Best of 2022: Prog can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and the nature of 'progressive' music means that it encapsulates elements of multiple genres, with leftfield approaches. That extends to the drumming, and the players on our list take in everything from jazz to extreme metal - sometimes within the same compositions!
So, as we turn our attention to the genre that delivers the most notes, longest pieces and the most complex journey for your buck, here are the drummers you chose as 2022's most impressive when it comes to the progressive.
1. Matt Garstka - Animals as Leaders
Matt started the year with the first AaL album since 2018, and in doing so he cemented his place in this year’s polls. Parrhesia is packed with ‘what the hell was that’ moments, as Garstka delivers his heavy-meets-fusion approach.
If you think that the prog-metal genre is all triggered and edited to perfection, check out Matt’s YouTube channel for his drum-cam playthroughs for proof to the contrary.
2. Anika Nilles
With scary chops, a natural command over time signatures that make our heads spin and a go-to choice of note groupings that are rarely even, Anika Nilles embodies ‘progression’.
She also turned out Opuntia this year - a jazz-funk E.P. that despite its technicality is also extremely accessible, all of which is why you’ve placed her at the business end of our poll.
3. Matt Halpern - Periphery
While the world awaits Periphery’s P5 album, Matt Halpern has stayed busy with playthroughs for Meinl, including brand new, yet-to-be-released music from his OMNOM project.
As well as this, he managed to squeeze in some Periphery tour dates, and posted proof that drums for the new album are on their way. We think 2023 is going to be a busy time for Mr Halpern.
4. Luke Holland - Jason Richardson & Luke Holland
Few drummers look as relaxed as Luke Holland while blasting out polyrhythmic grooves, linear chops and some seriously impressive double kick patterns. He also often does it on a kit featuring the fewest number of drums you’re likely to see in the genre.
This year Luke continued his stint with Falling in Reverse while putting out new music with Jason Richardson and contributing to Polyphia’s new album too.
5. Clay Aeschliman - Polyphia
Polyphia has taken the heavy progressive world by storm over the last few years with a blend of trap, EDM and hip-hop inspired inspired grooves while also featuring some monstrous instrumental displays across the board. If you haven’t checked out Clay’s drumming yet, you’re in for a treat.
6. Michael Kavanagh - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Prog covers a broad spectrum of styles, and the same could be said for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s latest album, Changes. Taking in everything from AOR, funk, psych-rock and fusion, Michael Kavanagh brings a refreshingly vintage approach to prog with his intricate ghost notes and organic sounds. There’s plenty to digest here.
7. Gavin Harrison - Porcupine Tree
Fans got the reformation they’d hoped for for over a decade this year when Porcupine Tree released Closure/Continuation. Gavin Harrison is playing as great as ever, and as usual his kit is an absolute joy to listen to.
8. Danny Carey - Tool
Carey and his Tool bandmates re-recorded the title track from their debut E.P., Opiate this year, making him eligible for inclusion in our polls at the same time. Opiate² maintains the essence of the original, with Carey even opting for a similar snare sound, but the whole lot is extended and reworked. Here’s hoping for more music soon!
9. Nick Mason - Pink Floyd
Nick Mason may have spent the last few years focussing on his Saucerful of Secrets project, but in 2022 Pink Floyd returned with new music in the shape of Hey Hey, Rise Up!, a collaboration with BoomBox’s Andriy Khlyvnyuk which saw proceeds donated to Ukuranian Humanitarian Relief. There might not be plans for more music, but Nick sounds great regardless.
10. Mike Portnoy
The busiest man in prog took to the road with his old Dream Theater mucker, John Petrucci this year. But as well as that, he found time to tour with with Sons of Apollo, Transatlantic, the Neal Morse Band and more, all while getting a third Winery Dogs album tracked for release in 2023.