|Cultural origins||Early 1990s, California|
|Palm Desert Scene|
Stoner rock, also known as stoner metalor stoner doom, is a rock music fusion genre that combines elements of heavy metal and/or doom metal with psychedelic rock and acid rock. The name references cannabis consumption. The term desert rock is often used interchangeably with the term "stoner rock" to describe this genre; however, not all stoner rock bands would fall under the descriptor of "desert rock". Stoner rock is typically slow-to-mid tempo and features a heavily distorted, groove-laden bass-heavy sound, melodic vocals, and "retro" production. The genre emerged during the early 1990s and was pioneered foremost by Monster Magnet and the California bands Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Sleep.
The descriptor "stoner rock" may originate from the title of the 1997 Roadrunner Records compilation Burn One Up! Music for Stoners. Desert rock is also used interchangeably as a descriptor, and was coined by a MeteorCity Records intern, around the time the label released the 1998 stoner rock compilation Welcome to MeteorCity.
Due to the similarities between stoner and sludge metal, there is often a crossover between the two genres. This hybrid has traits of both styles,but generally lacks stoner metal's laid back atmosphere and its usage of psychedelia. Bands such as Weedeater, High on Fire and Electric Wizard creatively fuse both styles.
The involvement of cannabis in the creation of "stoner rock/metal" can range between bands in the genre. Bands such as Sleep have involved the concept of cannabis to be part of the core of their albums and songs.The consumption of cannabis is common in the live performances of some stoner rock/metal bands, and bands such as Electric Wizard are known to have concerts with the band members and the crowd participating in smoking cannabis. Dopesmoker by Sleep received controversy because the 60-minute song is about cannabis, which resulted in conflict with Sleep's record company. Some members of the genre state that "stoner rock is a style, not life," which is interpreted as the band members do not participate in smoking cannabis or are influenced by cannabis. However, the style of their music reflects the sound of "stoner rock/metal." Bands such as King Caravan and Sea of Green have come under terms with this statement. Similarly, Matt Pike from the band High on Fire stated, "It's a very strong scene, but I don't think any of the stoner rock bands want to be labeled as stoner rock ... I might use the word 'stoner' in my lyrics, but I think we're metal, dude. I'd say I was crossover metal, actually, or progressive metal. It's kind of a tough thing to lump into a category, but I guess we get the stoner-rock label because of the whole pot thing."
Like most subgenres of music, the origins of stoner rock are hard to trace and pinpoint. Nevertheless, several known progenitors and signature songs are widely credited with helping to shape the genre. Blue Cheer is considered one of the pioneers of the style; as AllMusic author Greg Prato puts it, "When talks about 'stoner rock' come up, one band that tends to get overlooked is Blue Cheer."According to critic Mark Deming, Blue Cheer's first album, Vincebus Eruptum , "is a glorious celebration of rock & roll primitivism run through enough Marshall amps to deafen an army," not unlike the heaviness of MC5's Kick Out the Jams and the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat .
Rolling Stone claims, "What stoner rock delivers, slowed down and magnified, is the riff, the persistent legacy of Mississippi blues. Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were the first to make a monolith of it."Sir Lord Baltimore have been called "the godfathers of stoner rock" and Leaf Hound have been cited for influencing countless bands in the stoner rock movement, including Kyuss and Monster Magnet. Buffalo's 1973 sophomore release Volcanic Rock has been "heralded as the first great stoner rock record," the song Sunrise (Come My Way) "has since been shamelessly cannibalized for its parts by more stoner-rock bands than you can shake a bong at," and the songs Till My Death and The Prophet have been likened to later stoner rock. Primevil's album Smokin' Bats at Campton's has been called a "touchstone" of stoner rock. Jim DeRogatis has said that stoner rock bands are "reaching back for inspiration to the psychedelic, proto-metallic jamming of bands like Cream, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Hawkwind."
