Sludge metal

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Sludge metal (also known as sludgecore or sludge doom) is a genre of heavy metal music that originated through combining elements of doom metal and hardcore punk. It is typically harsh and abrasive, often featuring shouted vocals, heavily distorted instruments and sharply contrasting tempos. While the Melvins from the US state of Washington laid the groundwork for both sludge metal and grunge in the 1980s, sludge as a distinct genre emerged after 1990 through the work of Louisiana bands [4] such as Eyehategod and Crowbar. Later bands often border on stoner rock (e.g. High on Fire) or post-metal (e.g. Neurosis).

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Doom metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "thicker" or "heavier" sound than other heavy metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal. During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England, the United States and Sweden defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

Hardcore punk Subgenre of punk rock

Hardcore punk is a punk rock music genre and subculture that originated in the late 1970s. It is generally faster, harder, and more aggressive than other forms of punk rock. Its roots can be traced to earlier punk scenes in San Francisco and Southern California which arose as a reaction against the still predominant hippie cultural climate of the time. It was also inspired by New York punk rock and early proto-punk. New York punk had a harder-edged sound than its San Francisco counterpart, featuring anti-art expressions of masculine anger, energy, and subversive humor. Hardcore punk generally disavows commercialism, the established music industry and "anything similar to the characteristics of mainstream rock" and often addresses social and political topics with "confrontational, politically-charged lyrics."



Buzz Osborne, frontman of sludge metal pioneers the Melvins Buzz Osborne of The Melvins Live @ Slim's 04.jpg
Buzz Osborne, frontman of sludge metal pioneers the Melvins

Sludge metal generally combines the slow tempos, heavy rhythms and dark, pessimistic atmosphere of doom metal with the aggression, shouted vocals and occasional fast tempos of hardcore punk. As The New York Times put it, "The shorthand term for the kind of rock descending from early Black Sabbath and late Black Flag is sludge, because it's so slow and dense." [5] According to Metal Hammer , sludge metal "[s]pawned from a messy collision of Black Sabbath’s downcast metal, Black Flag’s tortured hardcore and the sub/dom grind of early Swans, shaken up with lashings of cheap whisky and bad pharmaceuticals". [6] Many sludge bands compose slow-paced songs that contain brief hardcore passages [7] (for example, Eyehategod's "Depress" and "My Name Is God"). Mike Williams, a founder of the sludge style and member of Eyehategod, suggests that "the moniker of sludge apparently has to do with the slowness, the dirtiness, the filth and general feel of decadence the tunes convey". [8] However, some bands emphasize fast tempos throughout their music. The string instruments (electric guitar and bass guitar) are down-tuned and heavily distorted and are often played with large amounts of feedback [7] [9] to produce a thick yet abrasive sound. Additionally, guitar solos are often absent. Drumming is often performed in typical doom metal fashion. Drummers may employ hardcore d-beat or double-kick drumming during faster passages, or through the thick breakdowns (which are characteristic of the sludge sound). Vocals are usually shouted or screamed, [7] [9] [10] [11] and lyrics are generally pessimistic in nature. [12] Suffering, drug abuse, [13] [14] [15] politics and anger towards society are common lyrical themes.

In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm.

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the U.S.

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Many sludge metal bands from the Southern United States incorporate Southern rock influences. [7] [9] [10] [16] [17] [2] There is some controversy as to whether the term refers to only the style emerging from New Orleans and later the American South more broadly, or to "a complete consciousness in the heads of like-minded Black Flag/Black Sabbath influenced scenes and individuals all over the world". [8] So-called "atmospheric" sludge bands adopt a more experimental approach and compose music with an ambient atmosphere, reduced aggression and philosophical lyrics. [18] Due to the similarities between sludge and stoner metal, there is often a crossover between the two genres, [19] [20] but sludge metal generally avoids stoner metal's usage of psychedelia. Sludge metal also bears some musical and lyrical resemblance to crust punk, due to the usage of political lyrics and thick, "dirty" guitar sounds.

