Tuesday Ten: 060: Blastbeats

Moved from Tuesday for this week only, and with good reason – thanks to the original light-hearted suggestion by music blogger Erich Keller, it's Blastbeat Celebration Day today. This got coverage even in the Guardian, and it's probably no coincidence that the new issue of Terrorizer – who were the ones who originally championed Keller's idea – out today has a Grindcore special (and have Napalm Death on the cover).


So anyway, to note today, here are ten great songs that feature Blastbeats. For those of you that don't know, though, first, what is a blastbeat? The Wiki helpfully explains:

"the blast-beat generally comprises a repeated, sixteenth-note figure played at a very fast tempo, and divided uniformly among the kick drum, snare and ride, crash, or hi-hat cymbal." Blast beats have been described as "maniacal percussive explosions, less about rhythm per se than sheer sonic violence"

Needless to say, few of the tracks featured pass by at less than light speed – and indeed in at least one case, blink and you might miss the entire track, which is why there are eleven tracks featured…

Napalm Death
The Kill

When talking about blastbeats, generally thought turns to extreme metal. It didn't originate there, but it is rarely used anywhere else nowadays, at least. So let's start with the band that pretty much originated grindcore, Napalm Death. Yes, this track is only 21 seconds long, but like much of Scum, it's an unbelievably important and influential album, and it's Mick Harris's drumming, perhaps, like the blast beats on this track, that are one of the most influential parts of all.

The Berzerker
The Berzerker

Let's move on a fair few years, and as the scene evolved things got more and more technical. However, I'm not sure anyone ever really foretold the sonic mayhem that these guys unleashed. While on record much of these Australian gabba-grind mentalist's blastbeats are electronically triggered, watching them live is truly something else. I could have picked any number of tracks, really, but I've gone for the first one that I came across. The video (linked above) was banned, as I recall, for it's extreme imagery and the intense strobing…

The Amenta

Speaking of electronically enhanced blastbeats, then there is this lot, also from Australia, coincidentally enough. Basically industrial black metal, their extensive use of electronics and samples certainly makes them stand out from the pack. This track was the opening track on their first album, and the first thing I heard by them, and is something that will probably offend "trve" black metallers, but honestly, I don't care. The Amenta, while not being "the future", offer a tantalising glimpse of what can be done with a genre if you look a little further beyond the usual constraints. I'm currently patiently awaiting the arrival of new album n0n from Amazon (along with the long awaited new Axis of Perdition album, too), and I'm really looking forward to hearing it.

Dimmu Borgir
Blessings Upon The Throne Of Tyranny
Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia

In Black Metal, where of course blastbeats are pretty much de rigeur, there are a handful of drummers who are a) better than just about everyone else and b) seem to drum for just about every band going. Nicholas Barker (from Sheffield, of all places) is one of these, having drummed for eleven different bands, according to his Wiki page, although Dimmu have something of a revolving door policy when it comes to drummers – they have used at least seven! Anyway, the album this track comes from is an unbelievable tour de force of technicality and production, and this track, the opener proper after the orchestral intro, is a blizzard of blastbeats and riffs that despite the complexity is produced so well that none of the constituent parts vanish into the mix.

Funeral Fog
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

Rather less well produced is the earlier Mayhem material, which has always sounded grimy, dim and very, very dark, despite the fact that it sounds like it was recorded in a garage. Still, Hellhammer's drumming is unbelievable, and like other drummers in the scene his talents have been widely used – his Wiki details no less than 21 bands that he has worked for in some capacity.

Sculptor of Flesh

The third of the awesomely talented BM drummers is Frost, who hasn't worked with as many bands as Barker or Hellhammer, but still appears to keep himself pretty busy. While his main work for years has been with Satyricon, his more recent work with 1349 is in many cases the most impressive. The album Hellfire was pretty much a revival of classic Black Metal, but again actually with a decent production, and of a number of seriously great tracks this one is probably the pick of the bunch. There is apparently a new album in the works, at long last, too.

One By One
Sons of Northern Darkness

One of the seemingly never-ending series of reformations of classic extreme metal bands of late, the return of Immortal seemed to go down pretty well. Personally I'm much more of a fan of their later material, this being their last album before they split – and it sounds fucking immense. Horgh's drumming is pushed up in the mix, and in particular on this track the blastbeats sound like the hordes pushing forwards from the underworld.

Crown of Horns
None So Vile

Let's move away for from Black Metal, and onto one of the more insanely technical death metal bands. The drumming by Flo Mounier on this album is astonishing – in particular on the near hyperspeed blasts on Crown of Horns.

Slaying the Prophets ov Isa
The Apostasy

Talking of impressive technicality, Behemoth's latest album was jaw-dropping in some of the work on it – not to mention being an impressive progression from their previous work, and this advance has done them a lot of good in getting them greater exposure, too. Top moment (among many): this track, and the pummelling assault that the blastbeats provide to your ears…

Masturbating The War God
Black Seeds of Vengeance

Another death metal band that have progressed beyond sheer technical brillance are Nile, whose tracks based on themes from ancient Egypt and HP Lovecraft have a depth of meaning and research unmatched by few bands. In addition, they sound fucking brutal, too, although in terms of blastbeats this slower paced track is underpinned by almost continuous blasts through all five-minutes-plus of the track – some feat. I'm not sure which War God is being revered here, but I'm not sure I'd fancy facing him when summoned.

Strapping Young Lad
Oh My Fucking God

Final band – I could hardly do this list without mentioning the quite astonishing drum-work of Gene Hoglan. Really, the whole fucking album is worth mentioning, but the insane chaos of this track probably makes it the pick. In particular the fact that like most SYL output, it actually has a sense of humour, too…

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