Commentary

Thank You For Not Smoking: Variations on a Stoner Doom Theme

As a genre, stoner doom has some fairly definitive characteristics: slowed-down tempos, rumbling low-end bass and rhythm, a focus on mountainous, hypnotic riffs, and a certain intangible haze cast over it all, creating a psychedelic-glazed listening experience. But perhaps most importantly, stoner metal worships at the altar of marijuana. Proudly wearing its influence on its sleeve (and name), stoner metal varyingly employs marijuana as a muse, a political rallying cause, an artistic aesthetic, and generally as the raison d'etre for the (sub)genre as a whole. From the smoke-filled cough intro in Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” to Sleep’s epic journey to Jerusalem to Dopelord carrying the genre’s torch in one hand and a bong in the other, stoner doom is fundamentally and un-apologetically intertwined with marijuana. And yet, as firm of a grip as the green leaf has on the genre, there are contingents within the stoner doom scene that don’t embrace weed with the same fervor as their counterparts. Indeed, as counter-intuitive as it seems, examples abound of bands in the stoner doom realm that either explicitly or implicitly eschew the very association with marijuana that the scene largely views as a prerequisite.

Bro Country is NOT the new Hair Metal

Some might say hair metal died in the 90s when Nirvana disrupted the rock industry. Yet, all of hair metal’s celebration of excess and sexism, musical dilution, and market oversaturation is present in today’s mainstream country scene. The factory seems to have just moved from the Sunset Strip to Nashville. It’s massive appeal to young listeners has created a divide in the country music scene not unlike the divide in the metal scene in the 80s. On one side industry titans argue that Bro Country is just the music of the times and that old people are just whining about being left behind. On the other side, more “authentic” artists are rising under the banner of “real country.” This is all quickly acessible on Wikipedia and Saving Country Music in more depth. But is Bro Country really just the second coming of Hair Metal? Or does Hair Metal deserve a little more credit?

Reading Between the Merch Lines: Literature and Metal

There’s an inherent alchemy required to successfully combine two seemingly disparate forces into something new. Famous, enduring pairings can be volatile and even counter-intuitive at first glance, but when done properly the result can be something far greater than the sum of each part. Peanut butter and jelly are each perfectly enjoyable on their own, but when paired together they create one of the most well-known and universally enjoyed sandwiches in modern history. Likewise, Calvin is a perfectly funny -- albeit bratty – cartoon character and, similarly, Hobbes is a charming and occasionally profound tiger. But it’s their pairing that creates something greater: a friendship that serves as a vehicle for an entire comic strip, a philosophical and temperamental foil for each character to bounce off, and the sheer intangible joy the strip provides readers by allowing us to live inside their friendship. By fusing two independently enjoyable ingredients, an effective pairing can not only allow for a greater appreciation of the pair’s individual components, it can simultaneously create something richer and more meaningful in the magic as well.