You know this dance by now folks: this is Heavy Blog’s Best Of! This time, we’ll be tackling one of our favorite genres, doom! 2014 was an excellent year for this most-excellent sub-genre and you might know editor Eden Kupermintz (praise be onto him) has dubbed it as The Doom Revival™. However, we don’t limit our Best Of lists by time. Below you’ll find our own selections of what we consider to be some of the finest samples of doom out there.
Doom is a complex and varied genre to be sure. It contains both a penchant for the slow and feedback’d but also a devotion to emotional capacity and melancholy. Thus, you can find many things within it: crushing droning, sadness-lined guitar leads and abrasive vocals. We’ve tried to cover as many aspects of the sub-genre as we could, but obviously some things must have gotten through the cracks! So, as always, sound off below with anything we might have missed.
And remember: it’s OK to not like thing. Let’s get to it!
Easily the crowning achievement of the drone-doom pioneers’ latter career foray into bleak Americana, The Bees Made Honey In the Lion’s Skull epitomizes everything that makes Earth the greatest artist in the subgenre. Dylan Carlson plays an invaluable role in establishing this, as his hypnotic, repetitive riffs lure the listener in with their emotive simplicity and retain their interest with subtle but poignant progressions. Underneath lies the patiently precise percussion of Adrienne Davies and plodding bass of Don McGreevy, which maintain an immaculate rhythm that provides crucial structure to the track’s expansive territory. And finally, unique to this record is Earth’s foray into the use of piano and organ, with the steady fingers of Steve Moore providing an intriguing layer to the mix. Aside from its musical perfection, the album’s gorgeous cover art and title must be considered, both of which are derived from the Biblical tale of when Samson “turned aside to see the carcass of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion” (Judges 14:8, KJV). This is precisely where the album transports the listener – withering and decomposing in a savannah on a muggy day whilst feeling blissful all the while.
Recommended Track: Engine of Ruin
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– Scott Murphy
Holy shit. How has this record already been out for almost thirty years? The fact that it’s still considered worthy of a list like this should be testament to how absolutely incredible Nightfall is. From the little ambient intro, ‘Gothic Stone’, which leads into ‘The Well of Souls’, my absolute favorite song ever written (this is no exaggeration — if I had to make a list of my favorite songs, this would undoubtedly be number one), all the way to the end, the outro ‘Black Candles’, every moment of this album is crushingly powerful doom metal. The guitar work on the album, simplistic yet constantly on point, leads the way, creating some of the best headbanging riffs written, and the truly one-of-a-kind voice of Messiah Marcolin adds a dimension of religious and quasi-gothic splendor. Rounding out the instrumentation, the bass and drums pace everything perfectly- this album is on the slower side, and all for the better. A towering monolith of doom metal, all that is right with the subgenre and a template for decades worth of albums to come, every moment of Nightfall is simple and perfect bliss: like the religious fervor that Marcolin consistently invokes in his vocals and lyrics, this album will lead you to Heaven.
Recommended Track: At The Gallows End
– Simon Handmaker
Rwake’s monolithic treatise in misanthropy Rest (2011) may not have yet ascended into “classic” doom metal status due to its relatively recent release, but it is a shining example of everything I could ever hope for out of the genre. The massive trudging riffs come in abundance, but Rwake are a far cry from the Sabbath clones that litter the landscape. Synths swell and writhe under the haze, providing a backing in which frontman CT acts as the omniscient harbinger of doom, shouting poetically into the void. Through experimental tendencies that lead the band through epic-length prog movements of psychedelic-tinged Southern groove, Rest is as thought provoking as it is trance-inducing. The appropriately titled ‘It Was Beautiful But Now It’s Sour’ is a perfect summation in name and form of the extravagantly depressive and pissed off Rest, so look no further for a forward thinking take on doom metal. Unfortunately the band have not had much sign of life since the cycle for Rest faded to close, but I’m hopeful for their much-needed return.
Recommended Track: It Was Beautiful But Now It’s Sour
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– Jimmy Rowe
The doom genre has seen its fair share of incredible albums, but in my opinion, few reach the lofty heights Atma does. Yob‘s sixth studio album distills the essence of the genre down into five tracks and fifty five minutes of intense, low tuned riffing, chilling melodies and frontman Mike Scheidt’s instantly recognizable vocals. The guitar riffs and rhythm section form the meat of the music, and complement each other to form a hypnotic, spaced out groove that just goes and goes and goes. Once the band lock into a riff that works, they use it until it runs out of energy, and then move on to another that’s just as effective and powerful. It’s easy to lose track of time, and sometimes even space, when you’re listening to this album. It’s just so sonically massive and hypnotizing that everything else just seems insignificant compared to the music. Atma is the closest thing I’ve had to a drug trip. Everything about this record just works, and despite its length, it feels shorter than it actually is. That’s not a knock on the album or Yob as musicians, though. Atma is everything it needs to be and nothing it doesn’t, and I don’t think I’ve heard a better record in the genre. Give it a listen if you haven’t, it’s a great way to spend an hour.
