Doom metal is a heavy metal subgenre that originated in the early 1980s and has been influential in defining the sound of many other genres.
It is characterized by slow tempos, heavy guitar riffs, and a dark atmosphere. Its influences include Black Sabbath and early gothic rock, but it also incorporates elements of traditional doom metal such as drone music, drone-doom, and stoner rock.
Doom metal bands often take on a dark and introspective lyrical approach, as well as incorporating elements of fantasy, horror, and science fiction in their work.
What is Doom Metal
Doom metal is a heavy metal subgenre that originated in the early 1980s and has been influential in defining the sound of many other genres. It is characterized by slow tempos, heavy guitar riffs, and a dark atmosphere. Doom metal often features low-pitched guitars with downtuned strings tuned to C or B♭. The rhythmic structure is also often slower than traditional metal genres, with a focus on extended riffs.
Doom metal is rooted in the sound of early heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and Saint Vitus. Early doom metal bands often had a more minimalist approach to their sound than traditional heavy metal bands, relying on slower tempos and crushingly heavy riffs.
Characteristics of Doom Metal
Slow and heavy tempo
Doom metal is characterized by its slow and heavy tempo. Most doom metal songs are around the 70 BPM mark, with some even slower. The use of down-tuned guitars helps create this heavy sound, as does the use of extended riffs. Bass lines often provide a drone-like foundation to these riffs, creating an oppressive atmosphere that is unique to doom metal. Doom metal is also known for its heavy use of distortion, creating a thick and powerful sound.
Dark and depressive lyrics
Dark and depressive lyrics are a common characteristic of doom metal. Many bands take on an introspective approach, exploring themes such as death, despair, loneliness, and the darker side of human nature. Lyrics often focus on confronting difficult emotions like grief and depression or taking a critical look at the world around us. The tone is usually melancholic and often carries a feeling of resignation or despair.
Use of minor keys
The use of minor keys is a key element of doom metal. Minor keys often evoke feelings of sadness and despair, which is perfect for the dark atmosphere that doom metal strives to create. The use of minor chords also allows for more dissonant sounds, such as diminished chords or dissonant intervals like tritones. This creates an unsettling sound that conveys a sense of dread and despair.
Distorted guitar riffs
Distorted guitar riffs are a hallmark of doom metal. The heavy distortion creates a thick sound that gives the music its oppressive and foreboding atmosphere. Down-tuned guitars create a deep, low end resonance while allowing for intricate riffing. Distortion also gives the guitars an abrasive and gritty character, emphasizing the low frequencies and creating an aggressive tone. Many doom metal bands use alternate tunings or capo their guitars in order to create a darker sound.
Emphasis on atmosphere
Another characteristic of doom metal is its emphasis on atmosphere. The music is often used to create a dark and oppressive atmosphere that sets the mood for the album or song. Doom metal bands often use slow tempos and extended riffs, along with minor keys and distorted guitar riffs, to convey feelings of gloom, despair, and menace. The lyrics are also often dark and introspective, adding to the atmosphere.
Subgenres of Doom Metal
Traditional Doom Metal
Traditional Doom Metal is a subgenre of Doom Metal that emphasizes the original sound of the genre. Traditional Doom Metal bands typically use slow tempos and heavy guitar riffs, along with dark and depressive lyrics. The sound is characterized by thick distorted guitars and a low-end resonance created by down-tuned strings. Many traditional Doom Metal bands utilize minor keys to add to the feeling of despair and gloom.
Funeral Doom Metal
Funeral Doom Metal is a subgenre of Doom Metal that emphasizes atmosphere and slow tempos. Funeral Doom Metal is characterized by its oppressive and melancholic atmosphere, often created through the use of minor keys, distorted guitar riffs, and drone-like bass lines. Songs are typically much slower than those found in traditional doom metal, with tempos often reaching up to 10 BPM or less. The lyrics often explore themes of death, grief, and despair.
Stoner Doom Metal
Stoner Doom Metal is a subgenre of Doom Metal that combines the heavy and slow sound of traditional doom metal with elements of psychedelic rock and stoner metal. Stoner Doom Metal typically uses down-tuned guitars to create a low end resonance, combined with distorted riffs and fuzzed out guitar solos. The music often has a groove-oriented feel, while still maintaining the dark and oppressive atmosphere of traditional doom metal. Lyrics often explore themes of drugs, existentialism, and the darker side of life.
