its intricate guitar work and polyrhythmic patterns, has brought a fresh perspective to metal drumming. Drummers like Matt Halpern of Periphery and Alex Rudinger of The Faceless have incorporated double bass drumming into their playstyles, contributing to the genre’s complexity and technicality. Djent’s use of the double bass drum pedal is a testament to its versatility and adaptability across various metal subgenres.

Metalcore: Combining Melody and Aggression

Metalcore bands like Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying have embraced the double bass drum technique as a means of infusing melody into their heavy sound. Drummers like Justin Foley and Jordan Mancino have used double bass pedals to create dynamic rhythms that enhance the emotional intensity of the music. Metalcore’s fusion of melody and aggression has broadened the appeal of double bass drumming in metal music.


In the world of metal music, the introduction of the double bass drum technique was a pivotal moment that forever changed the landscape of the genre. From its early days with Metallica and Slayer to its evolution in death metal and its presence in modern subgenres like djent and metalcore, the double bass drum has proven its adaptability and power.

The pioneers of double bass drumming in metal, such as Lars Ulrich, Dave Lombardo, Chuck Schuldiner, Pete Sandoval, and Paul Mazurkiewicz, played a crucial role in shaping the genre and inspiring countless drummers to push the limits of their craft. As metal music continues to evolve, the double bass drum remains a symbol of its relentless energy and unwavering commitment to pushing boundaries. It’s a testament to the enduring power of metal music and the innovative spirit of those who dare to play it loud, fast, and with a double kick.

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