Stoner Metal

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Stoner Metal is a sub-genre of metal music that rose into prominence in the early 1990's, pioneered by bands such as Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Sleep, as well as the grunge band Soundgarden. The genre is known for it's fusion of the sludgy riffing of doom metal, the fuzzy distortion of psychedelic rock, and various other styles of music such as blues rock and southern rock.

The origins of the genre is often attributed to early metal bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer. The former's Master of Reality album of 1971 was especially influential in the development of the genre, sometimes even being cited as the first stoner metal album. Space Rock pioneers Hawkwind are also noted to have a substantial impact on the genre, with many stoner rock and metal bands taking elements from space rock. Stoner Metal pioneers Monster Magnet covered Hawkwind's "Brainstorm" on their 1993 album Superjudge. Hardcore punk is also sometimes cited as influencing the genre, with Kyuss's Josh Homme and John Garcia stating Black Flag's My War album of 1984 as having an impact.

Some stoner metal bands took more from blues rock and southern rock, and blended it with their own take on the stoner sound. Corrosion of Conformity and Clutch are among these acts, with the former starting out as a crossover thrash/hardcore punk band in the 80's before bringing in a southern/stoner sound on their 1991 album Blind. Speaking of hardcore, bands such as High on Fire and Kylesa are often considered stoner-sludge metal due to their common usage of hardcore punk elements.

Stoner-doom metal: Stoner doom was pioneered by bands such as Sleep and Cathedral, who started their careers playing traditional doom metal. While much of stoner metal takes influence from doom metal, stoner doom puts more emphasis on said influence. Notable examples include Sleep's Dopesmoker, Cathedral's The Carnival Bizzare, Electric Wizard's Dopethrone, and Acid King's Busse Woods. Some stoner doom releases are placed under doom if there is more of a focus on doom than a balance between the two.

Stoner Rock, while having much in common with it's metal offshoot, has less of a focus on the metal aspect of the sound and is included in the Hard Rock sub-genre on MMA.

- Biography written by Unitron.

Sub-genre collaborators (shared with Doom Metal and Drone Metal):
  • Nightfly (leader)
  • MorniumGoatahl

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stoner metal Music Reviews

STONED JESUS First Communion

Album · 2010 · Stoner Metal
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siLLy puPPy
STONED JESUS is one of the legions of stoner metal bands that has emerged since the genre took off in the early 90s when bands like Sleep and Earth were really starting to slow things down in the metal world which created a whole lot of breathing room for fuzzy doom metal riffing to reverberate to high heaven (or hell) and focus on gloomy atmospheric constructs over compositional fortitude. While most of the early bands like Kyuss, Electric Wizard, Trouble, Melvins, Sleep and Elder were from the English speaking world, other nations quickly jumped on board with bands like Boris from Japan, Spiritual Beggars from Sweden and Italy’s Ufomammut. Add to the list a whole bunch of acts that from behind the former Iron Curtain and there seems no end in sight.

One of these bands that emerged from the remote outbacks of Eastern Europe was the wickedly cool named STONED JESUS which formed in Kiev, Ukraine where they took the traditional doom aspects of early Black Sabbath and married it with the heavier psych and stoner qualities of more recent bands. The band was founded in 2009 by Igor Sydorenko (guitar, vocals), Nik Kobold (bass) and Alexander EphirZ (drums). The band released a demo soon after forming and wasted no time cranking up the guitar riffs and channeling the zeitgeist of early Sabbath. The debut album FIRST COMMUNION emerged in 2010 on the Solitude label. After the band’s sound expanded past the homeland, the album was released on the German label Nasoni which launched these guys into the international playground.

