Blast beat is a general term for a very fast drum comp. The idea is to play the ride with the right hand and the "back kick" with the snare drum on the left hand. The bass drum accompanies either one stroke for each stroke of the right hand, or alternately with a snare drum. At its fastest, the blast beat is played at a rate of more than 10 beats per second, or more than 600 beats per minute.
Blast beat history
Although blast beat is now mostly associated with metal music, slow-paced blast beats were developed as early as the 1960s by jazz drummers such as Angelo Spampinato, Tony Williams and especially Sunny Murray with the 1964 release "Holy Ghost" by Albert Ayler.
The blast beat style became popular in hardcore punk and grindcore music in the 1980s. The first punk recordings featuring a blast beat were Beastie Boys' song "Riot Fight" on the debut EP Pollywog Stew in 1982 and DRI's debut album "No Sense" from 1983. Other bands that used early blast beats were Siege, Heart Attack, Cryptic Slaughter and Noise.
The first artists to record blast beats in metal music were drummers Dave "Grave" Hollingshead (Repulsion) and Charlie Benante (Anthrax, S.O.D.). The specialty of Grave’s technology was the use of a single bass drum and pedal. Benante's bravura was a blast beat hit with a snare drum with both hands. A major blast beat developer was Napalm Death’s first drummer, Mick Harris, whose blast beat became the hallmark of Napalm Death and the entire grindcore genre.
Comps with the hallmarks of a blast beat are also used to some extent in electronic music such as gabber and drum'n'bass. Rap artist Necro, who is heavily influenced by metal music, has even flipped a blast beat in some of his songs.
Blast beat features
Early blast beats were often slow-paced compared to modern metal music blast beats, which are most often played at a rate of more than 180 beats per minute, with "hyper blast" comps hitting 300 beats per minute.
A "gravity blast" is a comp where the edge of a snare drum is used as a swinging board for a drumstick. The striking stick hits both the edge of the drum and the drum diaphragm. The stick thus swings at the edge of the snare drum and strikes the drumhead in both the upward and downward movement of the ringing hand.
A typical blast beat is played in an eighth beat, with the bass drum and snare drum alternately following the rhythm of the hi-hat or ride cymbal. In one variation of the base comp, the hi-hat or ride is not synchronized with the bass and snare, or replaced with other cymbals such as crash or china. Blast beat can be played with one bass drum and one pedal, two bass drums and two pedals (double bass) or one bass drum and one double pedal.
In death metal, for example, the blast beat is often played at a sixteenth beat, with every sixteenth hitting a snare and an eighth hitting a hi-hat. The bass drum is played on the legs in sixteenths, with the snare and bass drum playing at the same time. The fastest grindcore drummers play up to thirty-two or sixty-quarters.
Blast beat and its various variants are currently used especially in grindcore as well as death and black metal. It is used to bring more speed, chaos and aggression to the music.