Heavy, Slow, Stoned: 13 Doom Metal Albums Everyone Should Own

Slow, heavy, stoned - the perfect winter album list.

Metal folklore has it that Trouble once played a gig with Metallica back in the day, and that the Four Horsemen were so blown away by guitarists Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell’s epic tone that the pair ran onstage after the Chicago doomsters’ set to note down the settings on their amps. True or not, you can certainly understand where the rumour came from listening to the dueling lead axes and huge riffs on Psalm 9. At the time of its release, Trouble were something of an anomaly – when everyone else was thrashing, they were – the odd double-timer like Assassin aside – keeping a slow, Sabbathian groove going. Frontman Eric Wagner’s Christian lyrics were out of step with the times as well, even if he was crying out to God to save him from the pits of depression and self-loathing. An unimpeachable classic.
When Saint Vitus crawled out of Los Angeles in 1979, they didn’t fit in anywhere. Too slow and scruffy for a metal scene quickly falling for Van Halen and their technical wizardry, too long-haired for the punk scene they ended up on the edge of after Black Flag took a liking to them, their music became ever more downtrodden and miserable, reaching a peak on Born Too Late. With Dave Chandler’s primitive riffs and singer Wino’s lyrical snarls that ‘Alcohol knows it’s gonna win’ (Dying Inside) and how he ‘Can’t handle the human crowd’ (Clear Windowpane), the album is a depressed, cynical ‘fuck you’ to the world. Nowhere moreso that on the opening title-track, with its iconic, slo-mo riff and declaration that ‘I don’t belong and there’s nothing I can do / I was born too late, and I’ll never be like you’. Oddly, it’s quite uplifting, in a defiant way. It certainly did the business for Dave Grohl, who invited Wino to jam with him for his Probot project.
Rarely has music sounded more depressed, more heartbroken, more absolutely lost than Watching From A Distance. And this is doom we’re talking about. Warning’s second album is a walk through deep emotion, with ultra-heavy but, dare we say it, beautiful music to match the heart-wrenching atmosphere. Miles away from metal’s usual violence and force mentality, the emotional rawness of Watching From A Distance makes for a genuinely turbulent listen. Expect full-on sobbing when the band play it live in full at Damnation Festival in November.
There are some who think doom is all about volume, oppressive distortion and tuning guitars down to the hum of the universe’s vibrations. These people are missing at least half of the picture. It’s doom metal, innit? To wit: listen to Texas’ Solitude Aeturnus to hear epic doom with big, metal riffs, magnificent Dio-esque singing and, yes, speedy bits with double-bass drumming. Also, loads of killer guitar solos from nimble-fingered axeman John Perez.
Well, that answers the question of what Swedish doom legends Candlemass’  debut sounds like. But then you press ‘Play’ and hear Johan Längqvist intoning, ‘Please let me die in solitude’ over opener Solitude’s mournful intro, and you realize just how doomy their metal is. The thanks list inside the sleeve was equally chucklesome, declaring, “To hatred, bitterness, pain, depressions and hangovers: without you this album never would have been possible.” Crikey.
After making two albums with Napalm Death in the late ‘80s, singer Lee Dorrian moved on to pastures slower, heavier and more obsessed with Sabbath. Teaming up with Gaz Jennings, a fellow doom disciple and ex-guitarist for comedic Brit thrashers Acid Reign, the pair formed Cathedral (a nod to Lee’s home city of Coventry), and set about making one of the greatest doom albums in history. Torturously slow, songs like Ebony Tears and A Funeral Request are the very essence of doom, broken up by the one-two chug of Soul Sacrifice. But perhaps what makes Forest… so special is the Britishness that runs throughout, from the Sabbath-echoing riffs, to the lyrics that evoke rainy churchyards, to the folk whimsy of intro track Picture Of Beauty And Innocence. An absolute masterpiece.
One of approximately 978 bands featuring Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, The Obsessed saw the man dealing in doom riffs that sound like they’ve come straight from a motorcycle repair shop. A sort-of doom answer to Lemmy, Wino is a lifer who is also an absolute motherfucker, and also so hard/scary in the early days that he found himself only receiving a small amount of shit from punks other longhairs did. This all bleeds into his music, and The Obsessed’s debut – recorded in 1985 before he joined Saint Vitus, but not released for five years – is packed with the man’s trademark weighty riffs, take-no-shit attitude and bluesman’s soul.
