CHARLIE BENANTE On Evolution Of Blast Beat: 'Now You've Got Little Kids And Their Mothers Doing' It

March 22, 2024

ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante has once again said that his work with the 1980s hardcore/metal project STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH (S.O.D.) set the template for extreme metal and hardcore blast beats.

A type of fast drum beat characteristic of extreme heavy metal styles such as black metal, death metal and grindcore, a blast beat is basically a single stroke roll broken up between the snare drum and the bass drum, with the hi-hat/ride hand playing unison strokes with the bass drum.

Benante discussed his role in developing the blast beat during a new interview with Drumeo. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "There was this one [STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH] song called 'Milk', and the riff was really fast and Danny Lilker, the [STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH] bass player, he said he wanted it to be more of a fast kind of paddling… So it's basically a one foot blast. And when we recorded it, we had so much fun doing it. And then when we would play it live, it would kind of evolve into — instead of a one-foot blast, it became [what is known as the blast beat today]."

Charlie continued: "The blast was something that — I think it's the first time it appears on a record. I think D.R.I. had something similar on the 'Dirty Rotten' EP. But I think this specific song and this specific band influenced a lot of bands to come. And I revisited the blast beat on [ANTHRAX's] 'State Of Euphoria' record in a song called 'Misery Loves Company'. And then on the ANTHRAX record 'We've Come For You All', there's a song called 'Black Dahlia' where the blast beat is in that, too. But I believe that the S.O.D. record was the first time it was ever recorded."

Asked where he started hearing the blast beat pop up in other bands and other records after the release of the STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH album, Charlie said: "I think the first time I heard it was maybe Pete Sandoval [of] MORBID ANGEL. And then CANNIBAL CORPSE, Paul [Mazurkiewicz] was doing it. And then, of course, the black metal band started to pick up on it. They did it a little differently — more of the two-foot, more independent. I think the best one for me was on the DIMMU BORGIR record with Nick Barker, the first one with Nick. I think that's when the blast beat became, like, 'What the fuck is that?' Especially for me, hearing that record for the first time, I was completely blown away by his playing and just the style and just the band itself. And then it started to become very popular. And then it started to get into the drumming, kind of the vernacular. And now you've got little kids and their mothers doing the blast beat."

STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH was a satirical 1980s metal band which consisted of Benante, ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian, NUCLEAR ASSAULT/ex-ANTHRAX bassist Dan Lilker and M.O.D.'s Billy Milano (vocals).

STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH are commonly credited as being among the first bands to fuse hardcore punk with thrash metal into a style sometimes called "crossover thrash." The track "March Of The S.O.D." from the group's debut LP, "Speak English Or Die", was the "Headbangers Ball" intro song for many years.

STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH was formed shortly after Ian finished his guitar tracks on the ANTHRAX album "Spreading The Disease". He would draw pictures of the face of a character known as "Sargent D," and the pictures would be accompanied by slogans such as "I'm not racist; I hate everyone" and "Speak English Or Die." Ian would then wrote lyrics about this character. He decided to form a hardcore band based on Sargent D, so he recruited Benante, Lilker and Milano.

The 30th-anniversary edition of "Speak English Or Die" was made available in November 2015 via Megaforce. The set included the original album as well as the demo recordings from the pre-STROMTROOPERS OF DEATH project CRAB SOCIETY NORTH.

Back in 2021, Benante was asked by "Drum For The Song" about his comment that he was "tired" of not being recognized as a pioneer of the blast beat. He said: "I have to clarify this. I didn't say I invented it. It was the first time that it appeared on a record; it was on the S.O.D. record. And other people had said that yes, of course, it's the first time it appeared on a record. And basically, what it was was the bass player in the band S.O.D., we had this song called 'Milk', and we basically collaborated on this drum beat, and it turned out to be called the blast beat. There was another band from New York, a hardcore band called NYC MAYHEM, and they would have these short bursts in their songs — kind of like D.R.I. or this other band called ADRENALINE OVERDOSE [A.O.D.] from New Jersey. And, yeah, they were doing something similar. And then on the first S.O.D. record, on the song 'Milk', is where that beat is. And it became very popular to this day. And that's it."

He continued: "But I never actually said that I was sitting in my room and I… We just kind of created this thing and we put it on the record, but other people were doing little bursts like that too. And it's funny — someone put a picture or they showed a video of a jazz drummer back in 1964 or something doing something similar, and it's, like, all right, dude, I get it. Do you think all of a sudden everybody was doing these blast beats because of this jazz drummer? No. A lot of it was because of that S.O.D. record. So, that's it. I just wanted to clarify it."

Benante previously discussed his role in developing the blast beat during an August 2019 interview with Drumtalk, the video podcast by German drummer and videographer Philipp Koch. At the time, he said: "There's this style of beat called 'blast beat,' and I will say that the first time ever that type of beat was recorded and played on a record was on this S.O.D. record that we did in 1985. And I'm tired of people not crediting that that was the first time. And, of course, people perfected it and play it way better, but that was the first time that a blast beat was on record. If you can prove me wrong, prove me wrong, but I believe that that was the first time. And, like I said, other people have mastered it and done it way better, and I never took it any further — that was it. It fit in that song 'Milk'. Like, when we would play it live, the more I played it, the more I started to develop a different way of playing it. Because I would always play it with a single kick drum, and I would either reverse it, which I think Paul [Mazurkiewicz] from CANNIBAL CORPSE played more of that style of blast beat. I would play it either with the ride or I would play it with the hat, reversing it. When S.O.D. would play more and more shows, I would always develop it and not just do a single kick — I would throw in a double. And then I discovered that some of the black metal bands, later on, were doing it [slightly differently]. So it was being developed even more. And then when I heard the DIMMU BORGIR record 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia', Nick Barker's drumming on that record was, to me, one of those moments where another door opened and he took the blast beat style to a whole other level."

Asked if it felt like he was doing something new when he first came up with the drum beat for "Milk", Charlie told Drumtalk: "I remember when that song came out, 'Milk', with the blast beat in it, and many people were saying, 'What are you doing here? What are you doing?' And there was a part of me that was, like, 'I can't really tell you what I'm doing.' [Laughs] When we would play it, I would always see people watching me play it. And S.O.D. didn't play many shows, of course, but when we did play, we played the whole record. And it was never at the same speed that the record was recorded — it was live and it was just fast, so it was always moving forward."

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