Death/Doom is a subgenre of Doom Metal that combines death metal influences with the traditional doom sound. Death/Doom bands typically use distorted guitars and powerful drumming to create a heavy and intense atmosphere. Vocals are often death metal growls, accompanied by occasional clean singing for contrast. The lyrics often explore themes of death and mortality, as well as existentialism and grief.
Blackened Doom Metal
Blackened Doom Metal is a subgenre of Doom Metal that combines the dark and oppressive atmosphere of traditional doom metal with elements of black metal. Blackened Doom Metal bands often use distorted guitars and blast beats to create an intense and chaotic sound. Songs are typically slow and heavy, emphasizing the low frequencies and creating a dense sonic texture. Vocals are often harsh shrieks or growls, as well as occasional clean vocals. Lyrics explore themes of death, despair, and nihilism.
Post-Doom Metal is a subgenre of Doom Metal that combines the traditional doom sound with elements of post-rock and post-metal. Post-Doom Metal bands typically use distorted guitars, low tunings, and dense sonic textures to create a heavy atmosphere. The tempos are often slower than those found in traditional doom metal, emphasizing the low frequencies and creating a thick sound.
Influential Doom Metal Bands
Black Sabbath is one of the most influential Doom Metal bands of all time. Formed in Birmingham, England in 1968, the band pioneered the genre with their unique blend of blues-infused heavy metal. Their songs were often dark and brooding, combined with minor key riffs and haunting vocal melodies. Black Sabbath’s influence on Doom Metal can be heard in many bands today, from traditional doom to death/doom and blackened doom.
Pentagram is an American doom metal band formed in 1971. Often referred to as the “godfathers of doom,” Pentagram helped to establish and define the traditional sound of doom metal. They are known for their slow, heavy riffs combined with dark and melancholic vocals. Songs such as “Sign of the Wolf” and “Be Forewarned” are considered classic examples of traditional doom metal.
Candlemass is a Swedish Doom Metal band that formed in 1984, and is considered one of the most influential bands of the genre. Candlemass’s music combined traditional doom metal with elements of classical music and epic song structures. Their songs often featured soaring vocal melodies over heavy riffs and slow tempos, creating a unique and powerful sound. Candlemass is widely considered to be one of the pioneers of Doom Metal, and the band’s influence can still be heard in modern doom bands.
Cathedral is an English doom metal band that formed in 1989. The band is known for their unique blend of traditional doom metal and psychedelic rock, combined with heavy and sludgy riffs. Cathedral’s songs often feature expansive song structures, combining long instrumental passages with melodic vocals. They are renowned for their live shows, which often involve extended improvisations and captivating stage presence. Their influence on modern doom metal is undeniable.
Electric Wizard is an English Doom Metal band that formed in 1993. The band is known for their crushingly heavy sound and dark, brooding atmosphere. Electric Wizard’s music combines traditional doom metal with elements of sludge metal and psychedelic rock, creating a powerful and intense sound. Songs often feature distorted guitars, low tunings, and slow tempos. Vocalists Jus Oborn and Liz Buckingham have become iconic figures in the doom metal scene, and Electric Wizard is widely considered to be one of the most influential bands of the genre.
My Dying Bride
My Dying Bride is an English Doom Metal band that formed in 1990. The band is renowned for their unique sound, which combines traditional doom metal with elements of classical music and gothic rock. Songs often feature slow tempos, heavy riffs, and ethereal vocal melodies. My Dying Bride’s lyrics explore themes of death, despair, and loss. They are known for their expansive song structures, often featuring long instrumental passages and emotive vocals. My Dying Bride is widely considered to be one of the most influential bands of the genre.
Impact of Doom Metal
Influence on other subgenres of metal
The influence of Doom Metal has been far reaching and can be heard in many different subgenres of metal. Many bands have adopted the slow tempos, heavy riffs, and dark atmosphere that is characteristic of Doom Metal, taking it in new directions and combining it with other styles to create something unique.
Bands such as Paradise Lost and Anathema have incorporated elements of doom into their music, creating a new style of death/doom. Black Metal bands such as Nachtmystium and Leviathan have taken the traditional doom sound in a darker direction, creating a form of blackened doom metal.
Doom Metal has also been an influence on many other subgenres of metal such as sludge, stoner rock, and post-metal.
