Drone metal is perhaps the metal subgenre that most necessitates a Starter Kit for curious listeners. While skeptics/detractors may acknowledge the talent of most metal subgenres while criticizing the music, most people who encounter the seemingly never-ending wall of distortion and repetition that is drone metal often question if what they are being “subjected” to is even music at all. Well, as is insinuated by the existence of this post, we not only affirm the validity of drone metal as a form of music, but actively wish to widen the subgenres fanbase as much as possible.
As may be seen through our four high-quality entry points in the sub-genre, drone metal begins with a basic concept and ends up in an infinite number of places, all emotionally complex and defined by the listener. Drone metal transports the listener into the endless void of the beyond where the artists presents music devoid of innate meaning but sprawling with open-ended marks that the listener must form into a completed canvas of their own design. It is a sonic journey mimicked by no other genre, and we invite you to take the trek with us.
Japan has a distinct talent for churning out harsh, limit-pushing, extreme music, as well as for continuously turning out fantastic shoegaze and ambient bands. With these two things in mind it should be no surprise to anyone that in drone metal, a genre that is a perfect mixing point between these two styles, a Japanese band, Boris, is one of the most instantly recognizable names. Boris’s music is unrelenting and thick, wave after wave of audible noise assaults the listener at all times and forcing them to question whether or not Boris actually aims to make music, or whether they are trying to drive away anyone who might be interested. In part this is due to a much stronger connection to the harsh noise scene than many drone metal bands, not merely embracing it to spice up the interludes between songs, as many bands do, but instead allowing it to be a defining element.
By doing so Boris makes every listen a test of endurance as much as one of enjoyment as they push the listener to their limits between the long, drawn out approach of drone, and the unrelenting assault of feedback that is noise music. Boris is not for the faint of heart, but rather for those who seek to push their listening experience to its furthest boundary, testing what may or may not actually qualify as music. The best representation of this is the band’s collaboration with legendary noise artist Merzbow, entitled Sun Baked Snow Cave. The resultant album is a meticulously crafted masterpiece of dense walls of noise that is a complete auditory overload while still retaining a slight sludgey, drone metal centered background. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
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I hope you like crying. The Angelic Process is one of the most incredibly emotional bands in existence, and nowhere is the despondence and sheer sadness more present than on their magnum opus, Weighing Souls With Sand. The whole album reeks with the stench of melancholy, and like the smell of decaying flowers, this album will stick with you. Not for days, not for weeks or even months, but for your entire lifetime will you be able to remember the feeling you had when you first put on the album and heard the crushing first track, “The Promise Of Snakes”. It’s one of the most incredibly cathartic feelings to put this album on and just weep gently.
What makes this album so powerful, and accessible, is the way it deftly blends the sweet, lilting tones of shoegaze and the cutting repetition of doom metal into a drone-out, noisy package, replete with moments of intense, nail-biting buildup and plentiful with the payoffs. Listen to this if you want to experience the emotional, warm, and grandiose side of drone. You won’t regret it.
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Earth is one of the bands that draw their power from being in two places at once: both in the center of their genre and on the outskirts. By making sure that all the key elements of drone are present, Earth promise a drone experience that’s well founded and accessible, as much as that can be said of such a genre. However, by introducing a fresh, almost acoustic aspect to their sound, they manage to generate a timbre unlike any other band.
While their history is long, no where do these points shine more than on The Bees Made Honey In the Lion’s Skull. Tempting us to almost dub it a country-drone album (as silly as that sounds), Bees sees Earth injecting their guitar based, lazy afternoon sound all the way down to the core of what drone is. The resulting combination elevates their already amazing sound to new heights: this is an album that vibrates with you, relaxing all those mental muscles you never even knew you pulled.
This is drone, so let me end with a weird recommendation: put this album on and then find some slow motion videos of buildings being destroyed on YouTube. I happened to do that on a night shift once and found myself, an hour later, completely relaxed and at ease. Where other drone bands seek to terrify or experiment, Earth are all about letting you dream, wonder and relax.
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Arguably more than any of their genre peers, Sunn O))) have transformed the transportative simplicity of the drone into an eclectic art form since their simple yet stunning debut ØØ Void. Whether they are fusing their drones with the avant-garde input of Boris and Scott Walker (Altar and Soused, respectively), layering them with a spoken word piece filled with perverse oddities (“My Wall,” White1) or arranging illustrious orchestral and choral elements (Monoliths & Dimensions), Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have kept their compositions of groaning strings fresh over a prolific body of work under the Sunn name.
However, the band’s current magnum opus – and essential starting point for Sunn and/or drone newcomers – is the monstrous Black One. Sunn’s fifth offering strikes a perfect balance between crushing, demon-growl drones and terror-inducing soundscapes that capture O’Malley and Anderson’s greatest strengths at their peak performances. With the assistance of Malefic (Xasthur) and Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of the Chalice), Sunn layer these musical explorations with a chilling variety of vocals, ranging from gurgling bellows to dread-ridden shrieks (the latter of which were supposedly captured by placing the extremely claustrophobic Malefic in an enclosed coffin to record his vocals). Black One may require nearly two hours – counting bonus disk Solstitium Fulminate – of dedicated listening, but surviving this blissful cacophony will reap an immense reward that should spark an interest in both Sunn and drone in general for strangers to either.
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Ulver/Sunn O))) – Terrestrials [link]
Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine – Rampton [link]
Khanate – Khanate [link]
Earth – Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version [link]
Melvins – Lysol [link]
Jesu – Jesu [link]
Nadja – Touched [link]