Welcome to Lucky Thirteen, a new series of beginners guides to a number of musical genres old and new. For the first instalment we thought we'd look at one of heavy metals most fundamental but perhaps most underrated genres – Doom Metal.
The idea behind Lucky Thirteen is to give you an introductory selection of bands, albums and tracks that will undoubtedly start you on the slippery slope to full-on obsession. Or it might put you off entirely.
The history and development of Doom Metal is linked to the heavy metal genre as a whole. Starting with Black Sabbath's eponymous début album in 1970 the formula of slow, heavy and dark riffs has been at the core of the sound, and while new genres have appeared and developed in their own ways, these styles, such as death metal, black metal, gothic metal, and even industrial metal have all fed back into Doom and served it's evolution making it perhaps the most diverse genre in the metal spectrum.
1. Black Sabbath – 'Black Sabbath'
As we said in the above paragraph, it all begins with Black Sabbath and in particular the first album. Coming from a blues and hard rock background the band from Birmingham established the fundamentals of all metal to follow on their début. The signature tritone of the opening track 'Black Sabbath' with its slow and sinister pace, horror-influenced lyrics, thick bass line and macabre atmosphere set the standard for the doom genre to live up to.
Essential track: 'Black Sabbath'
Americans Trouble crafted a landmark doom album with their 1984 début 'Psalm 9'. While Black Sabbath had laid the groundwork for the genre it wasn't until the 1980s when it would begin to coalesce into a separate entity from the first two waves of heavy metal bands. 'Psalm 9' married the influence of Sabbath and Judas Priest into a psychedelic mess of grooves and riffs that is thunderous to listen to. The band's influences may be English, however this is pure American muscle.
Essential track: 'The Tempter'
3. Saint Vitus – 'Born Too Late'
Along with Trouble, Saint Vitus' first album was arguably one of the first defining doom releases that would help establish the genre as a whole. However, it is the band's third album 'Born Too Late' that would be the band's most influential and successful. The first album to feature former The Obsessed vocalist Scott 'Wino' Weinrich, 'Born Too Late' is a thick concoction of sludgy riffs and gloom that would serve to be a big influence on not only later doom bands but also on the stoner rock and grunge movements that would follow.
Essential track: 'Dying Inside'
4. Candlemass – 'Nightfall'
Candlemass' début 'Epicus Doomicus Metallicus' established the principles of “Epic Doom Metal” with their mix of slow hard power chords and operatic baritone vocals. But with the arrival of new vocalist Messiah Marcollin came a new injection of ideas and 'Nightfall' reaps the benefits. This is the album that established Candlemass as a name in the growing doom metal scene and it is quite rightly considered a classic and influential album.
Essential track: 'Samarthian'
5. My Dying Bride – 'The Angel And The Dark River'
Along with contemporaries Anathema and Paradise Lost, Yorkshire's My Dying Bride would find their roots in death metal before evolving into the resplendent gothic melancholic doom metal they found on this album. The band's sound here was built around keyboards, violins. The pace was unremittingly slow throughout and vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe completely dispensed with his previous death grunts in favour of a more vulnerable and tortured style. The result is an undeniable and influential classic.
Essential track: 'The Cry Of Mankind'
6. Paradise Lost – 'Draconian Times'
Halifax natives Paradise Lost originated and perfected the death doom sound on their first couple of albums, and invented the gothic doom/metal moniker on their 1991 sophomore release. But the moniker didn't truly fit until the release of the heavy and despairing 'Draconian Times' augmented by opulent keyboards, varied pace, and a mix of hard and deep vocals, 'Draconian Times' saw the stars align for the band and realise the vision they had slowly been building towards.
Essential track: 'Enchantment'
7. Type O Negative – 'Bloody Kisses'
You could argue that the band's 1996 follow-up 'October Rust' was the technically superior album, but the impact of 1994's 'Bloody Kisses' has been the most tangible of the two. Quickly evolving from a mix of hardcore and thrash tinged with gothic elements to a sublime, sensual and at times sarcastic masterpiece of true gothic doom Peter Steele brought Roadrunner records their first gold album with this and became a legend overnight. A lot has been said about this album over the years and none of it lives up to just how brilliant it actually is.
Essential track: 'Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare All)'
8. Down – 'NOLA'
Despite already being known as the frontman for the wildly successful Pantera, Phil Anselmo had a deep love of doomy sounds. He began writing and demoing the ideas that would become Down in 1990 with Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity). The end result was 1995's 'NOLA' a thick mass of sludgy riffs, hardcore style vocals and southern rock grooves. There have been arguments in terms of genre just where Down sit, but there is no denying this album's influence on the doom genre in the years since.
Essential track: 'Bury Me In Smoke'
9. Electric Wizard – 'Dopethrone'
By the time 'Dopethrone' was released in 2000, Electric Wizard were already a name with some weight to them. The band's third album and follow-up to the breakthrough 'Come My Fanatics...' was a definite turning point in the genre. The sound was thick, fuzzy and psychedelic. The vocals were heavily manipulated and left low in the mix. It was an all out onslaught of slow doomy riffs and abrasive aggression. In a decade where heavy often went hand in hand with blast beats, this felt like a complete swerve.
Essential track: 'Funeralopolis'
10. Sleep – 'Sleep's Holy Mountain'
Sleep are quite rightly cited as the ultimate stoner metal band. And 'Sleep's Holy Mountain' is the ultimate stoner metal album. Thick crunchy bluesy riffs and bass and watery vocals give the album a very 70s sound, but it doesn't sound dated, even by today's standards. It's thick, fuzzy sound has been the benchmark for the stoner metal scene ever since, and while bands like Kyuss and Monster Magnet were more successful, Sleep remain the kings.
Essential track: 'Dragonaut'
11. Cathedral – 'The Carnival Bizarre'
Cathedral had already been signed and dropped by a major record label by the time they released their third album 'The Carnival Bizarre' in 1995. The band's last effort had been a great blend of grooves and up-tempo writing. But for their third album everything came together perfectly with the band fully defining their sound and recording the most concise track list of their career. This album is home to some venerated classics not only in Cathedral's back catalogue but of the doom genre as a whole.
Essential track: 'Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)'
12. Anathema- 'The Silent Enigma'
The band's second album and first to feature the more diverse vocal style of Vincent Cavanagh saw Anathema branch out from death doom to incorporate gothic and progressive elements into their song writing. The end result, 'The Silent Enigma' is a true classic of the genre, even if it is possibly the last overtly doom metal orientated album the band would produce in their long career. None the less it is a strong offering of hard riffs, thunderous rhythms and near cinematic scale.
Essential track: 'Sunset Of Age'
13. Swallow The Sun – 'The Morning Never Came'
The Finns so far haven't released a bad album, which is an impressive run by anyone's standards, but for the sake of argument we're going to highlight their 2003 début 'The Morning Never Came' for this list – though any of their albums would have fit here. Taking death doom and filling ito with great riffs, a slow pace and soaring melodies, Swallow The Sun picked up where the likes of Paradise Lose, My Dying Bride and Anathema left off and updated it with some dark Arctic atmospheres.
Essential track: 'Out Of This Gloomy Light'
That's out first Lucky Thirteen list done to hopefully start you off on the long road to obsession with doom metal. If you think we missed any essential bands, albums or songs from this list please feel free to comment on our Facebook page, or even let us know what other genre lists you'd like to see. Otherwise: Tune Low, Play Slow, And Doom Out!