Now a former Soviet nation is hardly the first place that comes to mind when considering Sabbath inspired stoner metal but the guys in STONED JESUS have done their homework quite well and proudly display their amazing delivery of Anglo-oriented 70s inspired doom and gloom. FIRST COMMUNION is a retro sounding album through and through and could actually pass as some lost early session of Black Sabbath. First of all, Igor’s vocal style is a dead ringer for Ozzy Osbourne and nails all those nasal articulations perfectly. Likewise his guitar riffs evoke the earliest occult fueled grooves of Tony Iommi although his guitar playing is limited to riffing without too many accompanying solos. In fact many of the four tracks, three of which exceed the ten minute mark are in for the slow burn, that meaning cyclical riffs repeat almost ad infinitum until the hypnotic spell is finally broken by a chord change or some vocal utterances.

The bass and drum provide the grooves while the guitar generally adds higher register counterpoints. It really does sound like a Sabbath rehearsal circa 1969 where someone resurrected the primitive recordings and remastered them with cleaner production values and then laced with all the stoner modernisms heard in more modern bands like Sleep or Electric Wizard. Stoner metal can be rather generic and STONED JESUS certainly falls into that trap on FIRST COMMUNION. For my money this is way too derivative of early Sabbath and although the band imitates the early pioneers to great effect, what this trio fails to delivery are classy compositions that find new layers of doomy stoner vibes to layer upon the influences of yore. While i have to admit that stoner metal is not my first love in the metal universe, the best bands within its jurisdiction have really stood out for a reason and STONED JESUS unfortunately fails to do just that. A nice hypnotic background sort of music but as an active listening experience i find this album a bit ordinary.

YOB Elaborations of Carbon

Album · 2002 · Stoner Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The chiefly British slang term YOB refers to a rowdy, aggressive or even violent young man but in the musical world of metal it refers to the Eugene, Oregon based band that was founded in 1996 by vocalist / guitarist and band leader Mike Scheidt who would undergo a few lineup changes over the two decade plus career that is still going strong. Crafting a sound that fits perfectly with the bad boy moniker, YOB has been instrumental in creating a unique fusion of the triumvirate of traditional doom, stoner and sludge metal with the extra elements of psychedelic space rock and occasional progressive elements.

After a short eponymous EP released in 2000, the band signed to 12th Records in Spokane, WA and recorded and released this debut ELABORATIONS OF CARBON which finds the trio of Mike Scheidt (vocals, guitar), Lowell Iles (bass) and Gabe Morley (drums) cranking out a stomping slo-mo stampede of metal fury that delivers an abundance of slow plodding doom ridden guitar riffs with all the peachy fuzzies of an entire orchard decked out with an interesting decorative display of creativity in action. The album contains only six tracks that stretch out just over the 70 minute mark with the monstrously long “Revolution” sneaking over the 17 minute mark and the insomnia inducing “Asleep In Samsara” which is just shy of 17. This is a band in no hurry as the members nonchalantly exhibit their miscreancy in high decibalage.

Through this parade of darkened thick doom riffs that plod along in a detuned defiance, YOB creates the ultimate paradox of hypnotic repetition and head banging uproar and includes Black Sabbath darkened doom, Neurosis infused slamming sludge and Sleep inspired stoner steadfastness. Scheidt’s vocals almost sound like a higher version of Ozzy Osbourne’s nasal articulations as well as some of the riffs imitating the great Tony Iommi’s. Between riffing rampages however there are often slower less distorted segments that exhibit an atmosphere setting sometimes with vocals spoken or sung and sometimes just an instrumental interlude with clean echoey guitars to cleanse the palette of the grimy build up of the incessant chug-fest. Sometimes it just gets truly weird in a psychedelic haze.

While YOB is much better known for its more sophisticated albums to come, ELABORATIONS OF CARBON is nevertheless a decent beginning and although it lacks the production value of the Abstract Sounds years, it more than makes up for it in the DIY rawness of a primeval metal band getting its feet muddy in the mucky murky sludge and at this point YOB already had a firm grasp on its evolution and doesn’t sound like the legions of stoner rock / metal bands that exploded onto the scene in the 90s and beyond. YOB is certainly not a technical type of band but rather provides a viscous soundscape as to get lost in even if it at times its brutality is as heavy as hell especially heard on outrageous bombastic tracks such as “Pain of I” which sounds like an early Neurosis having a hissy fit. All in all, an awesome debut that points the band in the right direction!

