Archives For Metal History

Today, doom is more popular now than it ever has been, across all fronts.

There are over forty years of legendary bands and songs to jam out on, and there will always be musicians who love to write a killer riff. There will likely always be an audience for that too, as long as mainstream music continues to fail at satisfying this need. But life in a doom metal band can be quite hard. Many of these musicians work second jobs to keep a roof overhead and the lights on, producing their work independently due to lack of mainstream label interest. Even a successful doom musician like Scott Weinrich has an arrangement with his wife to be a stay-at-home dad with his kids when he isn’t on tour.

This has fostered a DIY ethos traditionally associated with punk rock and a small, though strong and knowledgeable community of fans. Many bands these days are embracing old technology anew with the organic warmth of tube amps and other traditional methods of recording. You could call it “retro” or “vintage” if you wanted, or even cynically suggest that they are only fetishizing analog methods to play to the disenfranchisement with the new. But if they want to create this music, do they really have much choice?

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It’s now the 1990s.

Parts 1 and 2 of this series on doom metal have been largely about traditional doom, or “trad doom” for short. It’s a style still practiced today by many bands, and an important kickoff point for new fans of the genre. Here in Part 3 though, we’re going to step off the trad track set up by St. Vitus, Pentagram and others. Here, you’re likely to find music that appeals just as much to fans of extreme metal as to fans of 70s hard rock and classic rock. Though still a young subgenre in the early 90s, doom was already evolving, taking on the different shades of darkness inherent in the worlds different regions.

Like New Orleans, for example.

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Last time in Part 1, we introduced the proverbial Big Four of doom metal. Though “big” is a word that certainly applies to their elite stature among the subgenre, it did not apply to their sales figures. Even Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, the Candlemass debut record that is often considered doom metal’s finest hour, was a commercial flop upon its 1986 release. Though it’s a phrase that originally applied to the Velvet Underground, I think it’s fair to say that “not many people heard those early albums, but everyone who did went out and started a band.”

One of those copies of Epicus reached Messiah Marcolin, who sang for a band called Mercy with a booming, intense, opera-like voice. He called Leif Edling in the middle of the night, sang him “Solitude” over the phone, and offered to sing for Candlemass. While dressed as a medieval monk.

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It was late on a freezing winter night, and I wanted to listen to some metal.

But I was in the mood for something a little different. My usual go-tos like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and anything involving Ronnie James Dio were all in heavy rotation already, and I had also been listening to a lot of death metal and black metal so I wasn’t really feeling those either.

Into that need for something a little different stepped Candlemass, my first true experience with what we call “doom metal.”

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Before I move onto other topics on HOM, today I want to solicit some feedback from you readers about my History of Death Metal series, which I just recently wrapped up. Reception seemed generally positive, but I’m interested to hear from all of you: how’d I do?

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Thus far in this series about the history and development of death metal, we’ve focused on three cities where the extreme music scene was quite strong: the Tampa Bay area, New York, and Montreal. Although bastions of death metal music, with the advent of the Internet and increased globalization, it became easier and easier for bands outside these main clusters to connect with each other….and to be discovered by new fans. We no longer have to turn to tape trading or the like to discover fascinating new acts, as metal has become a truly international (if still underground) sensation.

This final part of my history of death metal is about death metal elsewhere, outside the main hubs of extreme music and the bands carrying it to the far corners of this world…

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Previously in this series on death metal, we discussed the early days of the genre and the different scenes and sounds that developed in cities like Tampa, Montreal, and New York. There was already an astounding variety at work, from the brutal and basic acts like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide to the serious technicality and musical theory of Atheist and Death. But as the 90s blazed onward, death metal would begin to splinter into an even greater variety of subgenres. It was obvious that there was more to this music than just an uninhibited focus on speed, aggression, and gore. Mainstream commercial success continued to elude it nonetheless.

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In the early 1990s, the death metal scene in the USA was booming in Tampa Bay, Florida. Extreme metal heavyweights like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and Deicide were spreading their wings with a new sound that was even heavier than the heaviest thrash metal. During this time, a band called Death was right in the thick of it; some even credit them with giving the genre its name. So-called “brutal death metal” was born.

But there was more going on within death metal than this newfound brutality or an obsession with who could play faster, or be more evil. Another sound called “technical death metal” was emerging too. Keeping traditional death metal elements like blast beats and harsh vocals, technical death metal has its name because it combines frequent changes of riffs, time signature and mood within the same song (a feature more commonly seen in progressive music). Off-beat rhythms, non-traditional song structures, a high degree of complexity and theory are the order of the day. It’s a kind of music that really rewards repeated close listening and can take a while to internalize, but is very rewarding when you do.

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