Stoner Metal: Low and Slow

Album Art for Electric Wizard’s 2000 album Dopethrone

Metal as a genre is filled with all sorts of interesting subgenres, from the sped-up Slayer-influenced Thrash, to the equally fast, hard-hitting Technical Death Metal. However, a genre that I have recently discovered is not so much concerned with unintelligible lyrics, lightening fast drums, or guitar solos.

Stoner Metal, or Doom Metal as it’s sometimes referred to, is a genre that takes the phrase “Low and Slow” as its inspiration. The genre takes a lot of influence from the metal bands of the 70’s, like Black Sabbath. Most bands play at a significantly slower pace, guitars and basses are tuned as low as possible, and vocalists may run their vocals through an octave pedal that drops the pitch even lower. Much of the time, bands will play a chord that serves as a drone behind the main riff.

The moniker “Stoner Metal” is in itself a sort of joke, and many bands often have nonsensical cannabis-related names and song titles. Bongripper, Bongzilla, Stoner Kebab, and most notably the album “Dopesmoker” by the band Sleep, which consists of the title track…and only the title track. The song clocks in at an impressive hour and three minutes, and consists of several different “movements.” At one point, the vocalist jokingly asks the listener to “Drop out of life with bong in hand, follow the smoke to the riff-filled Land,” which seems to be a dig at the Reagan-era debates about metal influencing children to worship Satan/kill people/etc.

Of course, there do exist bands in the Doom/Stoner genre without these sort of lyrics: bands like Electric Wizard and The Cosmic Dead still play the same heavy, blues-laden music with lyrical content that relates to the occult, H.P. Lovecraft novels, and horror films. Other similar genres include Sludge Metal, which combines Doom and Hardcore Punk influences, and Grunge, which borrows heavily from Sabbath as well.

Most of these bands continue to put out new material, and tour extensively, so the genre still exists as a kind of niche market. Anyone that wants to get into these bands should sit down and put them on. I prefer it for study music, as it’s not fast or complex enough to distract me. And you don’t even have to smoke to appreciate it.

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