Blastbeat originated in the '80s by hardcore and proto-grindcore bands which were seeking ways to bring the speed and harshness of their music to a new level. Popularized by grindcore bands such as Napalm Death and Carcass, the blastbeat eventually became an essential, if not the most important and distinctive feature of extreme music.
The blastbeat is normally consisted of a double bass roll of 32nd notes, on top of which the drummer hits the snare rapidly on every downstroke (every other hit). The drummer usually also hits the cymbal the same time as the snare drum. This results in a very aggressive and fast drum beat, as the tempos in which the blastbeat is played usually range from 200 bpm upwards.
The blastbeat is a cornerstone in modern extreme music, as its brutality provides an apt setting for the grim and gruesome soundscapes of death and black metal.
Blast beats have their roots in hardcore punk - most notably D.R.I's "Makes no Sense" on their first LP (1983). Another example is the hardcore punk band Neon Christ. Thrash metal also has some credits towards the blast beat, however in modern standards the snare work is frequently comparable to established snare patterns in jazz. Blast beats are a prominent feature of death metal, black metal and grindcore, although they make appearances in other genres from time to time, to increase the speed, density, and percussiveness.
The original use in metal music is generally attributed to Dave 'Grave' Hollingshead of Repulsion, Charlie Benante of SOD and Mick Harris of Napalm Death, Grave having taken most of the credit for the "single footer." Benante showcased the technique by a double-handed blast beat in the track "Milk" on the album Speak English or Die, later it was played properly single-handed on the live album Live at Budokan. Harris started using it as a fundament of Napalm Death's musical compositions.
Early blast beats were generally quite slow and less precise compared to today's standards. Nowadays, a blast beat is normally played in tempos from 160-180 beats per minute upwards, with so-called "hyperblast beats" existing in the range of 240-260bpm with few higher. There is also what is called a "gravity blast" which implements a one-handed roll, called a gravity roll, a relatively recent invention which uses the rim of the snare as a fulcrum on which the stick is rocked back and forth, allowing two snare hits with each full arm motion (one on the down motion, and another coming up, essentially doing the work of two hands with only one).
Typical and the most common blast beats consist of a 8th note patterns between both the bass and snare drum simultaneously with the hi-hat or the ride synced. Variations exist such as displacing hi-hat/ride, snare and bass drum hits and/or while also using other cymbals such as splashes, crashes, chinas and even tambourines for accenting when for example using odd time or playing progressively. While playing 8th or 8th note triplets some drummers choose to play in sync with one foot while others split the 8th notes between both feet.
Examples of blast beat notation:
H- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| H- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| H- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| R- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|
S- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| S- -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o| S- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| S- oooooooooooooooo|
B- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| B- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| B- oooooooooooooooo| B- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-|
These are considered the most used to the least used.
Nicholas Barker (Dimmu Borgir, Lock Up, Cradle of Filth, Old Man's Child)
Charlie Benante (Anthrax, S.O.D.)
Jan Axel Blomberg (also known as Hellhammer) (Mayhem)
Dave Culross (Suffocation, Malevolent Creation)
Mick Harris (Napalm Death)
Alex Hernandez (Immolation)
Danny Herrera (Napalm Death)
Max Duhamel (Kataklysm)
Max Kolesne (Krisiun)
Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy)
Ken Owen (Carcass)
Derek Roddy (Nile, Aurora Borealis, Hate Eternal, Today Is The Day, Malevolent Creation)
Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel, Terrorizer)
Mike Smith (Suffocation)
Trym Torson (Emperor, Enslaved, Zyklon)
Andy Whale (Bolt Thrower)
Jon: well, jeff's the right man, he plays as fast as core from with faith or flames!