Friday, 28 September 2012

When Metal Drummers Collide (Grand Final)

Here it is - the Grand Final of the Metal Drummers series! Twenty of metal music's best percussionists got together and pitted their skills against one another and out of these twenty only two remain: Meshuggah's Tomas Haake and Dream Theater's Mike Mangini.

Who among the two has the better combination of speed, technique, musicality, endurance and accuracy though? Let's find out.


(a) Solo Work


Mike Mangini is, even to the untrained eye/ear, a fabulous technician. That explains how he has always been one of the world's most sought-after drummers, whether for live performances on tight schedules or for studio recordings. His solo work, however, tends to be a tad mechanical at times. His full repertoire of skills is on display, yet his solos do not quite have that gripping quality about them that makes the listener want more.


Haake possesses neither the sheer linear speed nor the incredible multi-genre knowledge of Mangini, but manages to extract far more musical value out of his solos. A first-class technician in his own right, Haake thrives in solo/duo situations that allow him to show off his chops which, as can be seen and heard in the video, extend far beyond metal playing.

Advantage: Haake

(b) Band Work


Despite being such an accomplished musician, Mangini has not really made his mark with one particular band (though he may well do so with Dream Theater soon). His work with James LaBrie, Steve Vai and Extreme has generally been done on the fly; Mangini's strongest selling point is that he can come in, learn things in a very short time, and play them perfectly on gig day. However, he loses some points for the fact that he never has consistently shown off his incredible skills in any given band setting thus far.


When people think of Meshuggah, they do not think of Thordendal or Hagstrom as quickly as they think of Haake. This is where Tomas holds a significant advantage over Mangini when comparing the two drummers' band work. Meshuggah, as most metal fans would know, are a tech/death/jazz-fusion monstrosity of a band that puts out track after genre-defying track; central to whatever they do is the steady drumming of Haake.

Major Advantage: Haake

(c) Gimmicks

The man has held various hand and foot speed world drumming records and is still, even at his relatively advanced age, an incredible speed and endurance drummer.

Tomas' biggest gimmick is probably his liberal use of polyrhythmic beats in Meshuggah's music. Other than that, though, there is not much in the way of flash in his playing.

Advantage: Mangini

(d) Live Performance

Whether for Steve Vai, the G3 tour, Extreme or Tribe of Judah, Mangini will come in, put in his hours of practice, and bust out whatever is needed come performance time. A consummate professional and a startlingly accurate live performer, Mangini is always a treat to see in the flesh.

Haake is himself no slouch live; while some of his contemporaries have resorted to using drum machines in studio or omitting certain songs from their live gigs, Meshuggah and Haake have done everything the old-fashioned, organic way. Haake is terrifyingly accurate whether in studio or live, and while he may not be as bubbly a showman as Mangini, he more than compensates for that with the fact that he always jazzes things up live.

Tiny Advantage: Mangini

The Verdict: Each drummer has his advantages over the other; both are, when all is said and done, truly fantastic musicians. Mangini is the superior live performer due to his versatility and infectious personality, but Haake would have to be my pick for superior drummer because he makes the most of his considerable skill and knowledge in creating his music and crafting his solos.

Winner: Tomas Haake (Meshuggah/Sweden)

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