Doom metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal that is mostly overlooked by mainstream media and heavy metal fans themselves. If one were to choose a truly underground form of heavy metal music doom metal would top the list as most obscure. Before I get into the history of doom metal let me lay down some basic musical elements that make up this particular style of music and how to distinguish it from other similar styles of metal. The first and foremost indicator of whether something is doom metal or not is its tempo or speed. Most doom metal songs are extremely slow some even approaching drone tempos. Another huge element of doom metal is the use of the tritone or devil's interval, a flattened fifth or raised fourth. Most every doom metal band will incorporate at least one riff in every song implementing the use of a tritone. A third indicator of whether something is doom metal or not is the subject matter of the lyrics. Doom metal lyrics revolve around three basic topics, the apocalypse, depression/suicide, redemption from fate or judgment. DISTINGUISHING DOOM METAL FROM GOTH METAL
One huge misconception concerning the subject matter of doom metal lyrics is the incorporation of gothic influenced lyrics such as the love songs of My Dying Bride. This is most certainly not a feature of doom metal. Doom metal in its pure form almost never discusses such topics. My Dying Bride as well as other goth bands that play at slower tempos are often misclassified as a doom metal bands because of their occasional slowness, however, they most certainly do not fit in the genre all that comfortably. There are three easy ways to distinguish doom metal bands from goth metal bands and they are:
1.) Goth bands take advantage of the beauty and the beast vocal style implementing clean sung female operatic soprano vocal styles in response to male death growls.
2.) Goth bands do play slow indeed, however, their music does consist of many faster sections. Doom metal is painfully slow throughout the course of a song and album.
3.) Goth metal bands will make extensive use of keyboards, violins, beautiful atmospheres, and write lyrics about love, loss, romance, and death. If you see any of these elements in the music it is more likely to be a goth metal band than a doom metal band.
One little side note to this is that some true doom metal bands do use keyboards, however, they make use of the keyboards in a much different ways than goth metal bands do. Funeral doom bands often make use of keyboards such as organs, pianos, and basic synth settings to add a feeling of fear and an ominous presence to the music. Goth metal bands will use keyboards often in string settings to make the background or atmosphere of the music more serene or orchestral. Below is a list of goth metal bands often misclassified as doom metal:
My Dying Bride
ZafiraDISTINGUISHING DARK METAL FROM DOOM METAL
Dark metal is another genre of music that is commonly misclassified as doom metal because of its slowness. Though it is indeed true that dark metal bands have some slow sections in their music, they are not doom metal. Most dark metal bands stay within the 76-104 BPM tempo markings range, making them much too mid-tempoed and upbeat to truly be doom metal. Please note that doom metal is usually 60 BPM or slower! Another distinguishing difference between dark metal and doom is that dark metal takes heavy influence from black metal. Dark metal bands use black metal style screeched vocals and sickeningly corny melodic atmospheres. Another reason why it is easy to confuse dark metal with doom metal is the fact that most every dark metal song is centered around depression and suicide. Despite this similarity dark metal is different from doom metal because of it its use of faster tempos, a black metal vocal style, and means of composition. Dark metal in and of itself is not doom metal. Below is a list of dark metal bands often mistaken for doom metal:
DeinonychusA BRIEF HISTORY OF DOOM METAL
The actual beginnings of doom metal can be traced back to February 13, 1970 when Black Sabbath released their first self-titled album. On this album, in fact the first track on the A side, appeared the song Black Sabbath. It was a droning tempoed ode to the end of the world, one in which evil triumphs over mankind sending us into an eternity of torture and pain. Many older doom metal fans will claim this song to be the first doom metal song as well as the first heavy metal song. Others claim that this song only laid the foundation for what would eventually become doom metal in the mid 1980s. I happen to hold the opinion that the song Black Sabbath is in fact the first doom metal song and aside from being the first official heavy metal band, Black Sabbath was the first official doom metal band. I hold this belief because if you were to classify Black Sabbath's music today they would fit into the doom metal classification quite comfortably. After the success of Black Sabbath, a whole string of bands formed playing heavy metal music in their likeness.
In the United States, Pentagram followed the tradition. Forming in late 1971 by high school friends Bobby Liebling and Geof O' Keefe, Pentagram took the slow catatonic tempos of Black Sabbath, gave it a deeper Satanic message, and created a darker form of the doom metal that Black Sabbath had already been playing for nearly two years. They had minor success touring the east coast but never successfully landed a record contract. Pentagram in its original form broke up in 1976 but their influence would be felt for the next 30 years. After Pentagram, many up and coming heavy metal bands decided to adopt the doom metal style.
In America, bands such as Saint Vitus and Trouble would pave the way for doom metal in the 1980s, while the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in England acted as vehicle for bands like Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar to keep the Sabbath tradition of doom metal alive and well far into the 1980s. The mid 1980s were a prime time for the development of doom metal. As bands were striving to player faster and louder doom metal was gaining an audience in night clubs around the world with it's slow mournful approach to metal. Some of the most important proponents of doom metal in this time period were Saint Vitus from LA, Trouble from Chicago, Withcfinder General from London, and the reunited Pentagram from Arlington Virginia. These bands were all playing slow dark music in the vain of Black Sabbath. However, up until this time the music had not been officially named. Most people just saw it as slow heavy metal or Sabbath-esque quasi death metal.
