The Top 25 Modern Metal Drummers


  • Sammy O'Hagar


MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine The Top 25 Modern Metal Drummers, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! The only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) play drums (double-duh), and c) have recorded something in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with Cynic’s Sean Reinert…

While Cynic were never really a band you could reliably hang a genre on, the changes they made between their massively influential debut and their succinct, decade-plus-later followup were still significant. On Focus, the band still had bits and pieces of their death metal lineage intact, from chunky riffs to snarling backing vocals. Traced in Air, however, found them discarding any pretense they had about being a death metal band, drawing upon their previously outlier elements and building a new prog-metal foundation with them. Obviously this wasn’t as drastic a change as it may sound — Cynic are still undeniably Cynic — but more of a tightening of previously loose bolts. The reason, perhaps, that the band maintained tethers from their future to their past — aside from using Vocoder since T-Pain was still in grade school — was drummer Sean Reinert.

While undoubtedly a force behind the kit, his playing wasn’t in step with his DM peers: while theirs was a method of forward momentum and aggression, his was a more intellectual approach. Rife with jazzy flourishes and virtuoso flair, it was a large part of what made Focus stand out in the Morrisound era. It’s sounded right at home in recent years. So while Paul Masvidal (rightfully) gets a lot of attention as the figurehead of Cynic, Sean Reinert plays an equally important part, laying down an intricate infrastructure for the band’s broad, next-level ideas. There’s a reason he’s been one of the band’s only constant members.

And while his work with Death and Cynic inspired countless tech-death also-rans, the genre’s style of drumming has evolved into a familiar and finite thing. Reinert, though, thrives in looseness and spontaneity. Where his playing lacks the speed or viciousness of his peers, there’s a personality and dexterity they lack that’s constantly present. For all his work on the toms, he rarely sound thunderous; for all his master-class fills, he never distracts. He sits in the back, looking for any other way to prop up the band’s riffs and textures than what’s expected, flipping what’s already unconventional on its ear. Even his heavier playing is never tense, always a beat away from a slick fill or a change. He could be argued as a jazz or fusion drummer backing the wrong genre, but really, his drumming is simply another way of looking at it. Cynic were never comfortable with metal’s orthodoxies, and were sick of the music by the time they recorded Focus. The push forward began with Reinert, and he remains the bridge between the band’s two eras.

And while it would a stretch to insist his playing isn’t flashy, he manages to make it not about flash. Like with Masvidal, he’s an upper-echelon musician more concerned with songwriting than artlessly flaunting his chops. Cynic’s charm lies within their ability to mine raw and fascinating humanity from music that sounds so fundamentally alien, and Sean understands that as well as anyone else in the band. The skill that requires can impress, but it’s more about nudging metal, jazz, and even rock forward. While his talent is hard to ignore, it also never dominates the music. Cynic are less about metal’s reliance on showmanship and machismo (alright, they’re not even a little about the latter) and more about creating a tapestry of sound into which one can lose (then subsequently find) oneself. Sean Reinert gets that, and is accordingly atypical.



#11: Dave Witte
#12: Navene Koperweis (Animals as Leaders, Animosity, Fleshwrought)
#13: Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork, Scarve)
#14: Kevin Talley
#15: Morgan Rose (Sevendust)
#16: Stef Broks (Textures)
#17: Blake Richardson (Between the Buried and Me)

#18: Aesop Dekker (Agalloch, Ludicra, Worm Ouroboros)
#19: Shannon Lucas (The Black Dahlia Murder)
#20: Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die, United Nations, Acid Tiger)
#21: Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantômas, Grip Inc., Philm)
#22: Paul Bostaph
#23: Phil Dubois-Coyne (Revocation)
#24: Jade Simonetto (Hate Eternal)
#25: Mike Portnoy (Adrenaline Mob)

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