BARONESS Gold & Grey

Album · 2019 · Stoner Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
I remember when Baroness first broke out, they were quite sludgy and while not inaccessible, certainly not quite radio-friendly either. Early albums like Red Album and Blue Record mixed Thin Lizzy clean guitar with thick stoner-sludge and swampy vocals. I remember also, when they dropped their double album ‘Yellow And Green’ and they went from a band I liked a bit due to a slight Mastodon similarity, to a band I really cared about and actively followed.

To date, I still think of Yellow & Green as an utter masterpiece and that it was one of the best albums by anyone I care about to be released that year. Its when the band really stepped out of any other band’s shadows or any one subgenre’s constraints and just went everywhere they wanted all at once…. The follow up Purple was near as good, trying (and succeeding) to condense the sprawling mix of styles, tempos and timbres of the very diverse double album into one single straight-up rock record with flavours from everything the band had done before but a focus on being succinct and accessible (without sounding too far from their more metallic roots of course).

With their new album, Gold & Grey, the band are leaning a bit back more into Yellow & Green’s experimental territories. There is a focus on diversity here. Succinct is not a word I’d use to describe this. This album seems to be reveling in the freedom to do everything and anything. ‘Seasons’ for example has spidery guitar lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on a King Crimson album, mixed with a strange lo-fi noisy production job that makes it sound like some Sonic Youth style art rock piece, but then there are also blast-beats in their briefly to bring back the metal. Sometimes it goes full prog, with ‘Sevens’ sounding like mid period Camel. ‘Broken Halo’ has some lovely bridges that I can see crowds loving when this material is toured live, but goes a bit Yes during the solo.

There are also quite a few brief quiet, sombre, slow numbers across the album’s 17-track duration. ‘Blankets of Ash’ for example is a nice sounding acoustic guitar interlude over some creepy foreboding soundscape. ‘Crooked Mile’ is a jangly acoustic number that sounds more like an intro than a full blown tune of its own. ‘Assault On East Falls’ sounds like the music from a dream sequence in a Japanse videogame.

You can hear a bit more Radiohead and a bit less Red Fang in the DNA at times I guess (the intro to ‘Tourniquet’ or for example), but that being said there are still enough big fat choruses and catchy hooks to keep the sing-along feel of Purple. The album opener ‘Front Toward Enemy’ for example is just a foot down melodic rocker to get the blood pumping. The chorus to the single ‘Throw Me An Anchor’ is almost as catchy as something like ‘Take My Bones Away’ or ‘Shock Me’ from previous albums. ‘I’ll Do Anything’ sounds like it could be used to advertise the Olympics. Its like if Bon Iver took happy pills and wanted to inspire people to action.

Singer John Dyer Baizley’s rich voice really sets this band apart from the crowd, and when he really leans into the big melodies, it is proper 360 degree helicopter shots on a cliffside stuff. He has such a powerful and evocative voice that can make any line sound immensely meaningful and majestic.

Considering the line-up change between albums, it still sounds totally like Baroness. You may not have had female backing vocals back on Blue Record but the way John and Gina’s vocals blend and mesh together just sound right.

The album isn’t without its flaws however. The production seems to be quite controversial based on all people I’ve seen complaining on social media. It is also a bit tough to swallow in one go, sitting somewhere between standard and double album length. (Its only an hour, but with 17 tracks there is a lot of different moods, directions and sounds to digest and so it takes up more brainpower than your typical 10-14 track album. If you just wanted an album of ‘Shock Me’ clones, something like ‘Can Oscura’ might be a bit off-putting for example). You couldn’t just slap this on in the background once and love it forever, it’s a grower that you’ve got to give a lot of attention to. That being said, these are minor flaws at the most. I didn’t really consider the production notable until it was pointed out to me by others, and usually an album being a grower at the start leads to an album you’re still loving years later rather than an album that would lose its flavour as fast as chewing gum if it popped right away.

