Styles & Forms | Doom Metal | Rock

Inspired largely by heavy metal founders Black Sabbath, the doom metal bands based their sound on the slower and more ‘sludgy’ elements of Sabbath’s sound, as can be heard on ‘Planet Caravan’ from Paranoid (1970) and ‘Sweet Leaf’ from Master Of Reality (1971), rather than the faster and more brutal elements of their music.

As the name suggests, doom metal is sad, melancholic and brooding, and like heavy metal the prominent instrument is distorted guitar, but unlike speed metal, doom metal is not particularly aggressive. Vocally, bands may use straightforward ‘clean’ and traditional vocals or the more extreme ‘grunting’.

The movement began to take shape in the mid-1980s with bands such as St Vitus, Trouble and Candlemass from Sweden. Doom metal contrasts strongly with, and was partly a reaction to, the speed metal bands of the early 1980s, such as Metallica and Slayer who played as fast as possible – many of the doom metal bands make a virtue out of playing slowly.

‘The Heaviest Band In The World’

Once described as ‘the heaviest band in the world’, Candlemass’ Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986) is a classic of the genre, and is thought to have christened the genre, although others believe the name comes from the Black Sabbath song ‘Hand Of Doom’ from Paranoid. Cathedral’s In Memorium (1992) also sets the standard and illustrates neatly the musicians’ motivation. Singer Lee Dorrian had previously been with the highly influential Napalm Death, whose style had been characterized by speed and brutality. With Cathedral though, he slowed the music right down, with detuned guitars for extra heaviness and his own unique ‘singing’ style.

In the 1990s, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and Anathema, three British bands on the Peaceville record label, mixed their Black Sabbath-derived doom metal influences with elements of goth rock. Paradise Lost’s Gothic (1991) acknowledges the goth influence in their music and, as befits the band’s name, My Dying Bride create a mood of doomed romanticism as can be heard on Turn Loose The Swans (1993).

Stoner Metal, Drone Doom And Sludge Metal

Just as heavy metal inspired doom metal, doom metal in turn inspired the 1970s-obsessed stoner metal, and also overlaps with this 1990s style. As the name suggests, stoner rock has an added preoccupation with recreational drug use. In a seemingly limitless spiral of possibilities, another offshoot from doom metal is the so-called ‘drone doom’ as practised by Earth. Retaining the heaviness, slowness and brooding of doom, Earth exploit drones in their music, that is, notes or riffs ringing on or being repeated against change in other instruments. On the other side of the Atlantic, yet another branch of doom metal crawled from New Orleans – the so-called ‘sludge metal’ bands like Crowbar and Eyehategod who also drew inspiration from the Seattle grunge bands such as Soundgarden.

‘To me, Doom Metal is a home for the troubled soul.’
Hammy, Peaceville Records

Leading Exponents

St Vitus

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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