Sweet Feet: Dave Lombardo And Double Bass-Drum Domination

Categories: Mostly Metal

Slayer's Dave Lombardo is destroying a couple of bass drums just out of frame.
Forty-seven years ago today, drummer Dave Lombardo was born in Havana, Cuba. Never heard of Dave? That's okay. If you've listened to any heavy metal in the past 25 years, you've definitely heard his influence. Round about the release of Reign In Blood in 1986, Dave Lombardo became the new measuring stick for metal drummers the world over.

The reason was simple: Lombardo played heavier, more aggressively and flat-out faster than pretty much anyone had even conceived of previously. Most ear-popping of all were his trademark machine-gun bass drums.

Hard-rock drummers had been adding a second bass drum to their kits since the '60s, but Lombardo was a different beast altogether. On tracks like "Angel of Death," he rode those pedals like he was Lance Armstrong -- a pure natural that the competition just couldn't catch.

Suddenly, it wasn't good enough to just slap an extra bass drum on your kit if you wanted to play metal. Thanks to Lombardo, you had to be able to kick those suckers like you were starting a fire in your jockeys. But while Lombardo may have elevated double bass to a new prominence in music, he wasn't the first to get sick with the kicks -- or the best.

As with many musical innovations, the story of the double bass-drum set begins not with rock but with jazz. Big-band prodigy Louie Bellson first conceived of a kit with two bass drums while sketching in his high-school art class. By 1946, Bellson was playing a dual-kick set with Duke Ellington, but his double-bass licks were largely limited to his flashy solos.

Swing isn't quite as heavy-footed as, say, grindcore.

It would be a couple of decades before the world was truly ready for huge, heavy bass drum fills. It would be the ultimate hard-rock innovators -- Cream -- who finally brought out the potential of the double-bass setup in rock and roll. When Ginger Baker started blasting out alternating left-right bass drum patterns, particularly in the drum feature "Toad," it blew people's minds.

Before long, heavy drummers like Keith Moon of The Who and Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge were adding a second kick to their kits. Moon, in particular, popularized incredibly large, outsized drumsets that came in handy filling up the stage as rock moved into its arena phase. When lame-asses like Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Peter Criss of KISS added a second bass, it was more for show than musical utility.

By the late '70s, guys like Terry Bozzio from Frank Zappa's band and Neil Peart of Rush were moving a second bass drum away from a novelty toward a fully integrated part of their drumsets. Some of the sickest double-bass drumming, though, was being performed by fusion players. Musicians like Billy Cobham of the Mahavishnu Orchestra seemed to open up another half of their body by adding a second kick drum.

Up until the end of the decade, though, double bass was being used mainly for solos and flourishes, nothing like what kids are practicing with ankle weights in their garage at this very moment. Double-bass sixteenth notes of the kind that would power 1,000 metal songs in the '80s, '90s and beyond didn't exist yet. Then, as if by decree of the devil himself, Motorhead appeared.

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Music is a type of experimentation, and drummers are no slouch in using trial and error method in generating new and thrilling beats. Drummers have used different tuning for each bass drum. They also have tried working with drum beaters with over pedals.


Peter Criss never added a second bass drum. You might be thinking of Peter's replacement, Eric Carr.


Slay on, Slayer!

Dave Lombardo is a legend. One of my favorite drummers for sure. So technical, so fast, so brutal. When he left and Paul Bostaph replaced him I was really disappointed. Sorry, but Dave is irreplacable.

Slayer's music is so infectious and catchy that it's almost like pop music getting tatted up, wearing a pentagram t-shirt, and growing big metal fangs. Dave is a big part of that "grooviness".  

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