Tape Wyrm XIV: Give Thanks To Stoner Doom Tape Wyrm XIV: Give Thanks To Stoner Doom

Some of you maybe wondering why I have waited until Thanksgiving to talk about stoner doom. As far as holidays go, Thanksgiving doesn’t really have an adorned soundtrack nor is it attached to any particular style of metal. This is a fact which needs correcting. Maybe the mashed potatoes need to breathe just a bit. With the stress of familial obligations combined with the onset of a tryptophan induced coma, Thanksgiving maybe the perfect time to escape into a hazy world of self abandon.

Stoner metal is a niche group of bands who employ a retro sound which harkens back to the early days of heavy metal. Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, and other pioneers of traditional heavy metal are usually the starting point for much of stoner metal. From there, stoner metal intensifies the low end, leaving a head nodding odyssey across alien landscapes. Much like the sound, the inspirational subtext of stoner metal involves fantasy, space, drug references, and car culture. The spectrum of stoner metal is vast ranging from the lighter stoner rock to the soul crushing stoner doom. While the sound, image, and style is well defined, the actual name is somewhat misleading.

By now, it is silly to define the word “stoner” to a larger audience. If you are socially inept or just arrived from a cult deprogramming camp, the term “stoner” is associated with a habitual marijuana smoker. The term became associated with this type of music due to some of the band’s lax view on recreational drugs. But this does not mean stoner metal is the only metal associated with drug use nor even the preferred genre embraced by drug users. People who are new to stoner metal are often confused how the use of marijuana or even the term “stoner” fits into the retro sound of heavy metal. The explanation, of course, goes much deeper.

The term “stoner” indicates a certain level of dedication to marijuana smoking with a handful of assumptions about personality. This means that a “stoner” is a marijuana smoker but not all marijuana smokers are “stoners.” Largely popularized by film, television and movies, the “stoner” has become a role which inhabits a passive nature, low intelligence, high imagination, and a knack for comedic relief. While somewhat embraced by the cannabis subculture, the term “stoner” is largely inflammatory reducing unique personalities into stock characters. The actual idea of the “stoner” is attached to a larger shifting image of drug culture.

The portrayal of marijuana smokers in film first began as sex crazed deviants in the early part of the 20st century. The 1936 film Refer Madness illustrates the lack of knowledge combined with sensational fear. It wasn’t until the 1950′s and 60′s that drug use among middle class teenagers became associated with writers, artists, and free thinkers. Of course, jazz musicians were already challenging that perception but then again that is a subject for another article. The beat generation and the late 60′s counterculture transformed the idea of recreational drug users into an intelligent collective of urban social radicals. This again changed in the late 60′s. With the internal collapse of the “hippie” movement, the association with the “Manson Murders,” and the self declared “war on drugs” in 1971 by Richard Nixon, the idea of the drug user shifted once again — into the role we have today.

The term “stoner” refers to an archetype associated with the 1970′s suburban drug user. The visual image and associated hobbies reflect the idea of a post-counterculture drug user — one that is bent on hedonistic escapism rather than radical sympathies. The “stoner” is derived largely from the Californian surfer with much more of an interest in psychedelic activities. This character has been popularized by cult film heroes such as Jeff Spicoli, Cheech & Chong, and The Dude. While I am certainly not speaking down to any of these characters, the fictional portrayal and cultural implications is somewhat damming to any progressive ideologies attempting to influence public policy. Perhaps it is easier to think of marijuana users as innocuous goofballs who have no real influence on current thought. This is of course another subject for another article. Back to metal.

While the actual term “stoner” is filled with latent implications, the historical context illuminates the reason why the music sounds the way it does. In my opinion, the character of the “stoner” is associated with a time period that is also associated with the traditional sounds of heavy metal. Before heavy metal became defined as its own separate genre, it was mixed with psychedelic, space, and progressive rock. In the early 70′s, there existed less stringent rules on subgenres and more freedom to “be down with whatever.” Stoner metal is fueled by this time period and ran with it for two decades and counting. This group of bands raised the spirits of the dead from a mixture of fact and fiction to give us stoner metal.

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Because I feel full immersion is important, I have made a Spotify playlist with all the albums discussed (minus Acrimony) as well as some more obvious and obscure entries. We here at the Pinpoint offices and the Tape Wyrm utility closet wish you good tidings this holiday season. May your journey across the lands of fuzz and sand be a blessed one.