According to DeRogatis, the roots of stoner rock can be heard on Black Sabbath's Master of Reality , Hawkwind's 25 Years On 1973–1977 box set, the aforementioned Blue Cheer album, Deep Purple's Machine Head and Blue Öyster Cult's Workshop of the Telescopes .Black Sabbath's Master of Reality is often cited as the first album of the genre, and Martin Popoff states: "When 'Sweet Leaf' kicks in, one witnesses simultaneously the invention of stoner rock". Allmusic summarizes this unique fusion as follows: "Stoner metal bands updated the long, mind-bending jams and ultra-heavy riffs of bands like Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Blue Öyster Cult, and Hawkwind by filtering their psychedelia-tinged metal and acid rock through the buzzing sound of early Sub Pop–style grunge." However, Kyuss members Josh Homme and John Garcia have shrugged off the heavy metal influence, and instead cite punk rock and hardcore punk, particularly the sludgy hardcore of Black Flag's album My War as influences.
The doom metal band Trouble introduced acid rock elements on their 1990 self-titled album, which became even more prominent on 1992's Manic Frustration . Similarly, the British doom metal band Cathedral increasingly moved toward a psychedelic/stoner sound over the course of their first three releases, culminating in the critically acclaimed 1993 album The Ethereal Mirror . During this same period, heavy metal band White Zombie achieved multi-platinum success with their two major label albums, significantly expanding the heavy music audience with their groove-based, sample-laden "psychedelic horror" sound.
During the early to mid-1990s, a number of southern-California bands developed the style that would be called stoner rock. In 1992, Kyuss emerged from the Palm Desert Scene with Blues for the Red Sun . Critics have hailed it as "a major milestone in heavy music,"while NME described their music as an attempt to figuratively melt "a hundredweight of hot desert sand into metal". In 1992, San Jose doom metal band Sleep released their album Sleep's Holy Mountain , and along with Kyuss were heralded by the heavy metal press as leaders of the emerging stoner scene. These two bands were among the first to introduce a psychedelic groove to their doom-influenced sound. A year earlier, New Jersey's Monster Magnet released their debut album Spine of God , which displayed fewer metal influences but was psychedelic and sludgy, in the vein of their California peers. Together with these three bands, southern-Californians Fu Manchu, who released their eponymous album in 1994, are credited with being "one of the most enduring and influential bands" of the genre. In 1994, San Francisco's Acid King and Britain's Acrimony released their debut albums, both of which adopted this psychedelic approach to doom metal. Though more closely associated with the grunge movement (which itself sometimes influenced and occasionally overlapped with stoner rock), Soundgarden has also been cited as "stoner metal" or influential on the stoner rock genre, with their 1994 album Superunknown being described as a "stoner rock classic". Other influential bands from this era include Clutch, Sons of Otis and Corrosion of Conformity.
Kyuss broke up in 1995 after the release of their final album, with many members going on to develop the stoner and desert rock scene through new projects. In August 1997, Kyuss' Josh Homme founded The Desert Sessions at the now-famous Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California. This musical collective brings artists together for impromptu writing and recording sessions that yielded ten albums between 1997 and 2003. The project has included members from Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Soundgarden, Monster Magnet, Goatsnake, earthlings? and Eagles of Death Metal, as well as PJ Harvey, Dean Ween and others associated with the Palm Desert scene.Also in 1997, Roadrunner Records released the stoner rock compilation Burn One Up! Music for Stoners, which includes many of the aforementioned bands, as well as a track by Josh Homme's new band Queens of the Stone Age.
In September 1997 Jadd Shickler (of stoner band Spiritu) and Aaron Emmel founded an online store based in Albuquerque, New Mexico called All That's Heavy, which began selling hard-to-find releases of Kyuss, Monster Magnet, and Fu Manchu.They soon expanded the catalog to include artists who stylistically fit with those bands. After half a year they were contacted by the former proprietor for the first Kyuss fan website, who recommended All That's Heavy do a compilation of unsigned bands that Kyuss fans would enjoy. This resulted in the formation of MeteorCity Records and the release of the compilation Welcome to MeteorCity in 1998, which included established desert and stoner rock acts, as well as new bands established by John Garcia of Kyuss, Ed Mundell of Monster Magnet, and Pete Stahl of Goatsnake. The album was the first time that the new stoner rock bands Sixty Watt Shaman, Lowrider, The Atomic Bitchwax, Dozer, Goatsnake, and Los Natas were featured on record. According to MeteorCity founders:
"When this was happening, there wasn't really a [stoner rock] scene yet, there were just a lot of people around the world who were still sad about the end of Kyuss, as well as the end of Slo Burn, and who listened to stuff like Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu but wanted more. The label took off when we appeared with Welcome to Meteor City, as though the world was waiting for someone to do what we were doing."
