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Meshuggah’s Tomas Haake: 5 Reasons He’s A Drumming Genius

Aaron Edgar  /  UPDATED Jul 6, 2023

Meshuggah’s drummer was only 19 when he joined the award-winning band. Tomas Haake is now known as one of the most influential drummers in heavy music, and for good reason.

From his double kick skills and technical prowess to originating one of the most iconic metal drum parts of all time, let’s talk about why Tomas Haake has become such a legend in the drumming world.


Who is Tomas Haake?

  • He’s the Grammy-nominated drummer for Swedish metal band Meshuggah. Having joined in 1990, he’s one of the group’s longest standing members.
  • Tomas Haake has landed on multiple “Top Drummer” lists, including Rolling Stone and Drumeo’s “The 100 Greatest Drummers Of All Time“.
  • Modern Drummer named Tomas “Best Metal Drummer” in their 2008 Readers’ Poll.
  • Tomas Haake writes most of the lyrics for Meshuggah.

1. Double bass mastery

Tomas has been dominating the double kick since day one. If you’ve heard tracks like “The Abysmal Eye” and “New Millennium Cyanide Christ”, you’ll know what we mean:

In “Clockworks”, the snare follows chaotic guitar rhythms while the right-left kicks follow in a triplet formation:

meshuggah clockworks drum notation
“Clockworks” by Meshuggah

And then there’s his relentless consistency, which you can hear in songs like “The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance” – one of the most ‘badass’ shuffles ever:

We can’t talk about Tomas Haake’s insane double bass skills without mentioning one song in particular. Released in 2008, the kick pattern is often referenced alongside beats decades older as one of the best metal drum beats.

“It was one of those songs that we didn’t know if I was gonna be able to do it. So for a few months, we didn’t know if we were gonna have it on the album or not.”

Tomas Haake

The song in question, of course, is “Bleed” – a track metal drummers like to dare each other to play, much like how classic rock guitarists taunt their friends with “Freebird”.

“Bleed” is comprised of a herta on the feet (RLR L RLR L) with a straight forward beat on the hands. It sounds like two time signatures against each other as the herta moves over the barline – but people can still groove and headbang to it.

As a hard-hitting metal drummer, Tomas says he had to change his approach on this song. Instead of pushing through using straight power, he needed to ‘tap dance’ more softly to keep his feet going for 5 minutes.

He apparently spent just as long working out the drums for this track as all the other tracks on the album combined – probably because the herta keeps evolving throughout the song.

Here’s the intro to “Bleed”:

meshuggah bleed drum notation
“Bleed” by Meshuggah

Can you play it?

2. Unconventional drum grooves

Meshuggah’s drum parts are intriguing but “still have a flow”, according to Tomas Haake. He typically programs his drum ideas, which gives him more time and control to play around with the parts.

Tomas’ kicks or snare often follow the guitar rhythms, which can be chaotic and seemingly disjointed.

Check out “Qualms Of Reality”:

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“Qualms Of Reality” by Meshuggah

Or “Pineal Gland Optics”, or the groove around the 3-minute mark in “ObZen”:

“Spasm” has an unusual groove that uses the kick and snare to outline the low-pitched guitar patterns:

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“Spasm” by Meshuggah

At the beginning of “I Am Colossus”, Tomas has his left foot on the hi-hats and keeps the snare drum steady while his accents follow the guitar through an offbeat triplet rhythm:

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“I Am Colossus” by Meshuggah

For even more accented chaos, listen to “Phantoms” around the 3-minute mark:

3. Polymetric madness

Meshuggah’s style is built on unconventional rhythms you can still headbang to. Listen to “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” – it’s almost entirely in 4/4, even though the patterns go over the bar line. Believe it or not, there’s only one bar in odd time:

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“Rational Gaze” is in 4/4, but it may not feel like it:

Here’s some more over-the-bar line madness in “Future Breed Machine”:

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“Future Breed Machine” by Meshuggah

And in “Do Not Look Down”, the guitar line is in 17/16 – until you get to the verse where Tomas makes it clear he’s playing in 4/4:

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“Do Not Look Down” by Meshuggah

4. A shifting backbeat

We’re so used to hearing a backbeat on 2 and 4 (or only 3), and Tomas doesn’t always give that to us. Because he often uses the snare drum to emphasize other rhythms, Meshuggah’s grooves tend to have a ton of syncopation.

In the interlude of “Rational Gaze”, the rhythm is the same as in the intro – but without the backbeat, it feels completely different.

And then there’s “Stengah”, which is full of classic Tomas Haake phrasing:

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“Stengah” by Meshuggah

In “Corridor Of Chameleons”, Tomas gives us a 5/8 pattern punctuated by snare and kicks. The traditional backbeat is absent until around 3 mins into the track:

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“Concatenation” has no traditional backbeat, and “Sum” abandons the traditional song form altogether.

For another slew of syncopated snare hits, listen to “The Exquisite Machinery Of Torture”. There’s a 7-note pattern that hit the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes through triplets – which makes the backbeat seem like it’s coming in these crazy spots.

But it’s actually a normal halftime 4/4!

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“The Exquisite Machinery Of Torture” by Meshuggah

5. Ghost notes everywhere

Tomas Haake’s signature style wouldn’t be complete without his dedicated use of ghost notes. He often uses them to fill in between accents. Check out the funky, syncopated ghost notery in “Sickening”:

Most of the songs in this article feature Tomas’ ghost notes, but they’re especially fun to watch as he adds even more live, like in this drum cam footage of “Stengah”:

Complex double bass action. Syncopated snare and chaotic accents. Over-the-bar line playing and ghost notes galore. Tomas Haake set a new standard for metal drumming, pioneering an entire style with Meshuggah in the process.

If you want to learn to play like Tomas – or play along to songs from other progressive metal and djent artists – grab a 7-day free trial with Drumeo. With over 5000 play-along tracks from bands like Meshuggah, Sepultura, Periphery and Animals As Leaders, you’ll be able to slow down and loop songs while you learn.

Aaron Edgar is a professional studio and touring musician with over 15 years of teaching experience. He couples his educational know-how with the ability to play various styles of music with ease. Aaron enjoys taking rhythmic concepts to a whole new level, which makes for yet another fantastic drummer to learn from and get inspired by on Drumeo.

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