The 10 best drummers in technical death metal

Tech death drummers
(Image credit: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns)

The powerhouse behind the kit for Ophidian I, Ragnar Sverrisson and his bandmates helped raise the bar for Iceland's tech-death scene in 2021, their second record Desolate offering a stunningly intricate sense of technicality that landed it on both the critics' and readers' poll for best album of 2021, as well as in the round-up of the finest death metal releases of the year. 

Check out the utterly mesmerising playthrough of Ophdian I's Enslaved In A Desolate Swarm below for a demonstration of just how technically superb Sverrisson and co. are. 

Those tremendous skills in mind, we asked Sverrisson to pick out some of the finest drummers currently working in the field of tech-death, helping to elevate the genre ever higher. "I am happy to oblige as I have spent countless hours studying most of them!" Sverrisson says. "I use all of them as a direct influence and motivation daily. Every one of these drummers has not only reached the top level of extreme drumming, but also stepped outside of the mould to make their drumming memorable and mesmerising." 

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1. Dennis Röndum (Strangulation/Visceral Bleeding/Spawn Of Possession)

"Since we´re treading on the path of tech-death, how could I be true to myself without starting the list with Dennis Röndum? Day after day me and my bandmates would be driving to the rehearsal space at 16-17 years old, listening to the intro to Church of Deviance while acting it out with theatrics before everyone in the car started headbanging when the blastbeats started. 

Dennis Röndum did not only play extremely fast, but his fills and drum ideas were simultaneously surprisingly innovating for his young age while also complementing [guitarist Jonas] Bryssling’s phenomenal riffing at every second of each song. Spawn Of Possession was not only a band that defied the boundaries of metal at the time, but they were also a whole atmosphere in of themselves. Dennis was an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle."

2. Hannes Grossmann (Triptykon/Eternity's End/Obscura/Necrophagist)

"There are a few online drum cams that manage to pass the threshold from masterpiece to mythical. Grossman´s live drum cams from his era with Necrophagist are examples of video evidence that make your mouth gape every time you watch them. At the age of 21 he had pieced together three different skills that usually take the rest of us mortals most our lives to achieve: speed and brutality, deep fundamental musical maturity and groove, and the ability to learn hit-by-hit the incredibly complex tech-death drumming as it was written by one of the best guitar players ever to honour the scene, namely Muhammed Suiçmez. 

God knows how ridiculous it can be to try to play drum parts written by guitarists, imagine how hard it is if they´re written by someone who is to a degree inventing a new style of music at the same time. Grossmann is just so talented that it leaves us all in awe. His career is a testament to what happens when innate talent is crossed with unimaginable commitment to hard work. I haven´t even really checked out what he did after Necrophagist because I´m just still processing it."

3. Mauro Mercurio (Eyeconoclast/Fleshgod Apocalypse)

"In the years of the Derek Roddy forum, which many of us used to scour before Facebook swallowed every online community in existence, there were so many grainy 240p drum videos that managed to inspire us despite the bad quality. Mauro´s playthroughs of Hour Of Penance songs, played on his electric drumkit at home were an important part of that to me. 

He had speed and brutality while also looking very relaxed at the kit. He played the drums on Fleshgod Apocalypse´s Oracles, an album that some regard as some of their best work, before they took a deep dive into symphonic blastbeat albums with a hint of guitars (which is absolutely their prerogative). A founding member of Hour of Penance, he played on their first few albums which I´m sure inspired many drummers of my generation along with me."

4. Morten Løwe Sørensen (Amaranthe/The Arcane Order)

"Entering the extreme metal scene around 2002/2003, I barely caught the end of the CD era before everything was downloaded and stored on mp3 players. This means I frequently visited Geisladiskabúð Valda (Valdi´s record store) in downtown Reykjavík, and any other record shop I could find when I travelled abroad with my parents. In one such shop in Switzerland I saw a cool CD cover with some planetary space artwork and bought it because of that. It turned out to be The Arcane Order with their album In The Wake Of Collisions

It may not strictly speaking be tech-death, but this album has so many brilliant drum ideas and original takes on blast-beats and skank-beats. It sounded like the drummer was trying everything to make fast drumming interesting again. The drummers name is Morten Løwe Sørensen. Sinfully underexposed in the scene, in my opinion. I can only guess that the relatively weak metal scene in Denmark of today is one of the main reasons. This album has influenced me in many ways ever since I first heard it."

5. Kristján Einar Guðmundsson (Fortíð/Momentum)

"Before the advent of the Icelandic black metal scene which has become world renowned, Iceland was for all intents and purposes completely off the map in regard to metal music. This means that as an aspiring extreme metal drummer, you would pretty much not have any way to see and learn from older, better emissaries of the blastbonks. Thankfully Kristján Einar and his band Momentum were around to spark a flame of motivation for the next generation. 