MeteorCity soon signed a number of musicians and bands from the Palm Desert Scene, including Hermano, Unida and emerging Swedish stoner rock bands such as Lowrider, Dozer and The Mushroom River Band.During this time, The Hidden Hand and Spirit Caravan also began to gain popularity within the developing scene.
In June 2000, Josh Homme's new project Queens of the Stone Age released their breakthrough album Rated R , which helped bring the stoner rock sound into the mainstream, despite the band themselves rejecting both the genre and their being labelled as such.
Songs for the Deaf , their next release in 2002, included a single from the album peaking at No. 1 on the US Modern Rock Tracks.Another label focusing on the international stoner rock scene was Small Stone Records, which released a number of compilation albums of stoner rock bands doing covers of 1970s music, including Right in the Nuts: A Tribute to Aerosmith (2000), Sucking the 70's (2002), and Sucking the 70's – Back in the Saddle Again (2006).
In 2002, the Orquesta del Desierto was formed featuring key members of the major desert rock bands, and released two albums.
In 2009, the magazines Decibel and Terrorizer released issues featuring a list of the 100 greatest and most important albums of the 2000s, respectively. The stoner band Electric Wizard's Dopethrone was featured on both lists, being placed 10th on Decibel's list and 1st on the Terrorizer's one.
Since Kyuss' break-up, the success of the bandmates' other projects has caused the Kyuss back catalogue to become more widely listened to and their fanbase has inevitably swelled. The sound has been continued on by directly descendant bands Unida, Slo Burn, Hermano, Mondo Generator, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork and the Bros, and at times by Queens of the Stone Age, who have since largely departed from Kyuss' stoner rock sound, and reject the label, preferring the term "desert rock".
As acknowledged by Dave Wyndorf, the lead singer of Monster Magnet, in a 2015 interview: "Europe is really good for psychedelic music."So much so that some US stoner rock bands will even choose to tour Europe rather than North America. Founded by a French aficionado of stoner rock, the website MoreFuzz.net has been a big promoter of the stoner rock scene in Europe and internationally. Stoner rock bands in Europe, much like their North American counterparts, mix elements of heavy rock music with psychedelia and acid rock. The influence of Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer can be heard – among other examples – in bands such as the Swedish Graveyard and the German Kadavar. In addition to this mix, the influence of krautrock – such as with Kungens Män, a Swedish band -, or of free jazz, – such as in the case of the Portuguese band Black Bombaim collaborating with the German free jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Peter Brötzmann – can be heard as well. While instrumental stoner rock such as Karma to Burn are rare in the US, numerous European stoner rock bands, for their part, choose to remain instrumental. This is the case of stoner rock bands such as Radar Men From The Moon from the Netherlands, Mother Engine from Germany, Black Bombaim from Portugal, or Band in the Pit from Hungary (with some instrumental stoner rock jams exceeding 20 minutes).
[Kyuss] almost single handed invented the phrase 'Stoner Rock'. They achieved this by tuning way down and summoning up a subterranean, organic sound...
Stoner metal could be campy and self-aware, messily evocative, or unabashedly retro.
...they are widely acknowledged as pioneers of the booming stoner rock scene of the 1990s...
...sounding like a cross between Sleep's drowsy, Black Sabbath-like meanderings and Electric Wizard/Burning Witch-style gut-curdling, muddy sludge.
...elements of hardcore punk, psychedelic stoner rock, technical speed metal, and good old-fashioned Black Sabbath sludge appear in their music.
...manufacturing that sludgy, choleric sound...
...it so effortlessly bridged the stylistic gaps between doom, sludge, stoner, horror, and, at times, even space metal...
The second Buffalo album, Volcanic Rock, is now heralded as the first great stoner rock record.
Baxter is the true star of, and instigator behind, 'Volcanic Rock,' beginning with his blistering leads that launch album opener 'Sunrise (Come My Way),' which shares as much DNA with the MC5 as it does with Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. Not surprisingly, the song has since been shamelessly cannibalized for its parts by more stoner-rock bands than you can shake a bong at.
