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Friday, May 13, 2011

Stoner Metal - It's not just for potheads anymore

I've recently started getting into the Stoner/Doom Metal genre, that downtuned, downtempo, heavily distorted genre of metal that draws about 98% of its influence from Black Sabbath. 

People call it "stoner metal" because the music tends to be made up of relatively few riffs repeated over a lengthy period of time, creating a droning, trance-like effect.  Oftentimes, guitars are distorted so heavily that the tone is often referred to as "Sludge."  Vocals tend to sit relatively low in the mix, and are generally sung clean , not necessarily growled or screamed.  Stoner/Doom/Sludge/whateveryouwanttocallit metal songs tend to be quite long.  Perhaps the most celebrated Stoner metal band of all time, Sleep has a song entitled Dopesmoker that is literally 1 hour and 3 minutes long.  It's not an album, it's a single track.  Here it is if you've got some time to spare: 

Some notable bands in the genre are the aforementioned Sleep, as well as:
  • Electric Wizard
  • High on Fire (features Sleep's guitarist - Sleep is currently defunct)
  • Spirit Caravan
  • Kyuss
  • The Sword
  • Om
  • Jucifer
  • Howl
  • Earth
  • Down
  • Corrosion of Conformity
Some contend that more progressive metal acts like Mastodon, Isis, Pelican, Red Sparowes, and Baroness also fall into this category, because they write long songs with lengthy instrumental passages and heavy, droning guitars.  I don't generally lump them in with the stoner metal bands, but it doesn't really matter.  Sub-genre debates bore me, and the music is far more important than some superficial genre label. 

I'm becoming a big Electric Wizard fan.  They've been around since 1993, and theirs is some of the heaviest, Sabbath-like metal I've ever heard from a new artist. Their newest album Black Masses is receiving a lot of critical acclaim, and their 2000 album "Dopethrone" is one of the genre's must-listen records.  Here's the title track, crank the volume on this one:

So ends my very brief and kind of disorganized introduction to Stoner and Doom metal.  I apologize for kind of jumping all over the place in this piece, but there's a lot to talk about and no really good way to organize it all.  I could probably split this post into 3, and I may do that some time and really get into each of the subgenres and their major players.  We'll see.  In the meantime, keep it heavy and loud.  I'm gonna listen to some Sleep for the next 63 minutes.  Have a good weekend! 

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