[[[[[[[[[[ Stoner Metal / Rock Playlist ]]]]]]]]]]

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Black Sabbath – Master Of Reality (1971)

Alright, I feel stupid taking about this record, partially because everyone should already own it. I am taking time out of this article to stress the importance Black Sabbath’s 1971 release Master Of Reality. Besides the band basically recording this record through a fog of dope smoke, the thick fuzzy sound of Tony Iommi’s guitar has become the blueprint to the entire genre of stoner metal. Master Of Reality is famous for the drop tuning of Iommi’s guitar from E to C# to alleviate finger tension caused by an earlier factory accident. It is the first album to be dropped to a lower tone and thus has a stoned swagger running through its heart. Fuck, I feel like an idiot even talking about Black Sabbath. I will stop here so you can go listen to this record. Seriously go. I’ll wait here. I’m sure I can figure out the television and I’ve already spotted the string cheese in the fridge. Just go and then we will talk.

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Monster Magnet – Spine Of God (1991)

Stoner metal began as stoner rock and stoner rock partially began in New Jersey with Monster Magnet. Combining early heavy metal with deep psychedelic and space rock, Monster Magnet blew their minds into the outer reaches of space. Before their breakout record Dopes To Infinity, Monster Magnet spent the early part of the 1990′s trying their best to be recognized. Enter Spine of God, the 1991 debut which would later aide an entire genre of wall melting music. This album works works on multiple levels. On the one hand, it introduces many styles which would later be used including heavy blues influence and acid rock undertones. On the other, Spine Of God is unique as it incorporated the sound of heavy metal, space rock, and the budding genre of grunge into one album. It took me forever to get into this album as Dave Wyndorf’s vocals drip a distinct early 90′s color. Still though, Spine Of God is incredible and should be listened to for, if nothing else, the title track with surprisingly incorporated sitar. Monster Magnet were also huge supporters of Hawkwind, Captain Beyond, and early space rock musicians which earns them points in the great metal Yahtzee game.

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Kyuss – Blues For the Red Sun (1992)

And now we have arrived at one of the agreed upon starting points for stoner metal; the desert. Palm Desert, California was the starting place for Kyuss which would later start the “Desert Rock Scene.” The Desert Rock Scene was a collection of southern California bands obsessed with early heavy metal and long psychedelic jams. Some of the earliest desert rock bands would later become prominent figures in stoner metal including Fu Manchu, Yawning Man, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nebula. Blues For the Red Sun is Kyuss’ second record and is leagues heavier than their later work. The sound employed in songs like ” Molten Universe” and “Freedom Run” would later become staples in the stoner metal sound. While as heavy as a moderately sized diesel truck, the sound of Kyuss still inhabits its time period. Much like Monster Magnet, John Garcia’s vocals are tied to the 90′s with its gruff tendencies. Expect a lot of “yeeeeahs” as well as sunbleached explosions. While I know I should like Kyuss’ follow up Welcome To Sky Valley, I still find it hard to embrace as much as other incarnations of this band once they disbanded. For now I think we can agree that Kyuss for the time made this bit of carpet as interesting as an action movie.

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Acid King – The Early years (1994-1995)

Until this point, stoner metal rested on the relatively light to medium portion of the great spectrum. Additionally, stoner metal had been relatively light in subject matter. Acid King changed this. Well to be fair, Sleep changed this but we will get to them later. Based in San Francisco, Acid King took the sound of early heavy metal and put an incredible amount of weight on top. Acid King coined their name from a 1984 New York criminal case involving the murder of Gary Lauwers by acquaintance Ricky Kasso. The media dubbed Kasso “The Acid King” due to the involvement of hallucinogenic drugs. Satanism and heavy metal were also roped in giving this incident the allure of the early Manson Murders. The bleak namesake combined with a heavier palette of doom gave stoner metal a rough edge which would be explored later in the decade. Acid King is great for many reasons but first and foremost are the sultry, narcotic vocals of Lori S. Female singers in metal are rare and to have one that fits so perfectly with a style of music is even rarer. The Early Years is a collection of the band’s first two out of print releases (Acid King EP & The Zoroaster LP). This release is a fine archival preservation for a band who decided to step off the deep end in terms of sound and image.