"Till My Death" brings the good times back, as the band lays down some excellent proto-stoner riffs layered with a chorus that is very of-the-times melodic, the band taking a Zep songwriting structure but crashing and bashing it through a gritty Detroit filter. "The Prophet" then slows things down a bit, which is perfect: this band excels when going heavier and slower, and it’s also where their personality shines. Dave Tice’s vocals soar with a ton of '70s gruff-guy grit 'n' melody, but they’re charming enough to make you wonder why this band didn’t get bigger than they did. A killer song, one that has enough metal heft to sound great to longhairs today, but also enough free-flowin' '70s vibes to make it a hit back then. Corrosion of Conformity (with Pepper Keenan) could cover this and it would fit right in any of their albums. We’re talking proto-doom, stoner, even nearing sludge here.
Although they are widely acknowledged as pioneers of the booming stoner rock scene of the 1990s, the band enjoyed little commercial success during their brief existence [...]. Soon hailed as a landmark by critics and fans alike, the album (Blues for the Red Sun) took the underground metal world by storm and established the signature Kyuss sound once and for all: [...].
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom and the United States. 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.
Kyuss was an American rock band, formed in Palm Desert, California, in 1987. Kyuss disbanded in 1995, and since then, members of Kyuss have gone on to form or play in several notable bands including Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu, Dwarves, Eagles of Death Metal, Mondo Generator, Hermano, Unida, Slo Burn and Them Crooked Vultures.
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.
Blues for the Red Sun is the second studio album by American rock band Kyuss, released in 1992. While the album received mainly favorable reviews, it fared poorly commercially, selling only 39,000 units. It has since become a very influential album within the stoner rock genre. It was the last Kyuss album to feature bassist Nick Oliveri, who was replaced by Scott Reeder shortly after recording had been completed. Reeder had previously played with the Obsessed.
A number of heavy metal genres have developed since the emergence of heavy metal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At times heavy metal genres may overlap or are difficult to distinguish, but they can be identified by a number of traits. They may differ in terms of: instrumentation, tempo, song structure, vocal style, lyrics, guitar playing style, drumming style, and so on.
Sludge metal 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. The Melvins from the US state of Washington produced the first sludge metal albums in the late 1980s, as well as being influential in the grunge scene. Sludge as a distinct genre emerged after 1990 also through the work of Louisiana bands such as Eyehategod and Crowbar. Later bands often border on stoner rock or post-metal.
The Palm Desert Scene is a group of related bands and musicians from Palm Desert, Southern California. Their hard rock sound – often described as desert rock – contains elements of psychedelia, blues, heavy metal, punk rock, acid rock, alternative rock, and other genres. It often features distinctive repetitive drum beats, a propensity for free-form jamming, and "trance-like" or "sludgy" grooves. The involved musicians often play in multiple bands simultaneously, and there is a high rate of collaboration between bands. The Palm Desert Scene is also notable for fostering stoner rock pioneers Kyuss. The term "stoner rock" is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "desert rock". However, not all Palm Desert scene bands are "stoner rock" and not all stoner rock bands sound exactly like those in Palm Desert. Palm Desert has been named by Blender magazine as "one of the top seven rock n' roll cities in America".
Brant Bjork is an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Palm Desert, California. He is perhaps best known as the drummer and founder of the influential Californian stoner rock band Kyuss. Bjork played in Vista Chino, along with former Kyuss vocalist John Garcia, up until October 2014, at which point Nick Oliveri announced that there was a falling out and that Bjork and Garcia would continue working on their solo projects. He is one of the more notable figures in the stoner rock and Palm Desert scenes and maintains a prolific solo career with over a dozen released albums.
The Atomic Bitchwax is an American rock band from New Jersey, formed in 1992 by bassist/singer/songwriter Chris Kosnik, guitarist Ed Mundell, and drummer Keith Ackerman. They did not release their first full-length album until 1999, upon signing with TeePee Records. Mixing elements of 1960s psychedelic rock and 1970s riff rock filtered through modern progressive rock, their music has appeared in popular TV shows including Jackass,Home Wrecker, and various Fox Sports broadcasts.