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The Southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Western United States, with the Midwestern United States and Northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

Southern rock is a subgenre of rock music and a genre of Americana. It developed in the Southern United States from rock and roll, country music, and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitar and vocals. Although the origin of the term Southern rock is unknown, "many people feel that these important contributors to the development of rock and roll have been minimized in rock's history."

New Orleans Largest city in Louisiana

New Orleans is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi River in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Louisiana. With an estimated population of 391,006 in 2018, it is the most populous city in Louisiana. A major port, New Orleans is considered an economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region of the United States.



Along with Black Sabbath and Black Flag, musicians cited by pioneers of the style as influential include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Celtic Frost, Greg Ginn, Trouble, Carnivore, Saint Vitus, Gore, Righteous Pigs, [8] Amebix [21] and Swans. [21] Early sludge metal groups also borrowed from the industrial music of SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Chrome and Swans. [8] The beginnings of sludge have been traced to the "slow punk" of Flipper, Swans' 1984 album Cop , and Black Flag's album My War , the latter often cited as one of the first works in the genre. [21]

Black Flag (band) American hardcore punk band

Black Flag is an American punk rock band formed in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, California. Initially called Panic, the band was established by Greg Ginn, the guitarist, primary songwriter, and sole continuous member through multiple personnel changes in the band. They are widely considered to be one of the first hardcore punk bands, as well as one of the pioneers of post-hardcore. After breaking up in 1986, Black Flag reunited in 2003 and again in 2013. The second reunion lasted well over a year, during which they released their first studio album in over two decades, What The… (2013). The band announced their third reunion in January 2019. Brandon Pertzborn was replaced by Isaias Gil on drums and Tyler Smith was replaced by Joseph Noval on bass with touring 2nd guitarist Alan Windler for the rest of the tour.

Lynyrd Skynyrd American rock band

Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American rock band best known for popularizing the Southern rock genre during the 1970s with songs such as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". It formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1964 under the name My Backyard with original members Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns (drums). The band spent five years touring small venues under a variety of different names and with several lineup changes before finally deciding on "Lynyrd Skynyrd" in 1969. The band released their first album in 1973, having settled on a lineup that included bassist Leon Wilkeson and former Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King. Burns would later be replaced by Artimus Pyle and King by Steve Gaines. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines were killed in an airplane crash on October 20, 1977, putting an abrupt end to the 1970s era of the band.

Celtic Frost Swiss metal band

Celtic Frost were a Swiss extreme metal band from Zürich. They are known for their strong influence on the development of extreme metal and avant-garde metal. Formed in 1981 as Hellhammer, the band became Celtic Frost in 1984 and released their debut, Morbid Tales, that year. This was followed by To Mega Therion (1985) and the highly experimental Into the Pandemonium (1987), all of which were widely praised. Their next album Cold Lake (1988) saw a new lineup and a radical change of style, which was widely derided. After the release of Vanity/Nemesis (1990), the group disbanded. It re-formed in 2001 and released the critically-acclaimed Monotheist (2006), before disbanding following frontman Tom Gabriel Fischer's departure in 2008.

Joey Lacaze and Mike Williams, founding members of Eyehategod, performing at Roskilde Festival 2011 Mike und joey.JPG
Joey Lacaze and Mike Williams, founding members of Eyehategod, performing at Roskilde Festival 2011

Perhaps the most significant influence was Melvins, a band from the state of Washington. Their earliest releases, Six Songs (1986) and Gluey Porch Treatments (1987), are often regarded as the first sludge records. [21] At this time, the band was also an important member of the Washington grunge scene. Another prominent band from the Washington grunge scene, Alice in Chains have also been influential to early sludge metal with their second album Dirt . [22] [23] Neurosis, from Oakland, were also significant early practitioners. [24]

Melvins band from the United States

Melvins are an American rock band whose early work was key to the development of both grunge and sludge metal. The band formed in 1983 in Montesano, Washington. They have mostly performed as a trio, as well as a quartet with either two drummers/bassists in recent years. Since 1984, vocalist and guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have been constant members. The band was named after a supervisor at a Thriftway in Montesano, Washington, where Osborne also worked as a clerk. "Melvin" was disliked by other employees, and the band's members felt it to be an appropriately ridiculous name.