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Clutch – Clutch (1995)

I never really enjoyed Clutch. I know other people do but that doesn’t matter to me. The band’s place in the stoner metal lexicon is undeniable but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. Perhaps it is the caustic blend of fuzzy riffs and hardcore chants from Neil Fallon. Perhaps it is their obsession with backwoods imagery and hillbilly culture. Perhaps it is the sound of my death by the hands of redneck deviants when I get lost in the boonies. Whatever it is, I never found a starting point for this band. That doesn’t mean they should be left off of this list. Since their start in 1993 with Transnational Speedway League, Clutch has found a strong fanbase which has been multiplied with each new album. Their 1995 self titled release propelled this Maryland band into the astrosphere on an after burn of moonshine, mountain dew, and resin. Good for you gentleman, now how do I get back on the highway, because right now, I’m scared shitless.

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Acrimony – Tumuli Shroomaroom (1996)

Acrimony, is Wales’ claim to the stoner rock legacy. Album name and artwork aside, Acrimony’s last record is nothing less than a fantastic trip into the depths of psychedelic metal which may or may not have been influenced by psilocybin. While Acrimony rests on the lighter, more rock and roll side of the spectrum, Tumuli Shroomaroom is essential for anyone interested in the style. The entire album is great with multiple highlights but the ending trilogy of 10+ minute epics is Tumuli Shroomaroom‘s largest selling points. This is 34 minutes you need to set aside for your greater understanding of stoner metal. Acrimony officially disbanded after this record leaving behind a short yet potent legacy of greatness. In 2011, 4/5ths of the band reformed as Sigiriya who released the 2011 album Return To Earth. While Sigiriya still has leagues to go in the race with Acrimony, it is a pretty good start. If nothing else, a reformed band will bring more interested participants to the alter of mushroom metal.

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Electric Wizard – Come My Fantatics (1997)

One of the biggest challenges in this article was choosing one Electric Wizard record. For 5 years beginning in 1995, Electric Wizard released three records which are all equal in merit and quality. The band’s self titled debut was a fantastic exploration in fantasy themed traditional doom. “Funeralopolis” on the 2000′s Dopethrone is reason enough to purchase the entire record. So why 1997′s Come My Fanatics? One, it is heavy as fuck. Two, it is heavy as fuck. The transition from Electric Wizard to Come My Fanatics can only be explained by a swan dive into oblivion aided by a reckless embrace of insanity. The guitar riffs throughout the record are gigantic which smother everything in glorious fashion. Songs move as a mammoths crawl through pits of tar and smog. Take this and combine it with a sinister cover of dark figures against a space scene and you have one of the best records of the 1990′s. With songs ranging from 5-10 minutes, Come My Fanatics becomes a rite of passage to experience in one sitting. Very few albums, despite my level of intoxication, make my head feel as it is full of warm lead. Come My Fanatics is one of them.

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Orange Goblin – Frequencies From The Planet 10 (1997)

I adore Orange Goblin. Not just for their stoned approach to rock songs but for their silly and fantastic album art which could be covers for old issues of the magazine Heavy Metal. Much like Monster Magnet, Orange Goblin has chosen space, space travel, and drug use while space traveling as their dominate themes. Orange Goblin has a special place in my heart because their approach to thematic styles are so ludicrous and adolescent. Orange Goblin is defiantly on the lighter side of the spectrum yet their execution in the style is heart warming. In the outer reaches of space their only exists naked women, bushels of marijuana, and alien creatures playing never ending astral rock jams. The fast template of Orange Goblin contrasted with the slower doom style has been embraced by later bands including The Sword and Danava. Sure these groups lack the crushing monumental qualities but they are fantastic none the less.

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Queens Of The Stone Age – Queens Of The Stone Age (1998)

Alright, let us get into this. Queens Of the Stone Age is the obvious extension of Kyuss as guitarist Josh Holmes started the entire Queens project. Kyuss slowly dissolved in the mid 1990′s leading to the Queens / Kyuss EP in 1997 which acted as the passing of the torch to a new incarnation of desert rock. Queens of The Stone Age, over the next 10 years, would quickly rise to become one of the biggest names in stoner rock. This is due to Queen’s even mixture of fuzzy riffs and hypnotic vocals from Holmes. The first release from Queens would only play as a overture to a long career of above average albums. Straddling the space between radio rock and underground drug jams, Queens Of The Stone Age would be the coolest household name in a family which accepted the majority of things you did in your spare time. Additionally, Holmes is the founder of the Desert Sessions which is a 6 year, 10 volume collaboration between various musicians a part of this weird desert cult. Start with Queens of the Stone Age and run off into oblivion. I’ll talk to you in six years.