Trouble is an American doom metal band from Aurora, Illinois, formed in 1979 and considered one of the pioneers of the genre alongside Candlemass and Saint Vitus. The band created a distinct style taking influences of the British heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and psychedelic rock of the 1970s. A critically acclaimed group, their first two albums, Psalm 9 and The Skull, are cited as landmarks of doom metal. To date, Trouble has released eight studio albums. Although the band never officially broke up, Trouble was plagued by extended inactivity after their original singer Eric Wagner left in 1997. He eventually rejoined in 2000 before leaving again eight years later.
Sixty Watt Shaman is an American rock band known for incorporating hard rock with blues, southern rock, doom rock, punk rock and metal influences, originally based out of Eldersburg, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Montgomery Village, Maryland. The band play a diverse repertoire of hard hitting groove rock and ethereal psychedelic jams, with classic tube tones, echoing heavy blues, southern groove, doom, and even the ghostly spirit of historic Americana and Appalachian bluegrass. They formed in 1996 and recorded and released their first studio album in 1998. The band last recorded in 2002. The last official band tour was in late 2002 through January 2003; but, have made several reunion appearances since, including Desertfest Berlin and Desertfest London in 2014. The band continues efforts focused on festival events in the US and Europe, and in 2017 are writing and recording new music for release. They are widely regarded as innovators in their musical genre with the "Sixty Watt" sound, and have been both imitated and replicated by peers and bands who followed in their footsteps.
Neo-psychedelia is a diverse genre of psychedelic music that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene, also called acid punk. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelia, either updating or copying the approaches from that era. After post-punk, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, recording experiments, the British alternative rock genre of Madchester and stoner rock. A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.
Solace is a heavy metal band hailing from the Jersey Shore, United States.
Electric Wizard is the debut studio album by English doom metal band Electric Wizard released in 1994 through Rise Above Records and re-released bundled with their second album, Come My Fanatics... in 1999. A remastered version was then released on CD and LP in 2006, with two bonus tracks, taken from a demo entitled Doom Chapter.
MeteorCity Records is an American record label. MeteorCity was founded in 1997 by Jadd Shickler and Aaron Emmel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With the release of its compilation album Welcome to MeteorCity showcasing young unsigned Kyuss-like bands, MeteorCity helped launch the stoner rock genre and many of the genre's first bands, plus side projects from members of well-known bands including The Atomic Bitchwax and Hermano. MeteorCity Records was one of the first record labels dedicated exclusively to Stoner rock, doom metal, sludge metal, drone metal and psychedelic rock.
All That is Heavy is an online music store based in Texas and founded in 1997. It is the first online record store dedicated exclusively to the genres of stoner rock, doom metal, sludge metal, drone metal and psychedelic rock. All That is Heavy was originally owned and operated MeteorCity Records, which was instrumental in the growth of the late 1990s stoner rock scene. Distributed labels, besides their formerly in-house MeteorCity Records, include Tee Pee, Volcom Entertainment, Small Stone Records, Rise Above Records, and others. The store was operated by the now defunct StonerRock.com from 2001 to 2010, and was owned by Dan Beland. On 25 August 2017 it was announced that All That Is Heavy would be taken into new ownership by Casey Kelch and relocated to Houston, Texas.
Lions were an American rock band from Austin, Texas, formed in 2005. The lineup consists of singer Matt Drenik, guitarist Austin Kalman and drummer Jake Perlman. Trevor Sutcliffe was Lions' bassist from their formation until his departure in 2009, where he was replaced by Mike Sellman. The band formed following the breakup of The Good Looks, the previous band of both Drenik and Perlman.
Occult rock is a subgenre of rock music that originated in the late 1960s to early 1970s, pioneered by bands such as Coven and Black Widow. The genre is influenced by hard rock, proto-metal, psychedelic rock, progressive rock and blues, as well as commonly incorporating lyrics referencing the occult. Despite the common perception, it has been noted that occult rock is not inherently gloomy nor dark, however many bands have ventured down that path.
Hymns to the Stone is the first full-length studio album from Welsh stoner rock/doom band Acrimony. It was released in 1994 on Godhead Recordings. In November 2019, Hymns to the Stone was reissued as part of a 3-CD digipack and remastered edition by the Dutch music label Burning World Records.