Last Tape Before Doomsday: Sebastian Thomson (Baroness)

Welcome to our latest semi-regular Decibel feature. Here, talented musicians from across the metalsphere provide us with their Last Tape Before Doomsday.

Sebastian Thomson’s range of reference when it comes to his drumming is infinite in its eclecticism. As a studious player, Thomson brings the motorik pulse of Krautrock, funky backbeats, DC hardcore power, jazz-like flair, cascading free-form fills and ample lashings of his own character and expertise to Baroness’ music since joining the Savannah, Georgia experimental sludge rockers in 2013.

Ten years later and on 2023’s Stone, Thomson’s drumming nimbly dances in and out of, and ahead and behind, the twin guitar riffs; his dynamism is readily on full display from the moment the Low-esque opener “Ember” gives way to the opening stick-splintering fill of “Last Word.”

We therefore expected nothing other than a set of wide-ranging styles for Thomson’s Last Tape Before Doomsday, and he delivered an interesting insight into some of the tracks which have informed his multifaceted playing over the years, matching Fugazi and the Jesus Lizard’s alt-skronk to the juddering mindfuckery of Meshuggah, the exotic sounds of Brazilian polyrhythms, the cosmic thrust of Neu! and the robo-funk of Kraftwerk.

Kraftwerk, “Numbers” from Computer World (Kling Klang, 1981)

“I knew this album very soon after it came out because of my older brother. I hadn’t started playing drums yet, but this completely stripped-down electronic yet incredibly funky groove fascinated me. To the point that I began programming beats on my Atari. I have loved working with drum machines my entire career and I consider them an instrument and not a competitor.”

Luciano Perrone, “Tamborims, Envenados” from Batucada Fantástica Vol 3 (Musidisc, 1972)

“As a very young child, my family lived in Brazil for a couple of years. My dad picked up a bunch of records, and this one always made an appearance at our parties. This was also before I started playing drums, but I feel like this went deep down into my drum psyche. I loved the fact that you could make compelling music that made people so excited with just drums.”

James Brown, “Funky Drummer” from In the Jungle Groove (Polydor Records, 1986)

“I got into this after starting to play, and as I was getting into hip hop. This is an obvious bridge between live drumming and the beginning of sampling. This beat was so challenging for me at the time; I looked up to this as some kind of magic I could not replicate.”

Fugazi, “Suggestion” from 13 Songs (Dischord Records, 1989)

“I moved to Washington D.C. in late 1989 and saw my first Fugazi show, which completely blew my mind. The way they combined anthemic, ferocious hardcore with dub and post-rock beats was eye-opening. I’ve always been a big Brendan Canty fan.”

Public Image Ltd, “Banging the Door” from Flowers of Romance (Virgin, 1981)

“Martin Atkins is another hero of mine. I loved his idea that you could take an off-kilter drum beat and use it as the hook for some challenging music. Hypnotic and menacing.”

Neu!, “Hallogallo” from Neu! (Brain, 1972)

“I love the motorik kraut-groove and this is the ideal example of that. So beautiful and cosmic. This was a big influence on how I play in my older band Trans Am.”

Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, “Der Mussolini” from Alles ist gut (Virgin, 1981)

“Another very influential German groove, but this time a precursor to electronic body music and New Beat. This started my fascination with combining acoustic drums with only synthesizers.”

Meshuggah, “Neurotica” from Chaosphere (Nuclear Blast, 1998)

“This was the first time I heard Meshuggah, and it was such a breath of fresh air at the time. They definitely created their own genre. Tomas Haake finally managed to make [odd time signatures] groove.”

The Jesus Lizard, “Monkey Trick” from Goat (Touch and Go, 1991)

“I love how much space is given to Mac McNeilly’s groove here. A perfect example of how compelling drums don’t have to be difficult, they just have to be musical.”

Obituary, “The End Complete” from The End Complete (Roadrunner, 1992)

“The last two minutes [of this song] are such a great example of how metal can be hypnotic and psychedelic. It reminds me at times of the outro of Slayer’s “Ghosts of War.” I love Donald Tardy (and Dave Lombardo, obviously).”