It was fortunate indeed that prog metal fans like me didn’t have to wait another nine years for the next Fates Warning album.

Like the entire record, opening cut “From the Rooftops” has all the ingredients I admire most about Fates Warning’s approach to the subgenre. It starts out sounding like a Bond theme; I can even picture the curling smoke and opening credits. It morphs into tight interplay between the rhythmic chugging and drummer Bobby Jarzombek’s expert hi-hat work. Always a delight to listen to, always complimenting the other music, Jarzombek is the ultra-precise, unsung hero of Theories of Flight for me.

The song also has the melodic mid-range chorus by Ray Alder, and a trademark Frank Aresti guitar solo. It is the perfect, seven-minute middle ground between the more compressed, chorus-centric tracks on Theories of Flight (like “Seven Stars”) and the extended suites (like “The Ghosts of Home”).

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November 23rd, 2013 – Webster Hall, New York, NY

“I know it’s getting late…but here we are, here we are…” – “A Pleasant Shade of Gray, Part 6”

It was windy and below freezing on East 11th St, and yet there I was standing only a few yards from Ray Alder, who was enjoying a cigarette and finishing a call on his cell phone. Politeness dictated that I not interrupt, even if it was just to tell him to have a great show.

Neither he nor the rest of his band needed my encouragement. Fates Warning put on an impressive show of progressive metal on the strength of its first album of new material in nearly a decade.

For once, I wasn’t attending a show solo: a friend was joining me for his first proper metal concert, and he was blown away by the evening’s celebration of prog metal greatness. “I was in the zone from about…uh…30 seconds into the first song!” he exclaimed later.

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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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“Don’t believe what you see
Don’t believe what you read.” – “Propaganda,” from the album Chaos A.D.

Max Cavalera of Sepultura should have been a torch bearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Metal is as emblematic of Brazil as is Pele or the Amazon,” a passionate fan told Sam Dunn in Global Metal.

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When death metal legends Morbid Angel released their first album in 8 years, Illud Divinum Insanus, the reaction of the metal community was something like this:

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