Their EP, The Requiem, along with a bunch of unofficially released songs were in my opinion world-class technical death metal, where Kristján showcased his super disciplined single-footed blast-beats to compliment his extremely innovative and groovy drumming. Do yourself a favour and find the EP on Bandcamp. The dude was playing the Bleed pattern with overlaying polyrhythms years before Meshuggah released Obzen."

6. Chris Thorpe (Kohnerah)

"Another one of those legends from the Derek Roddy forum, here you´ve got a metal drummer who I know for a fact is the direct influence for many of today´s top extreme metal drummers. A video clip entitled “Chris Thorpe owning your ass at 300bpm” found its way to the forum and made many a player rage quit the drums and buy DJ equipment instead. 

Still today this clip is to my best knowledge one of - if not the - fastest example of the swivel technique on the bass drums. His bands never quite blew up in the scene, but I know for a fact that many of the albums we listen to today showcase drummers that would not have reached the epic heights they did if it were not for Chris Thorpe, and this video in particular."

7. Vitek (Decapitated)

"When I joined my first ever metal band at 16, the other guys who were a little older got me hooked on popular bands of that era, such as the aforementioned Spawn Of Possession, Hate Eternal and not least, Decapitated. Devouring their first three full-length albums, Organic Hallucinosis was released later that year and has been in my rotation ever since. 

I don´t think I really need to explain to anyone even slightly familiar with death metal the imprint that this version of the band left on the scene forever. The relationship between the brothers Vitek and Vogg (guitars) is similar to that of the Abbott brothers from Pantera in my mind. When someone like Vitek starts to play extreme metal music earlier than they might have without the influence of an older sibling, the extremely fertile mind of a teenager seems to be able to reach great skill much faster than they would if they started a few years later. I remember when I reached the age that Vitek was when he tragically passed away because it was only then that I fully realised how far ahead he was of every metal drummer of his generation."

8. Gabe Seeber (Empty Throne/The Kennedy Veil/Decrepit Birth/Abysmal Dawn/Vale Of Pnath/Abbath)

"Gabe Seeber did some live shows for (Icelandic tech-death group) Beneath after I left the band in 2015, which naturally made me check out his works. Performing with bands like Decrepit Birth, Abysmal Dawn and Vale of Pnath, his fervent and incredibly clean technique elevates every song that he records or performs. Switching back and forth from swivel technique to double strokes, Seeber makes it evident that he possesses work ethic and motivation that few of us can aspire to. Being a super cool dude on top of that, it's very exciting to see what he will conjure up in the future and I advise anyone who enjoys crisp, clean blast beats and double bass at blazing speeds to check him out on social media."

9. Nils Fjellström (Nordjevel/The Wretched End/Dark Funeral)

"Another one of those drummers that most people in the scene should know by now. Becoming one of the most famous extreme drummers ever during his time in the black metal band Dark Funeral, he has also set his mark on the tech-death scene, not least when he played with Aeon. I think I can safely say that Fjellström is an example of what can happen when you disregard social life and the indulgence of any other hobbies for the sole pursuit of the fastest, most extreme, most heavy-hitting drum style humanly achievable. 

Yes there are faster drummers out there, but even on his slower songs he sounds faster than most of them due to his incredible tightness and ferocity. Watching a feature on him on a Swedish TV show many years ago made it obvious to me that he studies every detail about the art of metal drumming that could possibly make his playing just that immeasurably tiny bit more brutal and faster. It has all cumulated in millions of views and hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide who all realize that when he plays, they´re witnessing skills that probably are only born once every few decades."

10. Lyle Cooper (Abhorrent/The Faceless)

"Back in 2007 Lyle uploaded a video of himself flawlessly covering Spawn of Possession´s Lash by Lash and it was evident  to anyone who saw it that this would not be the last time they saw this dude playing drums. Unsurprisingly, the next year The Faceless released their album Planetary Duality featuring him on the drums. The album is undeniably one of the cornerstones of tech-death today and the live drum cams of Cooper on the drums are an absolute pleasure to behold. 

Playing with groove, speed and obviously immersed in feeling, watching him play the drums is addicting. I´m pretty sure he can do whatever he wants in the metal scene at this point and it´s very satisfying to listen to him play with various other bands. His performance on the 2015 album Infinite Fields by Irreversible Mechanism is my personal favourite and I encourage everyone to check it out. Having been around for it I however always find myself going back to that badly recorded SoP cover when I want to hear him play. God, I love those crappy old drum cams."

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.