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Sleep – Jerusalem / Dopesmoker (1999)

I told you we would get to Sleep. Sleep could really go at the beginning of this article as their 1993 release Sleep’s Holy Mountain was monumental in the development of stoner doom. While Sleep’s Holy Mountain is amazing, it is the band’s second and final record which is usually whispered in the halls of stoner metal history. After the success of Sleep’s Holy Mountain, the band began writing material for a new record. Sleep wanted their second release to be a one hour long song with references to middle eastern mysticism and cannabis. The legends surrounding this album are fantastic with popular lore stating the band smoked their advance for this record and rushed through production. While three stoned kids blowing thousands of dollars on weed sounds hilarious, it is not true. In reality, the combination of misrepresentation by record labels, internal tension, and having one song go through endless edits destroyed the fun of the project. Sleep’s second record would be the end of the band. Multiple versions of this record have been released under two different names. Both releases are essentially the same song with the only difference being Jerusalem is split into six parts and is 10 minutes shorter. Dopesmoker is the version which has been embraced as the truest version of the song but still comes nowhere close to the original idea which had been planned for almost 5 years. Usually when discussing Jerusalem/Dopesmoker with other people, I print out some of the lyrics which I feel perfectly illustrates the cosmic level Sleep reached when writing this record.

Lebanon
Desert Legion Smoke Covenant is Complete
Herb Bails Retied onto Backs of Beasts
Stoner Caravan Emerge from Sandsea
Earthling Inserts to Chalice the Green Cutchie
Groundation Soul Finds Trust Upon Smoking Hose
Assemble Creedsmen Rises Prayerfilled Smoke
Golgotha

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Sloth – Voice Of god (2000)

In the terms of stoner metal, there are the very well known along with the relatively unknown. Sloth, in terms of greater popularity is still up and coming. The band would have more of a chance for worldwide recognition if they didn’t split after recording one album. Voice of God now stands as the only record of the bands existence which spans all of two years. Sloth is great for many reasons but their sound may not be for everyone. While stoner metal has many different vocal styles, the most popular is the indifferent crone over heavy riffs. This of course can be accompanied by differing degrees of rasp. Sloth’s vocals are different as they embody a very mid 90′s alt rock style. Gaz Rickett’s vocals though align with Sloth’s bleak journey into depression and dark subject matter. Much like Acid Bath, Sloth gives doom metal the post-breakup, alone in your bedroom charm which ultimately carries Voice Of God into greatness.

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Bongzilla – Gateway (2002)

Alright, now we have arrived. This is Bongzilla and things have just gotten serious. Bongzilla is a Wisconsin based sludge band who solely concerns their songs around, about, and promoting marijuana. Hold on that sounds wrong let me check. Yep, I’m right. In the world of stoner metal, Bongzilla possesses the right musical elements but with a higher degree of caustic edge. Guitars riffs buzz like chainsaws and the vocals from Michael John Makela, AKA “Muleboy” tear through listener’s ears like a drunken banshee. Bongzilla is fucking scary. Hold on that sounds wrong let me check. Yep, I’m right. The more challenging vocal style is apart of the reason why Bongzilla is so interesting. It breaks the mold of the passive vocals seen in earlier bands. The vocals are a part of a long history of pissed off sludge front men with a penchant for drug use as well as ruminating feelings of disdain. Gateway is massive and should be taken under supervision of trusted friends. Oh wait, I forgot you have no friends, just this ounce of weed and an intense feeling to break everything.

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Ufomammut – Snailking (2004)

Ufomammut! Ufomammut! Never has there been a band name that I want to chant as much as this one. Let us travel to Italy for some serious psychedelic metal. Ufomammut is a trio of three musicians who have been consistent in their output of spaced out heavy metal. Additionally, all members are a part of the Malleus Rock Art Lab which designs posters, album art, and various other products for bands. The Mallus designs are breathtaking and hearken back to the early psychedelic screen-print days. There should be no reason why you don’t own at least one Ufomammut record. The soundclips and spaced out sound effects along side of crushing doom is reason enough to chant their name.