Recommended Track: Before We Dream of Two
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– Colin Kauffman
The mighty Windhand, hailing from Richmond, VA, are my new favorite band, and even though their latest masterpiece, Soma, has been out for less than two years, it is hands-down one of the best doom records I’ve ever listened to, and has very quickly become one of my personal favorite records of all time. The album starts off with the brooding ‘Orchard’, a slow-burner of a song drenched in a smoky riff and carried to the heavens by frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell’s soulful croon. The song that follows, ‘Woodbine‘, is one of the very best songs I’ve ever heard, a flawless blend of Electric Wizard worship and goosebump-inducing melody a la Layne Staley from Alice in Chains, punctuated by a psychedelic guitar solo courtesy of lead guitarist Garrett Morris. Soma is an unbelievably heavy and contemplative album, one that takes several listens to fully absorb, albeit listens that are easily undergone. The 30-minute album closer ‘Boleskine’ may seem a daunting listen at first, but the contact high caused by song’s sheer hypnosis makes it impossible to stop before its end. In fact, this same principle applies to every hymn on Soma. Simply put, Soma is a masterpiece of doom metal, and one that will likely take its rightful place among the classics of the genre in due time.
Recommended Track: Woodbine
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– Aaron Lambert
Back in the late Noughties, the doom cognoscenti were thrown into a state of temporary disarray when the proposed formation of a supergroup containing Dale Crover (Melvins’ drummer/vocalist), Al Cisneros (Om’s bassist/vocalist), Scott Kelly (Neurosis’ guitarist/vocalist) and Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (The Obsessed vocalist/guitarist), legends all, was rumoured. When Shrinebuilder finally formed and delivered their self-titled debut, their only album to date, there was nothing less than a volcanic eruption, literally (one actually blew it’s lid in Iceland and the fallout caused the cancellation of a European tour).
The Wino/Kelly mix of earth-shattering string dissonance and part-howl, part-croon gifted mighty tracks like the mighty ‘Pyramid Of The Moon’ and ‘The Architect’ with a thrilling taste of life inside a thresher. Crover must have almost annihilated his snare for the raging “Solar Benediction”, yet it was Cisneros grotty basslines that marked this record out as a cut above. It was his constants that allowed the music to drift into sequences of mystical noodling, providing the perfect platform for Wino to plug up any gaps in sound with wah, extravagant slide and morphing melody.
With it increasingly looking like the band will never reunite for a follow-up, this album has become an invaluable source of inspiration and enlightenment. No excuses then — buy, borrow or steal this gem and turn your brain into mush today.
Recommended Track: The Architect
– John Skibeat
Straddling the border between doom and stoner, Ancestors are one of the most emotionally taxing bands I’ve had the pleasure of hearing. Their album, In Dreams and Time, is nothing short of a masterpiece and currently holds the number one position of my all time Top Ten. Yes. It blends heavier, repetitive doom segments with a dedication to melodic vocals that is unique in its field. Beyond that, it has a depth which is unparalleled: each track is a world onto its own, a concept contained within itself but communicating with the rest. Closing track ‘First Light’ is a prime example for this: spanning close to twenty minutes, it takes the time to paint a beautiful scene of a sacred city, perhaps the world, enshrouded by shadow and then light. The triumphant closing notes are backed by heart breaking strings which never fail to set my mind dreaming. It’s impossible to quite capture its most endearing quality however: how good it gets with time. I’ve been listening to it since it first came out, some time in 2012, and it quite simply has become a friend of mine. I turn to it when I need to remember that I’m small and powerful at the same time. Perhaps that describes it well: it has its epic moments but it truly lives in the small spaces between them. Give this album time. Let it seep into your heart. Like all good doom albums, it’s a grower but the time spent is returned to you manifold.
Recommended Track: First Light
– Eden Kupermintz
Electric Wizard’s third LP is perhaps the most overwhelming, disgusting, and bludgeoning heavy metal album to date, regardless of subgenre. At a staggering 71 minutes in length, Dopethrone delivers the most pummeling and (almost) sloppy performances from the band to date, which was undoubtedly fueled by the bands propensities for both psychedelic drugs and vintage Iommi riffs. Paired with the often paranoid, frequently pissed-off, and densely-layered vocal performances of band mastermind Jus Osborn, this album will absolutely take multiple listens to fully grasp what the band is trying to accomplish. By all means this album should repel almost anyone; it’s dark as hell, insanely slow, shrouded in cryptic Lovecraft references, and louder than a jet engine. But somehow this band and album seemed to fully harness what doom metal really needed in the 2000s, and Dopethrone has essentially been the template for the bong-huffing masses for the past 15 years. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more savage guitar tone by any band in any time period. Should you ever invest in modern doom metal, let it be this indisputable masterpiece of misanthropy and marijuana.
Recommended Track: Funeralopolis
– Kit Brown