Washington (state) state of the United States of America

Washington, officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Named for George Washington, the first U.S. president, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. The state, which is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, by Oregon to the south, by Idaho to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia is the state capital; the state's largest city is Seattle. Washington is often referred to as Washington State to distinguish it from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C..

<i>Melvins!</i> (album) 1986 EP by Melvins

Melvins is the eponymous debut EP by the Melvins, released in 1986 through C/Z Records. The original release was a vinyl 7", commonly referred to as Six Songs. A later edition, taken from a different recording session, was released as 10 Songs in 1991 on CD with an equivalent 12" vinyl EP called 8 Songs, which leaves off the last two tracks from the CD.

At the beginning of the 1990s, a number of bands from Louisiana (particularly New Orleans with its metal scene) took these influences and developed the style that would be known as sludge, [4] specifically Eyehategod (formed in 1988), [1] Crowbar (formed in 1989 as The Slugs) [25] and Acid Bath (formed in 1991). [26] On the East Coast, Buzzov*en (formed in 1989), [27] 16 (formed in 1990) and Grief (formed in 1991) [28] adopted a slower-paced approach to the emerging genre.

Louisiana U.S. state in the United States

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Eyehategod American sludge metal band

Eyehategod is an American sludge metal band from New Orleans who formed in 1988. They have become one of the better known bands to emerge from the NOLA metal scene. Throughout the years, their core line-up has remained, with the exceptions of the bassist, a slot in which several musicians have played, and the death of drummer Joey LaCaze in 2013.

Acid Bath was an American sludge metal band from Houma, Louisiana, that was active from 1991 to 1997. Acid Bath combined doom metal roots with influences from hardcore punk, death metal, gothic rock, and blues to create the band's unique sound. In a Pit Magazine interview, vocalist Dax Riggs classified their sound as "death rock", and also classified the band's music as a blending of stoner metal and doom metal. In another interview, guitarist Sammy Duet described their sound as "gothic hardcore".

According to Phil Anselmo

Back in those days, everything in the underground was fast, fast, fast. It was the rule of the day. But when the Melvins came out with their first record, Gluey Porch Treatments, it really broke the mold, especially in New Orleans. People began to appreciate playing slower. With that, all the old Black Sabbath came back around and then you start digging and you come to your Saint Vitus, your Witchfinder General, your Pentagram, etc. [29]

Subsequent developments

Sludge metal subsequently spread throughout the Southern and Eastern United States.

Jose Carlos Santos notes a focus shift as a result of the impact of the British group Iron Monkey's first album in 1997:

Coincidence or not, it seemed like the sludge floodgates opened to the rest of the world, and in the past decade small pockets, or mini-scenes, can be spotted in just about any country you'd care to mention. [30]

These include the Japanese group Corrupted and contemporary American groups such as Dumb Numbers, Lair of the Minotaur, Old Man Gloom and Kylesa. [30] In addition, the U.S. state of Georgia has been identified as a major source of new sludge groups such as Mastodon, Baroness, Black Tusk, and Kylesa. [30]

During the late 1990s, many sludge metal bands began to incorporate post-rock elements into their music. This post-rock/sludge crossover was greatly inspired by the experimental style of Neurosis during the early to mid 1990s, and is performed by prominent bands such as Isis, [18] Cult of Luna and Pelican. [31]


Traditional/Southern sludge

These bands are the pioneers of the genre or are strongly influenced by those bands. Many are from the Southern United States, excluding the Melvins who are from Montesano, Washington and Iron Monkey who are from England.

Stoner sludge

These bands have mixed typical stoner rock traits with typical sludge metal traits, and may be considered a part of both genres.

Other fusions with sludge metal

See also

Related Research Articles

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