It’s a given that “doom” rock or doom metal was the product of a few things that had to have happened for Black Sabbath to darken our world. The sound for one thing demanded tonalities that conjured up upsetting or spooky sounds that included some organ parts in the large cathedrals, the typical horror movie soundtracks even as far back as the earliest Bela Lugosi flicks, with stringed instruments providing more counterpoint to organ parts and choral arrangements. So, if we want to get technical about it, while the terminology certainly did not exist, the template for music that was designed to scare your girlfriend on a Saturday night or even radio programs with spooky themes was there. Now, thanks to satellite, you can listen to some of those old radio programs that ruled the entertainment industry at home for decades. For just an audio performance, some were, like The Whistler, a favorite of my wife’s, actually well written.
This article will explore not so much the spooky Alice Cooper/Black Sabbath/Pentagram aspect, but rather, bring attention to some of these bands’ heirs who loved their music as heavy as a cement truck parked on your lap. It is at this point the term “heavy” and “stoner” can be ubiquitous – the classic tones of Gibson SG’s that Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath made legendary, and the imagination of decades of bands all trying to be as doom laden as possible. Others obviously went the thrash/death route, or black metal, which has actually become a very musically interesting form of metal, long after the idiots who burned churches disappeared, some by suicide and murder, or finally learned how to play the guitars and write what is some incredible material.
We must pay homage to Black Sabbath, however, because their influence can never be underestimated. For me, as somebody who prefers the music over the lyrics most of the time, that meant Tony Iommi was creating sounds that were so frightening yet ultra heavy and cool that nobody, not even Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck could touch. A bluesy bend was one thing – there was just something ultra unique about Iommi. He is a legend, of mythical proportions for millions of fans, and will remain so for decades to come. He belongs with Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, and Jimmy Page in the canon of the greatest rock guitar players ever.
So, with Black Sabbath freaking out high schoolers and college kids, either with the titanic low throated riffs, Ozzy Osbourne’s wails of nuclear destruction on “Children Of The Grave”, my favorite Sabbath song, and basically the first six studio albums, other bands were determined to be as heavy as possible. From the Seventies, you had Pentagram, Nazareth, at least for Hair Of The Dog and No Mean City, early AC/DC who weren’t as dark musically but nonetheless shared the “evil” image on great albums like Powerage, Highway To Hell, and Back In Black, and the first rumblings of St. Vitus, the only doom metal band to make it onto Greg Ginn of Black Flag’s SST label. Even Black Flag had its dark tones, showing Iommi’s reach was far and deep.
This is by no means comprehensive just due to the sheer number of bands out there, but this list brings attention to some great outfits keeping the “heavy” in the heaviest metal.
These guys are for all intent and purposes the godchildren of Sabbath. Singer Lee Dorrian, who had screeched for Napalm Death, decided to go heavy, and with guitarist Gary Jennings found probably the only other player who truly could reach Iommian highs or lows, and create some truly ultra gravity shifting riffs that were good enough to attract Tony to contribute some lead work on one of their albums, the ultimate compliment. Sadly, Cathedral retired, with Jennings taking part in other bands like Lucifer and Death Penalty. Singer Lee Dorrian had a label to run, and did an album or two with his band With The Death. Must have albums include: Forests of Equilibrium, Caravan Of Redemption and The VIIth Coming.
These doom merchants were long on the heavy, the smoky, the stoned. Leader Jus Oborn created repetitive but effective riffs that got the attention of the metal world for a hand full of albums. It’s the early stuff that is regarded as essential, as latter efforts seemed to indicate a lack of fresh ideas. But a lack of heaviness was not an issue. It didn’t blow your mind so much as it put you in a corner and let you lay there for several hours. The self-titled debut, WItchcult Today and Dopethrone are the high points, no pun intended.
Sweden is known more for its version of death and black metal, and ABBA, but Candlemass are straight out of the doom handbook. Bassist Leif Edling has been the long time leader, and the band has had a couple of singers, but its debut Epicus Doomicus Metallus is a stone cold doom classic, and they’re reuniting just a year or two ago for The Door To Doom also brought back original vocalist Johan Langquist to the delight of hardcore Candlemass fans everywhere. This stuff is unabashedly proud of its Sabbath influences. But when it’s done right, it’s great, as in the case of these guys. In addition to the two albums mentioned, I recommend Candlemass as well.
This is New Orleans swamp sludge. Atchafalaya Basin stuff. For those familiar with or who live in New Orleans or most of Louisiana for that matter, the heat and humidity seems to make music sound like it’s sinking. The riffs are just enormous, and singer/guitarist Kirk Windstein sings like he is truly a tortured individual. I have not heard the newest CD Life Below Zero but their albums Obedience Through Suffering, Oddfellows’ Rest and Symmetry In Black are just the kind of albums you want to put in your stereo to keep your truck heavy enough not to get stuck in the snow.
This great band from Britain was just about to break big in the States when COVID-19 hit and put a lid on their activities. More considered a stoner rock band, with decidedly hippy elements on their first couple of albums, their tone is still heavy as a boat of lead. Orange Goblin rock, and rock hard.
They cover punk, Motorhead, and should be one of the most popular heavy bands out there, but for now, Britain will have to sustain them until they tour again. Secret weapon Joe Hoare is the mastermind behind the gargantuan SG riffs that threaten to dislocate your shoulders if you try to play air guitar to these huge riffs that ought to please Sabbath, Nazareth and all heavy bands of the ’70’s. I recommend Frequencies From Planet 10, Healing Through Fire, and The Wolf Bites Back.
This Denver, CO. trio takes heavy and adds some Thin Lizzy style guitar dueling, a balance between singing and screaming, and a tone heavier than the tectonic plates shoving each other deep under Denver and making the Rockies grow higher. Plus, these guys swing hard, in the best possible way, showing us how much we miss the glory days of ZZTop. I recommend all four albums, and for the heaviest song in their catalog, check out “Obsidian” from their debut album Absolution. The others, The Hunted, Desolation and the new one Deceiver are one part doom classic, twin guitar leads and a modern approach.
# – Yob
This celebrated band from Portland, OR., also home to Matt Pike and his equally popular bands Sleep and High On Fire has been around combining the psychedelic realms and lyrics dealing with the spirit and similar subject matter for years, at the helm of guitarist Mike Scheidt, who can go from Geddy Lee vocal heights to ultra-low roaring with ease.
What defines Yob, especially beginning with the second album Catharsis, is painfully slow tempos most of the time, allowing songs that clear the 20-minute mark easily to sink in and absorb your excess gray matter, between enormous slabs of heavy guitar and cleaner passages that have a sound that’s very unique, and only because of the slower tempos can this band be categorized with any accuracy. It is also hugely popular with the stoner music crowd, for obvious reasons.
However, with subsequent albums, the Yob sound has truly grown, and much deeper albums have really pleased long time fans. For fans of the really heavy stuff, I’d recommend The Unreal Never LIved or Catharsis. Otherwise, the last three, Atma, Clearing The Path To Ascend and Our Raw Hearts are musically more varied.
Feature Photo: Zamrznuti tonovi
8 Bands That Define The Heavy In Heavy Metal article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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