Stoner rock, desert rock, van rock, doom, stoner/doom, doom metal, stoner metal; it all resides in a universe primarily ruled by volume and fuzz. I enjoyed Black Sabbath and Ozzy as a kid but at the time I didn’t look too far out of the box. All of these genres are intertwined and many bands go seamlessly in and out of various styles from song to song. It’s very difficult to place these bands in genres when so many have their opinions and the styles have so many blends with very loose descriptions.
We had a daily all metal video show on TV called the Power Hour. I found a ton of new bands as a kid through watching this show religiously. This show is where I saw the video for “Green machine” by Kyuss. Immediately I thought of this guy Bill that played in bands around my highschool because every time I saw him, he was wearing the same Kyuss shirt. I asked Bill for some recommendations and we traded some mixed tapes. Little did I know the wealth Bill had to offer on the subject.
From what I recall the tapes had Kyuss, The Melvins, Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, Sleep, Clutch and I believe some Corrosion of Conformity. It was a really great sample size and it had me buying mountains of tapes (yes.. tapes, I didn’t have a CD player until 95). I had a pretty formidable tape collection in my teens and I found the local music store I went to most always had a ton of stoner rock in stock. The owner was a huge stoner so he kind of just ordered shit he liked at times.
Summer ’96 was around when the store owner got more into doom and heavier stoner metal, he started ordering a lot more of it. The album covers were less about skateboards or deserts and more about Satan with dark imagery. The sound was similar to the stoner rock I’d become a fan of but it was slower, tuned lower and fuzzier. The groove was absolutely still there, everything just sounded a lot more evil and rough around the edges. Electric Wizard, Crowbar, Saint Vitus, Eyehategod and the grittier side of the whole scene and many bands I had heard of but not heard yet all became clearer.
Not a huge fan of drone though it has my respect for the controlled feedback factor, that’s not easy to do at that volume when you aren’t in control of the room acoustics but otherwise, I will file Sunn0000))))) into the “I don’t really get it” file. No disrespect, I just don’t really get it. I am going to exclude gothic doom as well but only because I am going to cover it in another piece.
Gear wise, stoner/doom and the wealth of sub-genres are fueled by fuzz. Fuzz pedals are big business and you can find seemingly thousands of options as far as hardware goes. Software on the other hand doesn’t have enough quality fuzz but there are a few standouts. The Fuzz Face and Big Muff are two of the most common pedals represented in plugin land but there’s a few others out there.
The neck pickup is often the go-to for a lot of these styles. Some guys roll their tone knob right off, some will leave it be, it really depend on the tone you are looking for. I personally prefer when there’s still a bite to the tone even with the fuzz. To cut into a mix, you really have to have some high mids somewhere. A great example would be Fu Manchu’s tone on “Godzilla” (Blue Oyster Cult cover) or “Evil Eye”; two of the bands more popular songs. The fuzz is driving the tone but there’s still a bite to the tone on the high mids. You don’t need to roll down all tone and treble as some may assume.
As far as amps go, it depends on how much fuzz you are working with and how much you want the pedal to be the focal point of the tone. If you are working with a higher level of fuzz, you will want a cleaner guitar tone. In this situation you let the fuzz take controls and use the amp settings to shape things and color the tone. Using less fuzz from the pedal and more character from the amp is also a good approach. This way you are just fattening and adding the pedal’s more pronounced attributes to the amps gain. There’s also a difference in how much gain you’ll use depending on the exact sub-genre.
Popular amps for the fuzz universe start with Orange. You will see a lot of Orange gear backing the best of the best out there as well as Marshall, Matamp (based on Orange), Sound City, Crate and Sunn Model T. Problem here is that while the Orange cabinet has been done and done again by almost every impulse developer with great results, there just isn’t a high quality Orange amp sim on the market right now. There is a ton of want for one and there are a few kicking around full-amp suites but nothing with a high level of quality. Amplitube’s selection is ok for recreational use but for recording, it would be great to see the Rockerverb well-represented in the plugin universe.
The amount of effects really depend on your approach but typically, pedals go hand in hand with doom and it’s stoner friends. It’s fairly common to see a large pedal board on the stage with many if not most bands. Fuzz pedals, reverb, delay, tremolo, tons of modulation, pitch shifters, there’s no recipe or rules for this one. I say just use what you feel sounds right to you and right for the song or riff. When I had a big board in a stoner metal band, I used a lot of flanger, phaser and delay with a fuzz pedal. There’s a sub-genre called space rock in the mix here that tends to be stoner rock with a lot more effects and a 60s vibe at times.
Over the years I have always been on the lookout for new bands and these genres are never short of great new bands. My suggestion is hit up some stoner/doom playlists on Spotify, take some time and blast through a bunch. It’s incredibly easy to find top notch bands these days because the genres all have some many loyal fans that are very active on social media and Spotify. Now, I would like to point out here that doom and stoner rock both have a seemingly endless amount of sub-genres so yes, I am severely condensing here in this spotlight but over time, those that get into it will find their way to the styles they like best in no time so a brief intro should be all one needs!
Research: Stoner / Doom Introduction
- Monolord – “Vænir”
- Blue Cheer – “Outsideinside”
- Black Sabbath – “Self-titled”
- Electric Wizard – “Dopethrone”
- Sleep – “Dopesmoker”
- Fu Manchu – “The action is go”
- Dead Quiet – “Grand rites”
- Kyuss – “Blues from the red sun”
- Windhand – “Grief’s infernal flower”
- Queens Of The Stone Age – “Rated R”
- Crowbar – “Odd fellow’s rest”
- Down – “NOLA”
- Weedeater – “Good luck and good speed”
- Melvins – “Houdini”
- Orange Goblin – “A eulogy for the damned”
- Corrosion Of Conformity – “Deliverance”
- Truckfighters – “Gravity X”
- High On Fire – “Blessed black wings”
- St.Vitus – “V”
- Blue Snaggletooth – “Beyond Thule”
- Dozer – “Call it conspiracy”