Doom metal

Doom metal
Doom metal
Stylistic origins Heavy metal (esp. early 1970s Black Sabbath albums)
Cultural origins Early–mid 1970s, Europe and United States
Typical instruments Electric guitarBassDrumsVocals
Mainstream popularity Underground
Derivative forms Gothic metal - Sludge metal - Post-metal
Epic doomDrone doomFuneral doom - Gothic metal
Fusion genres
Stoner doomSludge doomDeath doom

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.[1] The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath,[1] who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath", "Electric Funeral" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s,[1] a number of bands from England (Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General), the United States (Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble) and Sweden (Candlemass, Count Raven) defined doom metal as a distinct genre.




The electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit are the most common instruments used to play doom metal, although keyboards are sometimes used. Guitarists and bassists often detune their instruments to very low notes and make much use of distortion. This produces a very 'thick' or 'heavy' guitar tone, which is one of the defining characteristics of the genre. Along with the usual heavy metal compositional technique of guitars and bass playing the same riff in unison, this creates an impressively loud and bass-heavy wall of sound. Another defining characteristic is the consistent focus on slow tempos,[1] and minor tonality with much use of dissonance (especially in the form of the tritone).


Traditional doom metal vocalists favor clean vocals, which are often performed with a sense of despair, desperation or pain; imitating the high-tone wails of Ozzy Osbourne, Bobby Liebling, and Zeeb Parkes. So-called "epic doom" vocalists often take it a step further, singing in an operatic style. Doom metal bands influenced by other extreme metal genres often use growled or screamed vocals.

Lyrical themes

Lyrics in doom metal play a key role. Often, they are pessimistic and include themes such as: suffering, depression, fear, grief, dread, death and anger. While some bands write lyrics in introspective and personal ways, others convey their themes using symbolism – which may be inspired by literature.

Some doom metal bands use religious themes in their music, perhaps more so than other heavy metal bands.[citation needed] Trouble, one of the genre's pioneers, were among the first to incorporate Christian imagery. Others have incorporated occult and pagan imagery. For many bands, the use of religious themes is for aesthetic and symbolic purposes only. Examples include lyrics/imagery about the Last Judgment to invoke dread, or the use of crucifixes and cross-shaped headstones to symbolize death.

Furthermore, some doom bands write lyrics about drugs or drug addiction. This is most common among stoner doom bands, who often describe hallucinogenic or psychedelic experiences.

History of doom metal

Tony Iommi's guitar style greatly influenced and defines doom metal.

Origins (1970s)

Doom metal is among the oldest forms of heavy metal, rooted in the music of early Black Sabbath.[1] Black Sabbath's music is itself stylistically rooted in blues, but with the deliberately doomy and loud guitar playing of Tony Iommi (who often used the tritone in his playing and composition), and the then-uncommon dark and pessimistic lyrics and atmosphere, they set the standards of early heavy metal and inspired various doom metal bands to come. In the early 1970s both Black Sabbath and Pentagram (also as side band Bedemon) composed and performed this heavy and dark music, which would in the 1980s begin to be known and referred to as doom metal by subsequent musicians, critics and fans. Blue Cheer have also been regarded as pioneering doom metal.[2][3] Though lacking the pessimistic lyrical content of their contemporaries, Welsh heavy metal band Budgie would also produce heavy songs which were amongst the loudest of their day, stylistically influencing various Doom acts. These bands are now often referred to as proto-doom by fans.[citation needed]

Development (1980s)

During the early-mid 1980s, bands from England and the United States[1] contributed much to the formation of doom metal as a distinct genre. In 1982, English pioneers Witchfinder General released their debut album Death Penalty. During 1984 and 1985, three American pioneers also released their debuts; Saint Vitus released their eponymous album, Trouble released Psalm 9 and Pentagram released Relentless. The Swedish Candlemass would also prove influential with their first record Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in 1986 (and prior to that, as Nemesis and the 1984 album Day of Retribution), from which the genre takes its name.[1]

During the 1980s, doom metal was deeply underground and gathered only small circles of cult-following fans.[citation needed] In the 1980s, metal was dominated by the faster metal subgenres speed and thrash, and commercially by glam metal. Slower, heavier and pessimistic in its nature, doom metal bands did not receive much attention even among die-hard metal fans of that time.[citation needed]

Some doom metal bands were also influenced by the underground goth rock and post-punk scene of the 1980s, showing similarities with the dark themes addressed through lyrics and the music atmosphere, both music styles deal with. A doom metal band like Mindrot was often described as a cross-over between death metal and goth rock.[4]

Stylistic divisions

Traditional doom

At the beginning of the 1990s, experimentation within doom metal became widespread, and the genre diversified as a result. Today, bands who continue the style of the genre's pioneers are often referred to as traditional doom metal. Traditional doom metal bands more commonly use higher guitar tunings, and do not play as slow as many other doom bands. Traditional doom bands typically play slow to mid-tempo songs with a thick and heavy sound. Vocals are usually clean with the occasional growl or scream. The lyrics in traditional doom usually are eerie and dark like other doom metal divisions. Some bands in modern times that play traditional doom metal are Ogre, Reverend Bizarre, and Witchcraft.

Epic doom

Epic doom has a heavy classical influence. One of the main characteristics are the Vocals; vocalists typically employ clean, operatic and choral singing. Lyrics and imagery are typically inspired by fantasy or mythology, while the drumming is performed in a bombastic fashion. However, distinguishing epic doom from traditional doom may be difficult. Examples of prominent epic doom bands include Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Solstice and Doomsword.

