Who Owns The Blastbeat?

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, stupid crap On: Monday, November 28th, 2011


We know who coined the term ‘blast beat’ or ‘blastbeat’, but which group was the first to employ the technique now synonymous with extreme metal drumming? Now that is a question I bet even a TakeLessons drum teacher wouldn’t be able to answer. Was it grindcore legends Napalm Death? Was it crossover heroes D.R.I.? Or was Vehicle City originators Repulsion? How about Kam Lee’s demo blasting for Death? Or even The Beastie Boys pre-ill? None of the above apparently.

A quick look up on J. Bennett’s Interhole seems to point to Jazz drummer Tony Williams as the first sticksman to play it quickity quick-like. Indeed, Williams’ fast syncopated hits on the snare could very well be the first blast set to extreme music, but it seems like Jazz—particularly Ayler—is a bit removed from a banger’s point of view. A diagram connecting Mick Harris or Dave ‘Grave’ Hollingshead to Williams would probably just as confounding as a diagram connecting David Vincent or Karl Willets to Mongolian throat singers.

My stinking opinion on the first blast beat in rock music—which of course is the precursor to heavy metal—comes from none other than Billy ‘Uptown Girl’ Joel. See, back in 1969 Joel had formed Attila with drummer Jon Small. The duo only recorded one album, 1970’s Attila, but had Small blasted his way to obscurity and infamy on the album’s final track “Brain Invasion”. Small may’ve picked up on the panicked percussion style from Williams or one of many great and intrepid Jazz drummers of the times (‘60s, ‘70s), but it’s hard to dispute Small’s expeditious patter.

Although Attila’s sole effort has been strongly criticized—even by Joel himself—a quick run-through of the album’s eight tracks reveals the doomed project—Joel supposedly ran away with Small’s wife!—is not just the first rock record with blast beats, but it’s also the first rock record with video game music before there was video game music. So, Napalm Death, D.R.I., Repulsion, and, by extension, Dragonforce, Powerglove, and, uh, MegaDriver… You may be extreme, but you’ll never be as extreme as Billy Joel when he was in Attila.

  • Alex13

    Thing is, once you get past the novelty factor (and supposed historical factor), this album is simply not good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=516746737 Scott Boogaloo Shrimp Larson

    Ridiculous!  I love it!

  • Anonymous

    I fucking love Billy Joel. Shortly after the break up of Attila, motherfucker tried to off himself by downing a bottle of furniture polish. Mayhem, eat your heart out. 

    • Chris D.

      Brutal! The key difference, however, is one member of Mayhem blew their brains out with a shotgun, so unless Mr. Joel goes in a similar or more intense fashion — piano dropping from the 43rd floor onto his potato head, perhaps –, Mayhem will probably always have one up on Mr. Joel.

  • kevin

    The blast beat comes in at first around the 2 minute mark

  • Tha Rev’Rend

    Louie Bellson did it in 1955:


  • BillLoney

    I believe Dave Grave did drumming on this debacle.

  • Discovery Discos

    did you hear COVEN? they did claim that they did the first band to do
    the blast beat also they are thue inventors of alL METAL cliches with
    including hand horns sign.as
    well listen to thir first track named BLACK SABBATH and i think there a
    BLAST BEAT on ending of the song. also theres another band named MAD
    RIVER with BLAST BEAT on their song Anphetamine Gazele