If you are anything like us, you are madly in love with music. Although she is always there for us, lady music can be a cruel mistress as well. With the sheer amount of great albums out there, navigating the genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres can be a wild jungle. That’s why us kind folks at The Metal Observer decided to compile a guiding beacon in the darkness, listing the metal albums you absolutely need to hear. The task was given as such; “tell us some of your favorite albums within sub-genre X, meaning timeless classics or newly uncovered gems”.
Our first installment is dedicated to the slow end of the spectrum, the collective of doom, sludge and stoner metal. Did we miss your favorite album? Are we tone-deaf idiots? Or are we decent chaps with impeccable taste? Let us know in the comments below!
1) Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
The band that started it all with the album that ignited a revolution. The 1970 self-titled full-length debut from Birmingham’s Black Sabbath is a melting pot of southern blues, callous hard rock, and European folk elements stirred into a brew that proved to be nothing short of bewitching. Often regarded as the first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath had an unknowing hand in the birth of other subgenres like doom, stoner, and sludge metal, and in that sense, this classic album could make any number of all-time lists.
– Evan Mugford
2) Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
Epicus Doomicus Metallicus created the blueprint for epic doom, with its soaring vocals, crushing riffs, and mythological & fantastical subject matter. Leif Edling’s lyrical compositions were at the time matched in majesty only by the work of Ronnie James Dio, yet far more threatening and sinister. Guest vocalist Johan Längquist displayed some incredible pipes, able to deliver not just power on tracks such as “Demon’s Gate” and “Crystal Ball,” but anguished vulnerability on the iconic opening track, “Solitude.” And oh, how crushingly heavy this album was, particularly when compared to any of its contemporaries. The primary, and perhaps only, reason that this is not considered the quintessential doom album is because Black Sabbath got there first.
– Steve Herrmann
3) Candlemass – Nightfall (1987)
While the majority of Candlemass’ albums are considered legitimate doom metal essentials, Nightfall, together with their debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, is widely regarded as the pinnacle of their creative output. Epic doom metal with slow, pounding rhythms, grand epic melodies and Messiah Marcolin’s unique voice come together into a true lesson in how to play this style, influencing countless bands in the process. Songs such as “Samarithan”, “Bewitched” or “At the Gallow’s End” have been live classics for the last 27 years, delivering the power of doom together with a grandeur only few bands can rival.
– Alex Melzer
Originally self-titled and then renamed to Psalm 9 after the release of their eponymously labeled fourth album, the 1984 debut record for Illinois’ Trouble is a hefty blend of British influence and ‘70s psych rock euphoria that’s widely regarded as one of the first offerings of traditional doom metal. These ‘white metal’ artists defied the first wave of black metal with a soulful landmark recording fraught with timeless jams and steely grooves set against the backdrop of one gnarly and enemy-smiting hymn.
– Evan Mugford
5) Saint Vitus – Born Too Late (1986)
Early harbingers of doom, the journey of Saint Vitus has been a long and arduous one. After two excellent albums, by 1986 the band had just lost their frontman and were struggling with both drug and alcohol addictions. It’s no wonder, then, that their third outing Born Too Late is a smorgasbord of anguish, depression, and bitter self-loathing. Joined by The Obsessed’s snarling frontman Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Saint Vitus recorded their crown jewel against all odds. The title track, the ultimate doom metal anthem, captures the timeless feeling of alienation, while songs like “Dying Inside” and “The Lost Feeling” are monuments to addiction and despair. With Born Too Late, the deranged mastermind Dave Chandler wrote a masterpiece of bitterness which stands unsurpassed almost 30 years later.
– Ailo Ravna
6) Electric Wizard – Dopethrone (2000)
Who would have thought that a trio of stoner deadbeats from Dorset would go on to become one of the world’s most potent metal bands? Dopethrone is heavy enough to strip paint from the walls, with fuzz that sounds like planets slowly colliding. It’s an hour of weird tales, macabre rituals, and essentially a gargantuan collection of fat riffs. Just listen to the opening of “Funeralopolis”, and you’ll understand why Electric Wizard are rightly hailed as stoner prophets.
– Ailo Ravna
7) Ahab – Call Of The Wretched Sea (2006)
Few lyrical concepts lend themselves to funeral doom metal more than the monumental force of the deep sea. Germany’s Ahab (fittingly named after the main character of Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick) took it and adapted into “Nautik Funeral Doom”, which perfectly supplements the lava-like rhythms, dirge-like melodies and deep, deep growls. Call of the Wretched Sea covers the different moods of the weather, from a calm sea to a raging storm, with rolling waves and whipping rain, punishing hailstones, one can almost feel the wind in the hair and taste the salty water.
– Alex Melzer
8) Black Sabbath – Master Of Reality (1971)
To understand the importance of Master Of Reality in the history of doom, one need only look at the current state of the genre. Peruse the titles released over the past few years (using any year as your starting point, it makes no difference), and you find countless bands trying to either re-create this album, put their own spin on it, or both. In just thirty-four and a half minutes, Sabbath covers the spectrum of doom conventions. There are rollicking, heavy tunes (“Children Of The Grave”), slower, plodding tracks (“Sweet Leaf”, “Into The Void”), laid-back, psychedelic trips (“Solitude”), songs of Christian spirituality (“After Forever”), and songs that are spiritually dark and threatening (“Lord Of This World”). In one album, Black Sabbath delivered the “master” class on doom.
– Steve Herrmann
9) My Dying Bride – The Angel And The Dark River (1995)
One of the three cornerstones of the British doom triangle together with Paradise Lost and Anathema, My Dying Bride carved out their own niche with the use of the violin and Aaron Stainthorpe’s unique anguished wails that left their unparalleled stamp on the genre. With The Angel and the Dark River the Yorkshire band brought us one of their iconic deliveries, including their lesson in how to utilize repetition to the best, hypnotic result in the form of “The Cry of Mankind” and its main riff.
– Alex Melzer
The Granddaddies of all things slow and narcoleptic, Finland’s Thergothon released one demo and this full-length slab of towering funeral/funereal (take your pick) doom before vanishing into the abyss from whence they came. Eschewing the bluesy swagger of more conventional forms of doom, these Finns opted for an aesthetic that is perhaps best described as the reverberations of a hulking dinosaur trudging through the woods – not quite visible but somehow omnipresent. Glacially slow and brooding to the extreme, Stream from the Heavens seems to exist beyond the everyday space and time of the listener, existing instead in a realm of its own. Listen to it. Feel it. Pray you survive it.
– Neil Pretorius