Stoner doom

Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard.

Stoner doom, stoner metal or psychedelic doom describes doom metal that incorporates psychedelic elements, to varying degrees. Stoner doom is often bass-heavy and makes much use of guitar effects such as fuzz, phaser or flanger. Stoner doom could be viewed as the heavier and slower form of stoner rock, as the two styles emerged simultaneously. It was pioneered in the early–mid 1990s by bands such as Kyuss, Sleep, Acid King, Electric Wizard, Orange Goblin and Sons of Otis.

Sludge doom

Sludge doom (also known as sludge metal) is a style that combines doom metal and hardcore punk, and sometimes southern rock. Many sludge bands compose slow and heavy songs that contain brief hardcore passages.[5][6] However, some bands emphasise fast tempos throughout their music.[7] The string instruments are heavily distorted and are often played with large amounts of feedback to produce an abrasive, sludgy sound. Drumming is often performed in typical doom metal fashion, but drummers may employ hardcore d-beat or double-kick drumming during faster passages. Vocals are usually shouted or screamed, and lyrics often focus on suffering, drug abuse, politics and anger towards society. The style was pioneered in the early 1990s by bands such as Eyehategod,[5] Crowbar,[6] Buzzov*en,[7] Acid Bath,[8] Grief[9].

Funeral doom

Funeral doom is a style of doom metal that crosses death/doom with funeral dirge music. It is played at a very slow tempo, and places an emphasis on evoking a sense of emptiness and despair. Typically, electric guitars are heavily distorted and dark ambient aspects such as keyboards or synthesizers are often used to create a "dreamlike" atmosphere. Vocals consist of mournful chants or growls and are often in the background. Funeral doom was pioneered by Funeral (Norway), Thergothon (Finland), Skepticism (Finland) and Corrupted (Japan).[10] It is unclear whether the genre's name was derived from the band Funeral (one of the genre's pioneers) or from the genre's affiliation with funeral dirge music.

Drone doom

Sunn O))) performing live.

Drone doom (also known as drone metal) is a style of doom metal that is largely defined by drones; notes or chords that are sustained and repeated throughout a piece of music. Typically, the electric guitar is performed with large amounts of reverb and feedback[11] while vocals, if present, are usually growled or screamed. Songs are often very long and lack beat or rhythm in the traditional sense. Drone doom is generally influenced by drone music,[11] noise music[11] and minimalist music.[11] The style emerged in the early 1990s and was pioneered by Earth,[12] Boris and Sunn O))).[11]


Death/doom is a style that combines the slow tempos and pessimistic atmosphere of doom metal with the deep growling vocals and double-kick drumming of death metal.[13] Influenced mostly by the early work of Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, the style emerged during the late 1980s and gained a certain amount of popularity during the 1990s.[13] Arguably, the first band to delve into this style of slow-paced death metal were the Pittsburgh-based Dream Death, who only released one full-length album before evolving into the traditional doom metal band Penance. They were shortly followed by the band Goatlord out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Death/doom was also pioneered by bands such as Winter,[14] Disembowelment,[14] Paradise Lost,[14] Autopsy, Anathema and My Dying Bride.[14]

Gothic metal

The term is often confused with death/doom, especially since a lot of gothic metal bands have a death metal past. Gothic metal refers to a development in the 1990s out of doom and death metal, as more bands started using strings, keyboards and female vocals. Beside the typical slow riffs were female vocals and/or Gregorian chants, quite often with melodic keyboard sounds also added. Atmosphere seems more important than technique like in death and the music often sounds more feminine than doom metal. There are sometimes elements of goth rock, but many bands prefer to refer to their music as symphonic metal. The Netherlands and Scandinavia are the most important places within this genre.

Bands with female singers like Tristania, Theatre of Tragedy and The Gathering were the pioneers. Other bands with this composition are The Sins of Thy Beloved, Ashes You Leave, Epica and Sirenia. By extension we can also add bands with male singers such as Type O Negative and Tiamat.[15]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Doom metal". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  2. ^ Kevin McHugh. "Various Artists : Blue Explosion - Tribute to Blue Cheer". 
  3. ^ "Music News, Videos, Photos, Artists, Playlists and More". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  4. ^ Beauty in the darkness. Nuclear Blast. 1996. pp. 14. 
  5. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Eyehategod". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  6. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Crowbar". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  7. ^ a b York, William. "Buzzov*en". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  8. ^ York, William. "Acid Bath". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  9. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Grief". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  10. ^ James Minton, Kim Kelly, and Jenn Selby, "Filth Parade", Terrorizer #188, September 2009, p. 56.
  11. ^ a b c d e John Wray, "Heady Metal", New York Times, May 28, 2006. [1] Access date: August 18, 2008.
  12. ^ Jason Jackowiak, Splendid, September 14, 2005. [2] Access date: August 23, 2008.
  13. ^ a b 'Doom Metal Special:Doom/Death' Terrorizer #142
  14. ^ a b c d Purcell, Nathalie J. (2003). Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture. McFarland & Company. pp. 23. ISBN 0786415851. Retrieved April 2008. 
  15. ^ Young, Garry sharpe (2003). Rockdetector - A-Z Of doom & Gothic Metal. Cherry Red books. pp. 300. ISBN 1901447146. 

External links

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