Dorset doom freaks Electric Wizard’s second album is so heavy it has been known to literally rip speakers in half if played too loud. This is intentional, as after their self-titled debut came out too clean sounding, frontman Jus Oborn wanted to make the follow up as disgustingly heavy as possible. But it wasn’t just down the roaring production – Come, My Fanatics… also seethes with the frustration of small-town life, unemployment, drug-fuelled oblivion (drummer Mark Greening is said to have disappeared on an LSD bende during recording, eventually turning up in a cow pasture), and absolute misanthropy. Their bad attitude is in plain sight on opener Return Trip, in which Jus screams, ‘I hope this fucking world fucking burns away / And I’d kill you all if I had my way / But I’ll live forever, questions cure me, why? / Oh God above, why won’t you let me die?’, sounding like he’s about to drunkenly glass someone. Meanwhile, Son Of Nothing ends with a fitting quote from Beneath The Planet Of The Apes: “"In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe, lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.” One of the nastiest, heaviest albums ever made.
In the early 2000s, doom was in a funny place. Screamy sludge, groovy stoner rock and over-clever post-metal were everywhere, but the true, traditional, heavy metal stuff was thin on the ground. Enter Finnish doom puritans Reverend Bizarre to lead a counter-crusade. Slow, woody, and militantly orthodox, In The Rectory… is a love-letter to the genre, and a declaration that doom’s flame, though it would never be fashionable, could also never be extinguished.
Lot of great music came out of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, not a lot of it doom, though. Witchfinder General, though, were keeping the Sabbath dream alive. The Stourbridge four’s debut was a gloriously pubbed-up collection of Iommi-ish riffs and songs about that classic doom pastime, witchfinding. Elsewhere, No Stayer dealt with quickly exiting from one-night stands, while Free Country, with its drug-dustbin verse and ‘Let’s trip on LSD’ chorus reinforced doom’s relationship with blowing your own mind.
To Halifax, West Yorkshire, where a gang of young metalheads are making an unconscionably heavy racket. Sort of like death metal played at a third of the speed, and with a great deal more morbidity. Lost Paradise (so called on account of there being another band of the same name, thereby allowing the band to say the album was titled Paradise Lost and the band Lost Paradise in the event of legal action), wasn’t just doom: it was death doom, and there was very little else that sounded like it at the time. This is, in part, because in an act of naivety, the guitars were recorded clean, straight into the desk, and distortion added after.
Like the children of The Obsessed, The Gates Of Slumber dealt in doom that came from a place where motorbikes, Conan movies and Lemmy’s no-bullshit approach to life are king. Conqueror is a truly mighty record, full of incredible riffs, not to mention frontman Karl Simon’s brilliant sword and sorcery lyrics. Tragically, bassist Jason McCash – who plays an absolute blinder here – is no longer with us, but this absolute beast of a record is a fantastic way to remember him.
When KISS want to buy some of your songs off you, and Down are keen to sing your praises, you’ve got to be good. Pentagram were, and the bar-room doom of Relentless is essential doom listening. Even when it was basically impossible to get hold of for years (for various reasons: bad deals, drugs, more bad deals, even more drugs…) doom-heads still sought it out, drawn in by the legend of just how good the music was. An essential true doom artifact.

It's getting colder, the nights are drawing in and Halloween's fast approaching - it's the objectively correct time of year to listen to doom metal, the slowest, heaviest, stoned-iest music genre available to all mankind. 

Above is a list of thirteen doom albums compiled by our very own Nick Ruskell, below is a playlist featuring songs from the eight of those albums that are available on Spotify.

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