Doom Metal

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Doom metal is an extreme form of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much 'thicker' or 'heavier' sound than other metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England (Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General) and the United States (Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble) defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_metal

Sub-genre collaborators (+ child sub-genres and shared with Stoner Metal and Drone Metal):
  • Nightfly (leader)
  • MorniumGoatahl

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MY DYING BRIDE The Dreadful Hours

Album · 2001 · Death-Doom Metal
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Always one to experiment, MY DYING BRIDE perhaps went a little too far with their misstep into the unknown for the fanbase with “34.788%…Complete” which found the band adding all kinds of wild new ideas. While some like alternative metal suited the band’s signature goth doom sound to a T, others such as trip hop didn’t quite jive and although many including myself found the album to be descent, the overall consensus was that MY DYING BRIDE had hit their stride on “Like Gods Of The Sun” and were in free fall decline, however after the clarity of returning to their signature sound was once again a priority, the band bounced back with “The Light At The End Of The World” which proved they had more than enough life in them and while the album was a fine return to form and an admirable comeback, it wasn’t up to par with the high notes of “Turn Loose The Swans” and “The Angel And The Dark River.”

On THE DREADFUL HOURS, the band’s seventh studio album and first of the 21st century, the fiery creative passion that had made MY DYING BRIDE such a sensation in the early years had returned and released one of the band’s finest albums with eight outrageously delectable tracks that not only were connected to their past goth-tinged death doom days but found yet more ways to incorporate new musical elements into their, by this time, classic unmistakeable stylistic approach. The band’s core remained the same with Aaron Stainthorpe displaying his amazing range of vocal styles with the usual plaintive romantic crooning as well as an increased use of the death growls however on THE DREADFUL HOURS he expands his extreme metal vocals to include a more blackened growl approach which reminds me of Behemoth’s Nergal.

Guitarist Andrew Craighan provided the sole guitar parts on the previous album after the departure of Calvin Robertshaw and joining the crew on this album is guitarist Hamish Glencross, who with Craighan provide a more deadly twin guitar attack as they not only tackle the usual plodding doom riffs but engage in heavier high tempo death metal segments as well as adding palm muting thrash techniques to their doom riffage. The rhythm center of bassist Adrian Jackson and drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels also exercise greater liberties in their playing as each instrument takes on a more expansive role. The bass duties have become more complex and the drumming more experimental as well. While no violinist has returned, the two session keyboardists Jonny Mauding and Yasmin Ahmed dish out tasteful doses of piano tinklings, atmospheric overcast and mood modification mostly set to mournful depression.

With eight tracks that range from five minutes to over fourteen, MY DYING BRIDE cranks out one of the most diverse set lists (well not counting 34.778%) of their career with every element finding the perfect place to express itself. One of the major differences from the past is the incorporation of post-rock elements as heard on the opening title track which sounds more like an Isis album until it erupts into a death-doom frenzy. The compositions have become more complex and progressive as segments segue into others and various riffs, drumming patterns and bass lines slowly shapeshift into something completely new while the haunting atmospheric backdrop nudges it into a new comfort zone. The chemistry of this team is certainly off the charts as it has provided a new energized passion that keeps all the various tracks quite distinct from each other with countless different instrumental spontaneity erupting throughout.

The beauty of MY DRYING BRIDE is that they so successful captured their own distinct sound so early on in their game that have the ability to pretty much adapt any musical idea to the goth death-doom paradigm. Basically Stainthorpe provides the backbone to the band’s style with his charismatic vocal style with an extra anchor in the atmospheric department, however the guitar, bass and drums are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want provided they stay within the confines of the melodies. Such is the case for all of the tracks which to the casual listener will sound like business as usual but to the careful listener will find new rhythmic flows, creative instrumental interplay and a greater focus on shifting timbres, dynamics, tempos and vocals. This is perhaps my favorite MY DYING BRIDE album as it perfectly balances all the various elements which include the goth death doom metal, darkwave ambient and alternative metal with the usual sombre poetic vocal deliveries of Stainthorpe. MY DYING BRIDE not only made a comeback from their nadir but hit one of the highest notes in this apex of their entire career.

MY DYING BRIDE The Light at the End of the World

Album · 1999 · Death-Doom Metal
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After the less than positively received experimental album “34.788%…Complete,” MY DYING BRIDE quickly worked on damage control and did what any band would do when their fast sailing career hits a rock and starts to sink, namely retreat, go back to what worked and repeat! The band wasted no time getting back into the studio and releasing the sixth album THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD the following year with a more classic MY DYING BRIDE sound on display as if shouting out to the fanbase “hey! we were just playing around but we’re back!” And back they were not only with long sprawling epic compositions that displayed the full power of the gothic doom metal that had pushed them through the 90s but with the added bonus of bringing back the death metal aspects with moments of aggressive outbursts accompanied by Aaron Stainthorpe’s grating death growls.

