A sub-genre of heavy metal music, Doom metal uses slower tempos and a much heavier or thicker sound. It also makes use of low-tuned guitars. This heavy metal sub-genre is greatly influenced by Black Sabbath’s early works. Black Sabbath were an English band who had developed a prototype for doom metal.
The music and lyrics of doom metal evoke a sense of an impending doom, dread, and despair. Bands like ‘Witchfinder General’ from England defined it as a distinct genre during the first half of the 1980s. Here are some of the prominent features of this sub-genre of heavy metal:
The most common instruments used in doom metal are the bass guitar, electric guitar, and drum kit. Sometimes, keyboards are also used to produce the desired effect. The structures of doom metal remain rooted in the same scales as in blues. For using large amounts of distortion, the bassists and guitarists often tune down their instruments to low notes.
This produces a thick or heavy tone of guitar, which is one of doom metal’s main characteristics. Thus, a loud wall of sound heavy with bass is created. Another defining feature in the instrumentation is a consistent focus on minor tonality and slow tempos. Repetitive rhythms are also employed often without much emphasis on musical structure and harmonic progression.
Lyrics play an important role in the doom metal genre. They are generally quite gloomy and filled with pessimism. The lyrical themes found in this heavy metal sub-genre include depression, fear, suffering, death, grief, anger, and dread. Some of the bands create lyrics in very personal and introspective ways.
Others use symbolism to convey their themes, which may be influenced by literature or occult. There are a few bands of doom metal who use religious themes. ‘Trouble’ were among the genre’s pioneering bands to first incorporate Christian imagery. Pagan and occult imagery have been used by a few others.
Imagery about the Last Judgment to invoke dread or using crucifixes to symbolize death are some of the examples. Lyrics about drugs and drug addiction have also been written by some doom metal bands. This is commonly used by stoner doom bands to describe psychedelic or hallucinogenic events.
Clean vocals are favored by the traditional vocalists of doom metal. These vocals are performed with a sense of desperation, pain, or despair. Generally, the high-tone wails of Ozzy Osbourne, Bobby Liebling, Frank Ferrara, and Zeep Parkes are imitated. By singing it in an operatic style, some epic doom vocalists often take it to the next level.
Over the years, some of the pioneers of this heavy metal sub-genre left the style. Others created something completely new out of doom metal. Some bands in this genre, such as Anathema switched to the emotional and melancholic side of progressive rock. There were bands that continued creating some fabulous music in their new style.
One of the best examples in this regard is Candlemass. This band tried different vocalists while going through several eras. They were successful in producing quality albums throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In the 2000s, many of the highly traditional doom bands and revivalists also appeared on the scene. The best examples of such bands would be Krux and Sorcerer.