Timeworn – Venomous High

Sludge metal was born out of hardcore punk bands discovering Black Sabbath. The greatest sludge albums combine all the raw aggression and rage of hardcore with the slow tension and power of doom metal. Since its beginnings in late 80s, the genre has grown into punk’s willingness to experiment and created some of the most forward thinking metal albums of all time from the likes of Mastodon, Neurosis, and Isis. In other words, though sludge combines fairly simple ingredients, the results are almost always sophisticated.

Journey to the NOLA Swamps – The Birth of Sludge Metal

We’ve covered a fair bit of ground with our Starter Kit series, where we select a handful of key records that highlight a niche musical style or penetrate the prolific status of a staple genre. Unfortunately, this format doesn’t lend itself to covering proto-genres—microcosms of musical history comprised of a specific set of albums released in a fixed period of time. But these movements are crucial to the evolution of our favorite genres, particularly when it comes to the trajectory of sludge metal. What’s become a multifaceted and often refined style was once a disparate lineage of bands from different genres who all applied the “sludge factor” in different measures. While you won’t find a dedicated section for proto-sludge at your preferred music store, the following albums an artists laid the framework for the modern sludge landscape. So whether your sludge purveyors of choice come from the atmospheric, blackened or progressive sects of he genre, they’re all indebted to the groundbreaking statements these albums made.

Harvestman – Music for Megaliths

One of the main missions of music is to influence how we think and feel. The scientific possibilities for music to create altered states in humans transcending the aural into the psychological and beyond into physical manifestations have been studied at length. That the Journal of Music Therapy exists, among…

Oxbow – Thin Black Duke

When bands return from 10 years away from the recorded word it’s logical for fans to expect *something* that sounds familiar. We want those echoes. The nostalgic pull at our heart strings for days of yore when we listened to “Band – Last Album” with such glee and aplomb that it would leave us wanting more, so much so that a decade later we will line up to ingest their latest offering. But realistically speaking, the question has to be asked how can we expect anything to be even remotely the same as it was after a prolonged period away from itself like that? Oxbow swaggers into the room to forcefully ask the audience this question on Thin Black Duke, their newest album coming hot on the heels of 2007’s The Narcotic Story (if Antarctica seems like terrific beachfront property to you).

Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Once incapable of fault as a household name in the world of metal, Mastodon have seen a lot of scrutiny following their 2009 prog opus Crack The Skye. It was an immediate critical hit and the general consensus was that it was an instant classic. Indeed, Crack the Skye still holds up and hasn’t aged much at all, but it did prove to be a turning point in the band’s career. The sludge metal pioneers slowed down, reigned in the technical showmanship, and started writing more straightforward rock songs in their own style and aesthetic. Crack The Skye’s followups The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun were by no means terrible, critically panned slogs, but the fanbase became divided over the clear stylistic evolution happening.

Unearthly Trance – Stalking the Ghost

First impressions are often a make or break endeavor. Job interviews, first dates, introductions to new people, that awkward first dinner with the folks-in-law… we’ve all had them, and we all know that they matter to some extent. Bands undergo a similar audition for our attention when releasing their first album to the teeming masses, and our willingness to stick with a band throughout their discography is often determined by our regard for their initial work. New York’s sludge-covered doom masters Unearthly Trance are no exception.

The Metal Industry’s Top 30 Albums Of 2016

Last year I took it upon myself not only to organize and compile our own staff’s AOTY list, but to take things one insane step further and compile a bunch of lists from major metal or metal-covering publications and websites into one MEGA AOTY list to rule them all. Eden and I then analyzed the list and made some (mostly snarky) comments about the metal journalism industry and how they approach these sorts of things. Though I still 100% stand by what we wrote there and the conclusions we drew from it, I was really interested in seeing how well some of them would stand up to another year to use as a data point. Thankfully, this year I had a lot of help in all of our list-making efforts thanks to fellow editor Noyan, who put a ton of work into coming up with the method we ended up using to aggregate our lists (if you haven’t already, you should absolutely read his post delving into the nitty-gritty of that methodology) and then did the actual number-crunching.