It seems that the experimental album scared off a couple band members who weren’t jiving with the new direction. Drummer Bill Law jumped ship to be replaced by Shaun Steels (formerly of Anathema) and guitarist Calvin Robertshaw stepped down as guitarist but stuck around to become the tour manager which left the band officially as a quartet however keyboardist Jonny Maudling of Bal-Sagoth was recruited as a session player. Robertshaw does appear briefly on the album as the second guitarist on “Sear Me III” which is a thematic continuation from the two previous “Sear Me’s” on earlier albums which served as an extra indicator that MY DYING BRIDE was back in their comfort zone which is exactly where the rabidly hungry gothy death doom crowds wanted them. With Robertshaw out, it left Andrew Craighan as the only guitarist but he does double duty on THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD where he covers all guitar parts and does quite well i might add.

Stylistically THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD pick up where “Like Gods Of Sun” left off and pretends the album in between never happened however this is MY DYING BRIDE and despite returning to a more familiar approach never simply repeats the formula without some tweaking here and there. First thing that is noticeable is that despite the return to former glory, there is still no violin and no piano parts to be heard. Instead, the atmospheric dynamics are handled by the ambient swirls of the keyboard parts and authentically mimic and replace the mournful wails fairly well. It would have seemed unimaginable that such dreadful dirge could be lamented without the sad stringed vibrato and fastidious flexing of the bow but Maudling does an excellent job of layering the atmospheric overcast in such a fashion that it convincingly usurps its once unthinkable absence. While Stainthorpe returns to his classic plaintive goth-tinged crooning once again, this time around his style branches out more with more octaves covered and of course the return to aggressive outbursts of death growls however they only occur infrequently.

Also returning to the old formula is how the tracks sprawl out into slow plodding epics with trodding doom laden guitar riffs that take on two roles: one, chug and two, sustain. Both distorted power chords that sustain and the expected chugging doom march both are quite prevalent, however there are many twin guitar counterpoint attacks as well with more licks and solos sneaking through as well as the rare but satisfying sudden death metal attacks. In fact, this is a really a more guitar oriented album than the earlier ones that focused more on the violin and piano for much of their running time. As with most MY DYING BRIDE albums, this one too is quite consistent in its quality with each track standing out from the rest but never drifting too far away stylistically speaking. This comeback album was certainly what the doctor ordered and set the band back on track to crank out another batch of stellar albums. This is one band that dodged that proverbial bullet and the doom metal world was all the better for it.

MY DYING BRIDE 34.788%... Complete

Album · 1998 · Doom Metal
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All great bands who experience some level of success face the same conundrum if they manage to stick around long enough to face it and that is the classic dilemma of simply following the same formula of the era that launched them into the limelight of their classic period or to sally forth into new experimental battlefields and tackle hitherto unexplored nooks and crannies of the musical world. While MY DYING BRIDE had already developed their classic sound before they released their debut album “As The Flower Withers,” they successfully walked the tightrope of retaining their unique stylistic approach while changing things up slightly on all of their first four albums. However after the release of “Like Gods Of The Sun,” big changes took place mostly by the departure of the one member, Martin Powell, the major component of the bands signature sound with his stellar violin and keyboard playing. Powell left MY DYING BRIDE and joined Anathema.

Instead of replacing him, MY DYING BRIDE decided to take the opportunity to leap into the world of the unexpected and crank out something unlike anything they’d done before and in the process, the electrifying violin of their previous albums had been completely dropped and would not return until 2009’s “For Lies I Sire.” If that wasn’t enough drummer Rich Miah also jumped shipped and his shoes were filled by Bill Law. Like it or not big change was in the air and MY DYING BRIDE simply took the bull by the horns and cranked out the most out of character albums of their career with 34.788%…COMPLETE which fully embraced the quirky 90s values and steered their gothic doom metal vessels into the the seas of alternative metal, trip hop and the avant-garde. While boldly sailing into the unknown, this album has remained their most controversial moment which in many ways demonstrates the complacency of the metal fans in how they usually frown upon such departures from what came before.