Saint Vitus was probably the most important band from the early to mid 1980s playing doom metal. They started off as a punk style metal band and quickly changed to a more Sabbath oriented metal band with the acquisition of vocalist/guitarist Scott "Wino" Weinrich of The Obsessed. With the release of the classic album "Born Too Late," Saint Vitus had set in motion the explosion of doom metal into the consciousness of heavy metal fans. It wasn't until a band by the name of Candlemass released their first album in 1986 that doom metal finally received the name doom metal.
The Candlemass album Epicus Doomicus Metalicus officially gave doom metal its classification title and solidified it as a staple of heavy metal music. Their following releases only further advanced the genre with their all time greatest album, in my opinion, being 1987's Nightfall. Saint Vitus also continued to help further the development of doom metal and Trouble brought a Christian aspect to the otherwise dark oriented music.
By the early 1990s, bands like Cathedral, diSEMBOWELMENT, and Winter were combining the slowness of doom metal with the heaviness of death metal creating various new forms of doom metal. Death/doom proved to hail supreme in the first half of the 1990s though many other styles were up and coming. Bands like Grief, Crowbar, Eyehategod, and Corrupted gave rise to sludge/doom. Bands such as Skepticism and Thergothon founded funeral/doom and gained international attention from metal fans of all tastes.
Genre mashing and other types of experimentation throughout the 1990s and 2000s would contribute to creating the diversity found within the doom metal scene. Bands would go on to experiment with how slow and simple they could possibly play, creating droning doom metal, whereas other doom metal bands experimented with long complex arrangements and multi-movement songs spanning from 20 to over 70 minutes in length. Currently, almost a dozen different sub-genres of doom metal have been identified and are academically accepted. Below is a list of each sub-genre with a brief explanation. Note these are just the basic sub-genres and are by no means all inclusive.Traditional Doom Metal
- This is doom metal in the vain of Black Sabbath with clean sung vocals and minor riffing at drudgingly slow tempos. Examples of traditional doom metal bands include, Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Pagan Altar, Goatsnake, and Northwinds.Epic Doom Metal
- This is doom metal in the vain of Candlemass that uses clean sung vocals and is mostly focused on conflict and the redemption of man. Other epic doom metal bands include Solitude Aeturnus and Lamented Souls.Stoner Doom Metal
- This is doom metal that combines the doomy elements of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus with the Psychedelic elements of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and Pink Floyd, creating a groovy yet dark sound. Examples of stoner doom bands include The Electric Wizard, Sleep, Cathedral (1995-now), Buzzoven, and Grand Magus.Funeral Doom Metal
- Painfully slow doom metal focused on death and the life cycle. The sound is defined by creepy church organs, evil orchestral string settings, and growled death vocals. Examples of Funeral Doom Metal bands include, Thergothon, Skepticism, Graves at Sea, Shape of Despair, and Mournful Congregation.Death Doom Metal
- This is essentially doom metal with death metal style riffing and vocals played at 60 BPM or less. Examples of Death Doom Metal Bands include Winter, diSEMBOWELMENT, Thorr's Hammer, Roanoke, Cathedral (1990-1993), and Warhorse. Black Doom Metal
-This is doom metal that combines elements of black metal with the slowness of doom metal, Unlike dark metal, however, black doom is focused on the apocalypse and deeper Satanic messages. Some examples of black doom metal bands include Nortt, Worship, Funeral, and Dolorian.Sludge Doom Metal
- This is a mixture of traditional doom metal and stoner doom metal but played at slower tempos with lower tuned guitars. Sludge doom is catatonically slow and severely depressive. Examples of sludge doom metal bands include Crowbar, Eyehategod, Grief, Noothgrush, Corrupted, and Sloth (UK).Droning Doom Metal
- Droning doom metal is the slowest most brutal form of doom metal. It is probably the slowest form of metal in the world if not the slowest type of music in the world. In drone music it is not uncommon to hear a power chord held for five minutes with a moving guitar line underneath it creating uncomfortable dissonances. This music is not easy to listen to or easy to digest. This type of doom is not usually recommended for beginning doom metal listeners. Much experience with doom metal is necessary to fully understand this type of doom metal. Examples of droning doom metal bands include Sunn O))), Earth, Moss, Monarch, Boris(early), Khanate, and Burning Witch.Proto Doom Metal
- This is a term often used by younger doom metal fans when classifying the founding fathers of doom metal (i.e Black Sabbath, Pentagram) and other bands that play in that style, examples of which include Ironman, Witchcraft, and Place of Skulls.Advantgarde Doom
- This is doom metal that combines many different elements of music together. For example a doom metal band that displays elements of funeral doom, sludge doom, droning doom and death doom might be classified as advantgarde doom. It can also include doom metal bands that have jazz, classical, or progressive rock elements in their music. Examples of advantgarde doom include Wreck of the Hesperus, Aarni, Dolorian (late), Black Shape of Nexus, and Unholy.CONCLUSION
As you can see it is quite clear that doom metal has grown into a diverse and interesting style of music. It is sad that not many people know what doom metal is. Even within the heavy metal community doom metal is still an obscure sub-genre that only an elite few know about. Needless to say that those of us who are part of the doom metal community are a close and tightly nit bunch. To me doom metal is one of the heaviest and darkest forms of heavy metal music. Some of the most evil sounding and terrifying bands in the world are doom metal bands. Though doom has been getting a lot more attention lately it is still grossly underestimated in its influence on the heavy metal scene and is very rarely ever given the attention it deserves. Hopefully this will soon change so that more people can hear this type of music and realize how amazing it truly is.