Maybe if you were only into the band for the heaviness of the early days, this album won’t suit you. If you liked the last two albums though, this album is very much going to be right up your street. Its softer, proggier and more considered than it is bludgeoning and meaty. It’s a bit more ponderous than direct and rocking. But it is definitely worth checking out, sticking on repeat and loosing yourself in. It’s an odyssey of new worlds to glimpse, it’s a journey to get lost on. You might not want to head-bang, but you’ll never be bored.

YOB The Illusion of Motion

Album · 2004 · Stoner Metal
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Warthur
For The Illusion of Motion, YOB set up shop at the corner of doom metal and stoner metal. They've got enough of the former to take pleasure in some real slow, heavy riffs, but enough of the latter to put a bit of a skip in the album's step - things never slow down to an absolute, total crawl as they might do with a more funereal or po-faced doom metal release, but instead have just a pinch of the psychedelic and hard-rocking about them. This adds just enough extra energy to keep things hopping along and the ideas developing. That corner of doom and stoner I talked about is a pretty busy one, but I can recommend YOB's wares for the discerning consumer.

OM Inherrant Rays Of Infallible Sun (Blackship Shrinebuilder) (Split with Current 93)

Split · 2006 · Stoner Metal
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Warthur
Coming out a while after Current 93's Black Ships Ate the Sky - an album which saw David Tibet take on a wider range of genres than the strange mix of dark industrial and weird folk he's usually known for - Inerrant Rays of Infallible Sun is a solid split EP with Om, an aptly chosen group of collaborators since the Current 93 piece on here feels like a momentary experiment with avant-doom metal - paving the way, in some respects, for the project's left turn into full-on psychedelic rock on Aleph At Hallucinatory Mountain.

The Om cut, meanwhile, seems a bit faster and bouncier than their usual sombre, sacred fare - in fact, it feels a bit like an off-cut from their Sleep days. Which is no bad thing if you like yourself a bit of Sleep - and if you don't like experimentally-inclined stoner doom, you're probably not going to give this split a second look anyway.

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CORROSION OF CONFORMITY Live Volume: The Movie

Movie · 2001 · Stoner Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
Corrosion Of Conformity’s Live Volume: The Movie was recorded live in Detroit at the Harpo's venue and released in 2001. This was the band’s first and to date only live DVD and captures the band live in support of their America’s Volume Dealer album from 2000. Jimmy Bower, who plays alongside Pepper Keenan in the fantastic Phil Anselmo fronted super group Down, provides the drums for this live concert as the band were in between losing and reuniting with long time Drummer and founding member Reed Mullin.

The band really hammer home a strong and confident performance, aided by Bower’s fine drumming. Each member puts in a good show, the guitars are big and heavy as they should be, the bass really stands out and Pepper’s vocals stand up very well in the live environment.

The setlist is strong, concentrating mostly on the band’s Pepper Keenan era material. Standout tracks include ‘Wiseblood,’ and ‘King Of The Rotten’ as well as the big hits like ‘Clean My Wounds,’ and ‘Albatross,’ which go down a storm live.

The sound mix is pretty great, really conveying the heaviness and southern edge to some of the riffs and letting you hear what each member is doing perfectly for most of the duration.

In terms of camera work and visuals the DVD is also pretty successful and it has certainly aged better than some of the concert DVDs that were released around that era, some of which are now feeling comparatively dated.

If any complaint were to be leveled at this Live DVD it would be that the editing is perhaps a little overenthusiastic, there is a lot more double-exposure than one would expect, things brake into slow motion at unexpected points and there is sometimes a seeming desire to get across how much fun the fans are having, even at the expense of the visuals.

If you can forgive this one flaw then there is a lot to enjoy about C.O.C’s Live Volume: The Movie and I would highly recommend it.

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