There is no doubt that 34.788%…COMPLETE is a strange album indeed, not only for MY DYING BRIDE but for metal in general. Despite a radical new approach, this album for the most part is unmistakably performed by the doom metal pioneers who came before even without the violin as the synthesized atmospheric backdrop usurps the role albeit in a less effective way. While “Like Gods Of The Sun,” opted for shorter more digestible tracks, 34.788%…COMPLETE jumps back into the sprawling epic approach of their earlier albums with most tracks having around the eight minute mark and the opening “The Whore, The Cook And The Mother” extending all the way to twelve. While the first chugging riffs and new vocal style of Aaron Stainthorpe buried under the muddy distorted riffs may sound like a completely new band, the compositional style renders clues with familiar musical flow, alternations between heavier passages and subdued ambient breathing time. This is MY DYING BRIDE, just a very strange version as if this was released in an alternate dimensional reality.

Perhaps the most identifying feature of 34.788%…COMPLETE is the liberal use of production techniques that allow electronica influenced reverberations, echoes effects and synthesized timbres decorate the otherwise heavy plodding doom riffs. Another different feature is the more dynamic use of the dual guitar attack of Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw as one relentlessly delivers heavily accented doom stomps while the other offers licks that implement pig squeals and even an occasional solo. Perhaps no other feature seems as alien as the trip hop techniques adopted from 90s acts such as Portishead and Massive Attack. While the eight minute track “Heroin Chic” is the standout in how it takes a simple electronic beat and structures minimalistic counterpoints around it while Stainthorpe and guest vocalist Michelle Richfield offer a strange back alley ritualistic salute to the drug scene, the truth is that the overall musical construct of the compositions retains a rather nonchalant trip hoppy free floating vector.

MY DYING BRIDE seemed like they could do no wrong with several albums delivering some of the most sophisticated take on doom metal that fans had ever heard however the response to 34.788%…COMPLETE was not a positive one as it alienated most fans expecting the next subtle step away from “Like Gods Of The Sun.” Personally i don’t find this album to be the horrible monster that it’s made out to be. After all, MY DYING BRIDE were masters of adapting their goth doom sensibilities to the most extreme opposing musical forces and that is still the case with 34.788%…COMPLETE. The problem with this album is that it lacks consistency. While the initial tracks establish an acceptable new strain of their goth doom / alternative hybridization, the album derails in the middle with the admittedly irritating “Heroine Chic” which serves as an eight minute blackhole that completely extinguishes any acceptance of what could have been.

The track is followed by the mediocrity of “Apocalypse Woman” but regains steam with the bass heavy and return to doom guitar prominence splendor of “Base Level Erotica,” which sounds most like a more familiar MY DYING BRIDE of yore complete with Stainthorpe’s plaintive goth-tinged vocal style. For my money, 34.788%…COMPLETE is actually a decent album with a few fatal flaws. With a running time of approaching a full hour’s length, the two aforementioned tracks should have simply been nixed from the final cut since they inconveniently slice through the alternative doom prowess established during the first part of the album and continued with the ending tracks “Base Level Erotica” and “Under Your Wingers And Into Your Arms.” Yeah, experimentation is never guaranteed even for the most successful bands who feel they can take any liberties that they wish. 34.788%…COMPLETE was a bold move indeed and mostly works for me. If the two overlong middle tracks were removed this would be a 4 star album for me but as it is only a 3.5 since the remaining tracks are really strong examples of the unlikely mix of alternative goth doom.

MY DYING BRIDE Like Gods of the Sun

Album · 1996 · Doom Metal
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MY DYING BRIDE had been riding high since their critically acclaimed debut “As The Flower Withers” with their unique mix of early Celtic Frost darkness and Candlemass doom metal heft however most of all what really allowed them stand out from the pack was the additional gothic touches that included a haunting violin. They would soon hit musical perfection on the following second and third albums “Turn Loose The Swans” and “The Angel And The Dark River” which transformed them into one of the most interesting metal bands of the 90s. While the band hit the ground running with a completely unique style, experimentation was also a factor and on each album as they would shift the dynamics slightly and change around the dominating roles of the instruments without sacrificing the plaintive doom metal dirge feel that they made theirs alone.

On the third full-length release LIKE GODS OF THE SUN, a new formula was implemented to create an entirely new way of mixing their classic elements together. While “Turn Loose The Swans” had moments that dropped the guitar, bass and drum metal aspects and instead focused on the lugubrious violin wails and synthesized atmospheric bleakness, “The Angel And The Dark River” on the other hand added more metal oomf to the process and avoided such downtime. On LIKE GODS OF THE SUN however, the metal elements got turned up a few notches which is immediately noticeable on the opening title track that let’s loose the heavy distorted guitar riffs without a violin to be heard, however while subjected more to the background still remains a vital part of the band’s overall sound as the atmospheric backdrop makes landfall.

