For a blog that’s supposed to be about metal, I haven’t actually been talking about music all that much lately. The reason is that I’m working on an epic post of my 101 top metal albums of all time, and it is slow going and research-heavy. But I thought I’d take a break from that today, and share another top ten list.
Doom Metal is one of those dividing genres; you either love it, or you hate it. To many people, most of the bands sound like poorly executed Black Sabbath ripoffs. But there are some masterful musicians creating some truly remarkable music, and I thought I’d highlight some of my favourite doom metal bands for you today.
1. Saint Vitus – Born Too Late
Of all the bands on this list, Saint Vitus could probably be accused of being the biggest Sabbath-worshippers. Luckily, I don’t believe in too much of a good thing. Naming themselves after a Sabbath song, they proceeded to create a debut album of doom-laden, Iommi-style riffs and leaden vocals at a time when the metal world was consumed with spandex and big hair. An essential album that influenced many that came after it.
2. Paradise Lost – Gothic
Following its 1991 release, Gothic instantly became a classic of both the doom metal and gothic metal genres. Paradise Lost introduce orchestral elements and a timeless sense of melody and composition to a genre dominated by fuzzy guitars and croaking vocals. Haunting, mesmerising and intricate, Gothic is an unquestionable masterpiece.
3. Solitude Aeturnus – Beyond the Crimson Horizon
Before becoming the lead singer of Candlemass, Robert Lowe was the man behind Texas’ Solitude Aeturnus, who take the title for being the most underrated doom metal band who ever released an album. Lowe’s vocals in particular shine on this album, from his piercing shriek to his deep, cavernous bellow. Solitude Aeturnus’ sound combines crushing doom with soaring, melodic power metal to create something beautiful and unique that has never really been repeated.
4. Electric Wizard –Come My Fanatics
With a name like Electric Wizard, you know you’re going to love ’em before you even hear a note. These Brits combine the elements of doom metal with some of their own musical lineage – the fuzzy, occult-worshipping atmosphere of 70s psychedelica. Although not as well-known as it’s follow-up, Dopethrone, I would argue that Come My Fanatics is even better – a solid, slow-burning headbang that will leave you wanting more. Many call it the heaviest album of the 90s, and I’d be inclined to agree.
5. Paramaecium – Exhumed of the Earth
Conceptually, this album deals with an often touchy subject within metal: the story of Christ – from his birth in “The Unnatural Conception in Two Parts: The Birth and the Massacre of the Innocents” (at 17 minutes, the song is even longer than its title), to his resurrection in “Removed of the Grave”. This is one of the best “Christian” metal records ever conceived; punishingly heavy and rich with texture and atmosphere. Paramaecium’s sound is part doom metal, part death metal, and all awesome.
6. Thergothon – Stream from the Heavens
These finnish metallers are responsible for pioneering the “funeral doom” sound – funeral doom being doom metal slowed down to a sombre, dirge-like pace. The songs hang in the air before you, heavy under their own weight. The plodding, crushing atmosphere of this record leaves you speechless, punctuated occasionally with ambient, lifting music, giving you hope before crushing it under the intensity of their dreaded, apocalyptic sorrow once again. This isn’t exactly an “easy” album to get into, but it will definitely leave an impression.
7. My Dying Bride – The Angel and the Dark River
Although pretty much every My Dying Bride album is amazing, The Angel and the Dark River is probably the first album where they really brought all the elements of their sound together in a fully-formed way. The violin work of Martin Powell becomes an integral part of the music, and Aaron Stainthorpe’s vocal vastly improve from the previous release, Turn Loose the Swans (which was going to be my second pick for this list). My Dying Bride perform a unique dance of death, the dynamics of their sound – the way the music soars, before returning to ambient silence – are what place them firmly as a classic and must-hear doom band.
8. Skepticism – Stormcrowsfleet
Can you tell I have a thing for funeral doom? Sketicism is the second prominent band in this subgenre to make this list so far. Stormcrowsfleet is simply the best funeral doom album ever. Period. No arguments. Every single second of glacial ambience drips with dread and despair. The keyboards entwine with every note, giving the whole record an ethereal, otherworldly quality. To me, this is not an album you can put on in the background while you do chores or play computer games. It’s an album requiring contemplation and complete immersion.
9. Type O Negative – October Rust
Type O Negative was the second doom band I ever heard; Pete Steele’s voice instantly memorising me. Another album mixing doom and gothic elements together, October Rust owes much of it’s rich, deep sound to early gothic acts like Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy. An insatiable dark wit runs through all the lyrics, accompanied by layered soundscapes of sinister desolation. An old goth friend once told me this was “the perfect album to commit suicide to,” which is a rather morbid thought but one, I think, Pete Steele might’ve got a kick out of.
10. Candlemass – Nightfall
Candlemass were the first doom metal band I heard, so I am biased when I say they remain my favourite doom metal band. I fell in love with Nightfall from the first note – this sweeping epic of dirge-like devastation draws you deeper with every song. While vocalist Messiah Marcolin definitely doesn’t look the part – between his afro hair and his hulk-like physique – his presence lifts the music beyond Candlemass’ previous release – already a doom classic – into the realms of true mastery. “At the Gallows End” is a flawless example of the power of doom metal to evoke emotion and create mood. This is one of those rare albums I would rate as “perfect”.
I have omitted many remarkable, haunting doom metal albums from this list (Trouble, Psalm 9 and Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus immediately come to mind), due to space and time issues. Please list your favourites in the comments!
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