Doom metal is a very slowed down subgenre of heavy metal. The music is characterized by guitars that are low tuned and heavily distorted, unstable tone combinations, extremely slow tempos, and lyrical content that is based on pessimism and dread. The music itself can even cause these feelings in the listener. Other popular themes include religion, drug addiction, abuse, and believe it or not, literature. As in traditional heavy metal, the guitar and bass play the same riff simultaneously. Therefore, mixed with the low tempo, this causes a very loud barricade of sound. It is known as one of the loudest subgenres of heavy metal with many fans opting to crank the music to extremes to get the full experience. Vocal styles run the gamut from clean vocals to screaming, and some bands even have occasional melodic vocals.
Essential Doom Metal Albums:
- Death Penalty (Witchfinder General)
- Psalm 9 (Trouble)
- Saint Vitus (Saint Vitus)
- Odd Fellows Rest (Crowbar)
- The Angel and the Dark River (My Dying Bride)
- Deliverance (Corrosion of Conformity)
- Ancient Dreams (Candlemass)
- Nightfall (Candlemass)
- NOLA (Down)
- Day of Reckoning (Pentagram)
- Tales from the Thousand Lakes (Amorphis)
- Dopethrone (Electric Wizard)
- Dopesmoker (Sleep)
Doom metal was influenced mostly by Black Sabbath and their extremely down tuned and distorted blues metal sound, along with their dark and pessimistic lyrics. Other pioneers of the sound in the 70’s include Blue Cheer and Pentagram.
Doom metal would begin to become more defined and popular in the mid 1980’s. Witchfinder General would release the first true doom metal album in 1982 called Death Penalty. Bands like Trouble, Saint Vitus, and Candlemass followed releasing highly popular genre albums in the mid 1980’s. Some doom metal bands even started to adopt some punk and gothic metal sounds that would lead to some other offshoots of doom metal in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Atmospheric metal makes use of haunting, dread inducing tones mixed with heavy riffs. Many different categories of metal use atmospheric tones. The sound creates a creepy atmospshere that is usually broken open by heavy riffs. Bands such as Deftones, Tool, and Isis make use of atmospheric sounds in their music.
Sludge metal began in the early 1990’s taking influences from the Melvins and expanding on them. Sludge takes the slow tempos, heavy distortion, and pessimism of doom metal and mixes it with occasional fast tempos, shouted and screamed vocals, and political themes present in hardcore. Well known sludge metal bands include Crowbar and Eyehategod.
Southern metal takes the elements of sludge metal and takes them one step further by adding elements of southern rock and 1960’s psychedelic rock. Vocals are mostly clean with a noted twang reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Certain trippy audio effects are used as well that can give the music a feel of an extremely heavy, down tuned, and punky Steve Miller Band. Southern metal was really brought into the mainstream in the mid 1990’s with the the restructuring of Corrosion of Conformity and the creation of the super-group Down. Down helped to increase its popularity and influenced other bands in the late 1990’s and 2000’s to expand on the sound.
Deathdoom combines the slow tempos and pessimistic lyrics of doom metal with the growling vocals and double bass drumming of death metal. It originated in the mid 1980’s upon the influence of the early work of Celtic Frost. Some bands like, My Dying Bride, would expand on the sound by adding female vocals influencing later bands like Lacuna Coil. Other death doom acts include Amorphis (early albums), Winter, My Dying Bride (early albums), and Disembowelment. The subgenre was only fairly popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s with many bands abandoning the sound in the last decade to concentrate on more popular subgenres of metal.
Funeral doom mixes Deathdoom with dirge (funeral) music. The sound and lyrics put an even heavier emphasis on causing the listener feelings of despair. Keyboards and chanted vocals are added to the low tempo and heavily distorted sound giving the music an almost hypnotic feel. It emerged in 1995 with the release of Funeral’s album Tragedies.
Epic doom emerged in the late 1980’s based on the influence of deathdoom bands that used female vocals. Candlemass helped to pioneer the sound on their later albums laying the foundation for bands like Doomsword. It is defined as doom metal mixed with classical music elements. Vocals are either operatic or choral and the drumming is usually a lot harder. Instead of images of despair, lyrical content usually deals with fantasy.
Drone metal mixes doom metal with the long tones of drone music and add elements of noise rock and ambient music. The band Earth from Seattle is widely regarded as the first band to play this type of metal in 1990 by expanding on the sludge metal sound of the Melvins. Seattle acts like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains also experimented with the drone metal sound on some of their tracks. Other prominent groups include Boris, Corrupted, and Ascend.