The 90s was a strange time when everything alternative was en vogue and it has always fascinated me how the immense popularity of a particular style flexes its gravitational pull and makes established bands do very strange things and it seems MY DYING BRIDE was not immune for despite having produced some lauded albums, still found themselves adopting some of the alternative metal playbook elements on LIKE GODS OF THE SUN. First of all, the tracks are much shorter. There are no sprawling epics that delve into long meandering violin fueled cloud drifts as in the past. The song structures are concise and to the point with the chugging riffs while retaining a doom metal vibe implement alternative metal and even thrash metal delivery. Ever so graceful in how the changing things up can make or break an album, MY DYING BRIDE nevertheless pulls it off quite successfully with the heavier guitar heft being smoothed out by the admittedly less frequent but fully functional combo effect of the violin and synthesized ambience.

For all its emphasis on a greater metal bombast which very well could’ve resulted from the band’s tour with Iron Maiden, MY DYING BRIDE ends the album letting the listener know that they are essentially the same band with the only track “For My Fallen Angel” that eschews the metal elements altogether and focuses on an ambient synthesized swirl that supports a mournful violin solo performance with Aaron Stainthorpe’s vocals parked on poetic narration instead of the usual gothically tinged romanticism that graced the rest of the album. While the band focused on more metal heft on this album, they did not however return to the death metal growls nor implement the aggressive riffs of the past. LIKE GODS OF THE SUN nicely weaves together the band’s classic sound with an alternative metal presentation that happen to find a few thrash influences in the mix. Overall, this is another stellar album however a clear sign that the sheer perfection of the past masterpieces had expired. While clearly a step down in epic quality, a step down from perfection is nevertheless still a great album.

MY DYING BRIDE The Angel and the Dark River

Album · 1995 · Doom Metal
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MY DYING BRIDE came to the attention of the world by not only serving as an example of one of the very first death doom bands that took the plodding riffs of doom metal and married them with death growls and uptempo freneticism, but they singlehandedly went one step further and adopted Gothic rock elements as a canvas to paint their rueful metal art upon. After several EPs and a couple albums that forged a new branch in the metal universe, the band returned in 1995 with their their album THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER and changed their formula around once again this time dropping the death metal attributes completely and focusing on the dirge driven melancholy of molasses-flow doom riffs and soul piercing violin riffs. Aaron Stainthorpe completely dropped any death metal pretenses and performs an entirely goth-tinged plaintive vocal run and except for a final show of extreme metal thunder on “Your Shameful Heaven,” THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER pretty much drifts by like a lazy afternoon of darkened clouds in the sky.

The band had caught the attention of the metal underground right from the start but this is the moment when their unique metal craft was noticed by Steve Harris of Iron Maiden who loved the album and invited the band to open for their three month European tour which ultimately revealed their brand of doom goth metal to much larger audiences. While eschewing the death metal elements, MY DYING BRIDE also refined their sound which took all of the different aspects of the previous album “Turn Loose The Swans” and incorporated them all into a more cohesive whole. Where loose piano arpeggios ran free before, now were incorporated into the overall structure that found twin guitar counterpoints stretched to melancholic limits with violin sweeps and atmospheric overcast. While previous albums were composed by various members of the band, THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER was constructed solely by guitarist Andrew Craighan which gives it a more uniform feel.

THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER consists of six lengthy tracks ranging from six and a half minute mark all the way to the longest which is the opener “The Cry Of Mankind” which finds piano arpeggios, guitar, bass and violin counterpoints providing the proper red carpet treatment for Stainthorpe’s magnificent goth tinged threnody of lyrical lamentation allegedly inspired by the incessant rainy weather in the north of England. Each track constructs completely unique and self-contained melodic developments that drift and seep into the consciousness before shifting gears and taking turns providing guitar-free moments as well as crunchy grooves that add some climactic heft to the bereaving banter of the sextet’s multi-pronged musical attack. This is not the kind of music that bombards the senses, it’s the kind that seduces the listener into willingly accepting the poison that extinguishes the light and quashes hope.

While i’ve strived to find a single flaw in THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER, i can’t help but be floored by its sheer perfection of designing the most elegant form of goth doom metal that incorporates moments of English folk and electronic darkwave which unify to create one of doom metal’s most memorable moments matched only by the band’s previous album “Turn Loose The Swans.” I find it hard to choose between the two. The previous albums may have more dynamic variations that ranged from the gothic doom to bombastic death metal but this one has the most consistent overall disposition without sacrificing any of the idiosyncrasies which allowed the band to stand out from the pack. Packed with unique guitar riffs, darkened folky violin genius and a barrage of ever-changing percussive drive, MY DYING BRIDE created their second masterpiece in a row with THE ANGEL AND THE DARK RIVER.

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