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Om- Variations on a theme (2005)

Hey, we are back to Sleep — well sort of. Om is the continuation of vocalist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius after the fall of Jerusalem / Dopesmoker. While, guitarist Matt Pike went on to form High On Fire, the rhythm section of Sleep felt the need to extend the world of Jeruslalem / Dopesmoker. Variations on a Theme can be considered the second chapter in the world started by the last Sleep album. While the intensity has been scaled back and the cannabis references have been traded for more neutral mystic themes, Variants on a Theme is still apart of the same world. Om’s continual work and subsequent albums have not faltered as they continue to contribute to the construction of a city started in the late 90′s. It is like you didn’t want the Dopesmoker world to have more stories involved. I just do not understand how this isn’t great. I even bought a robe and a hookah for this.

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The Sword – Age Of Winters (2006)

Alright, put down everything it is time to talk about The Sword. I loved The Sword for a time. Maybe it is my expressed love for the sword and sorcery genre. Maybe it was because Age Of Winters was one of my first metal albums. Maybe it is because I enjoy albums which really embrace a theme and run with it. Whatever the cause, The Sword’s debut album was fantastic. Taking doom and traditional heavy metal flair and marrying it with a rich fantasy template, Age Of Winters was nothing short of monumental — at least for me. For a period in time, I stood in my room and headbanged to “Lament of The Aurochs” in a towel. When I look back on Age Of Winters, now as a more mature adult, I still feel the same way. Fuck everyone, this album is fucking great. The same cannot be said about the band’s follow up, Gods Of The Earth, nor their Sci-Fi high concept, low quality third release Warp Riders. It does not matter, I am writing this review in a towel fist pumping to every riff. What was that? 300 dollars for an iron helmet with goat horns? Fuck it! I only live once.

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Weedeater – God Luck and Good Speed (2007)

Alright, I know Weedeater existed before the year 2007. In fact, bassist Dave Dixie Collins played in the mid era reign of seminal sludge band Buzzov*en as well as having an appearance on Bongzilla’s 2005 release Amerijuanican. Weedeater had two decent albums before the Good Luck and Good Speed but never came into their own before hand. With a combination of more serious focus and a helpful hand by producer Steve Albini, God Luck and Good Speed rips through the fabric of space and time. With clear production, the instruments are allowed to find their rightful place rather than be obscured by unjust leveling. This change in quality and direction for the band has been a boon for their career as God Luck and Good Speed as well as their follow up Jason the Dragon have been well received by a larger audience. Weedeater is awesome and their down to earth nature during interviews only adds to their charm. It is like a group of your closet friends decided to make a stoner sludge band and you were invited to every show.

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Naam – Naam (2009)

We might as well end in New York City during contemporary times. The fact that Naam is a Brooklyn based band sometimes gives people a moment’s pause as they assess the levels of irony and distance the music possesses. Naam, for all intents and purposes, are earth shattering. Less concerned with a clean sound, approachability, or even simple drug references, the band travels into the dark psychological territory inhabited by fear and psychosis. Partially influenced by Jerusalem / Dopesmoker, Naam’s self titled debut travels to other dimensions exploring a vast desert draped in mystic shadows. With a combination of tribal instruments and a wall of reverb, Naam ups the ante in terms of mind melting psychedlia. This is what acid tests would sound like if conducted 40 years in the future.



3 Responses about “Tape Wyrm XIV: Give Thanks To Stoner Doom”

  • Andrew says:

    Dude it’s Tony Iommi, not Tony Immomi.

  • thanks, I would blame it on some sort of spelling disability but its probably just old fashioned stupidity.

  • Andrew says:

    No problem. I’ve always wondered how to pronounce that shit. Eye-oh-me? Eee-oh-me? Some crazy ligature nonsense like Yo-me?

    I didn’t have time to read the rest of the article this morning so here’s the rest of my reaction: You’re so right about Warp Riders, though I find some merit in Gods of the Earth. The Dessert Sessions are awesome. I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of the Sleep -> Om connection, but it makes me happy to know I’ve accidentally been listening to the spiritual successor to Dopesmoker all along.

    Great article. Time to check out some Naam, I think.

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