I’m going to hazard a guess and say that the backlash against drum samples started in the early 2000s. Metal was in its “douchey 20 year old” phase and something needed to be blamed for everything sounding like shit. It was the first era of all-digital metal production, so techniques like sample replacement were naturally in the crosshairs.
It was a logical equation: The music sounded sterile and lifeless because the bands succumbed to cheating with ProTools and drum samples. Right? Well hang on a second there old man. Drum samples were not a new thing. They were arguably already part of the fabric of metal.
1. Drum Samples Were Into Metal Before You Were, Poser
This came out in 1990 and the production on this album is iconic. Entombed and the producer Tomas Skogsberg set a unique musical aesthetic that has lasted through to the present day. It’s an album easily in most metal elitist’s top 10. And, what’s this?! Yep, there’s ddrum pads triggering a kick and snare sample on the whole thing.
“Well that must be a unique example for back then right? Drummers that could actually play didn’t need triggers or sample replacement.”
You shut your beautiful mouth.
2. “Cheating” Is A Stupid Way to Look At It
Released in 1992 and you’re goddamn right that the snare and kick are sample replaced. Have another listen to your favorite Morrisound Death Metal albums. Yep, triggered.
As far as “cheating” goes, I don’t think many would call the skills of Pete Sandoval into question (Editor’s note: check out our editorial “Is Using Drum Triggers Cheating?” for more on this). Nor most other OG Floridian Death Metal drummers that used samples. It was hardly the easy way out. In an analogue studio at the time of Blessed Are The Sick there was no quick way to sound replace.
Listen to mixing/mastering genius Jesse Cannon explain the painstaking process of sample replacement back then (skip to 35:05).
Triggering samples helped drum tracks cut through the grimey sludge of guitars and guttural gurgles in early death metal recordings. It’s the reason you can make out what the drums are doing in among that bassy fuzz wall. It’s the reason these early recordings don’t sound like complete shit.
But speaking of sounding like complete shit…
3. Triggers Are Cvlt
Mayhem always had a tinge of Industrial but jfc. Hellhammer’s triggered snare + kick combo is some pretty next level, ignant shit right here.
Listen, I get it acoustiphiles. This sounds like a gigantic robot masturbating. But that’s the sound. Just like Darkthrone had that tape-recorder-behind-a-stack-of-newspapers-in-momma-Fenriz’s-basement production. Both objectively sucked, but that’s Black Metal.
So basically tell your uncle to stfu the next time he harks back to the good ol’ days before triggers, sample replacement or programmed drums. Those techniques have always been around and the music that came out before them wasn’t even that heavy.
What’s your favorite kit sound on a metal album? Was it triggered, sound replaced, programmed or natty? Do you even care, kid?