Role in shaping alternative music
Doom Metal has had a profound impact on alternative music as a whole. Bands such as Pentagram, Candlemass, and Cathedral have helped to shape the sound of modern metal by creating a unique and powerful blend of traditional doom metal with elements of classical music and psychedelic rock.
This influence can be heard in many different subgenres of alternative music such as stoner rock, sludge metal, and post-metal. The influence of Doom Metal can also be heard in many other genres outside of metal, such as shoegaze, post-rock, and psych-rock.
Connection to themes of social commentary
Doom Metal is often rooted in themes of social commentary, exploring subjects such as death, despair, grief, and loss. The slow tempos and heavy riffs of the genre create a sonic atmosphere that lends itself well to these themes, allowing bands to explore them in a unique way. Many Doom Metal bands have used their music as a platform to express their views on society and its injustice, creating a powerful and emotive form of music.
Criticism and Controversy
Accusations of promoting negative themes
Doom Metal has been criticized for promoting negative themes such as death, despair, and loss. Some have accused the genre of promoting a nihilistic worldview and an unhealthy obsession with death. Additionally, some have argued that Doom Metal’s sound is too dark and oppressive, creating a feeling of despair rather than catharsis or resolution. Despite this criticism, many fans of the genre argue that doom metal can be used as a way to explore difficult and dark themes in a constructive and meaningful way.
Reception from mainstream society
Doom Metal has generally been met with mixed reactions from mainstream society. While the genre is gaining in popularity, many people still view Doom Metal as an underground form of music that is too dark and oppressive for mass appeal. This has led to some criticism of the genre for promoting negative themes and a nihilistic worldview. However, some fans argue that doom metal can be used to explore difficult themes in a meaningful way and that it should not be judged by mainstream society.
Discussion on the commercialization of the genre
With the increasing mainstream popularity of doom metal, some have raised concerns about the potential for commercialization and over-saturation of the genre.
Some argue that as the genre becomes more popular, there is a risk that it will lose its edge and become too generic or watered down. There are also fears that as more bands enter the scene, competition for record deals may lead to a decrease in the quality of releases and a focus on creating more accessible music.
Additionally, some fans worry that an increase in popularity could lead to a homogenization of sound as bands are forced to conform to specific standards in order to be successful.
Future of Doom Metal
As Doom Metal continues to grow in popularity, many bands are exploring new directions and sounds in the genre.
Bands such as Thou, Inverloch, and Bell Witch have taken doom metal in a more progressive and experimental direction, incorporating elements of sludge, drone, post-metal, and even classical music into their sound.
Additionally, some bands have begun to blur the lines between doom metal and other genres such as post-rock, creating a unique and powerful blend of sounds. As bands continue to experiment with the genre, Doom Metal will undoubtedly continue to evolve and develop in interesting and exciting ways.
Incorporation of new technologies
In recent years, many Doom Metal bands have begun to incorporate new technologies into their music. The use of digital recording and production software has allowed bands to create fuller and more elaborate soundscapes than ever before. Additionally, the use of synthesizers and other electronic instruments has allowed for a greater variety of sounds and textures in doom metal.
Possibility of mainstream success
Despite its underground roots, Doom Metal has been gaining in popularity and some have wondered if it could one day become a mainstream genre. While the sound of doom metal may be too dark and heavy for mass appeal, there is still a possibility that it could find success outside of the underground scene.
The recent success of bands such as Pallbearer and Vektor have shown that there is an audience for doom metal outside of the underground, and that more people are becoming open to this style of music. If Doom Metal bands continue to create high-quality music, then it is possible that the genre could find mainstream success in the future.
Doom Metal has been met with mixed reactions from mainstream society and while gaining in popularity there is potential for it to become commercialized. There are fears of homogenization if too many bands enter the scene and competition for record deals may lead to a decrease in the quality of releases.
In order to maintain its unique sound, some bands have begun to explore new directions and incorporate new technologies into their music. There is a possibility that Doom Metal could find success in the mainstream, but it remains to be seen if this will happen.
Doom metal has become a unique and powerful form of musical expression. For many, it is a source of catharsis and emotional release, allowing them to express their innermost thoughts and feelings. It is also a genre that celebrates darkness and hopelessness, providing an outlet for listeners who may not feel accepted in the mainstream.