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JJ's Bizarre Blog #26 - Fly High Towards the Riff-Filled Land (feat. AdamDam)


What’s poppin’, everyone? The weather is getting warmer, the greenery is glowing and the world is blossoming with colour, so I hope your mood has been uplifted by the seasonal shift. April seems to be a month of changes, of new beginnings and of new eras and the Bizarre Blogs will follow suit. I promised you something big last time and I’m here to deliver. To begin this bold second year of bloggery, I’m gonna do something I’ve never done before – collaborate! For you see, it’s a very special day today and I’ve chosen a topic just for the occasion – stoner rock and stoner metal. Problem was, I wasn’t too well versed in on my own. But good vibes are meant to be shared and this is a genre built on collaboration and community, so I reached out to a connoisseur, an expert, our resident stoner rock messiah, the Star Program’s very own @AdamDam and he was gracious enough to enlighten me on the secrets of it all. With his wisdom, I welcome you on this dazzling journey to fantastical worlds. Let’s celebrate the cool vibes of spring and share the good feeling by diving into the realms of stoner rock and stoner metal!


So what is this genre even like? Well, it’s a subgenre of rock and metal (the line is quite blurred between both here) that is known for its slow and mellow sound. Stoner rock and stoner metal songs are usually played at a slow- to mid-tempo, taking many stylistic cues from doom metal, although most (but not all) tend to forgo the overly dark and depressive tone of doom. Songs are very guitar driven and tend to be based around a central riff, which is usually “riffed on” and explored through variations and repetition. The guitars are heavily downtuned and the tone is drowned in gratuitous amounts of effects, most prominently distortion and fuzz, reducing the notes to a low pitched earthy rumble. This is why stoner metal is sometimes described as “low and slow”. Vocals are usually shouty and straightforward, forgoing more complex vocal techniques such as vibrato, falsetto, etc. Lyrics often focus on otherworldly topics like journeying through fantastical lands, space exploration, aliens and philosophical contemplation but also staying closer to the earth with topics of nature, love and just having a good time.


Going down to the roots of it all, we must go closer to the earth too, with the band originally known as Earth. For you see, stoner metal began where all metal began – with Black Sabbath! We already mentioned that stoner takes after doom metal in many ways and doom is practically the first ever metal subgenre, invented by Sabbath themselves. Besides that, the Birmingham bunch, with their fantastical and esoteric lyrics, low tuned guitar riffs and slow bluesy songs are a very clear blueprint for what stoner metal would one day become. Just listen to Sweet Leaf and you will see that all the elements of the genre described above are already present. This seed had already been planted.


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But in order to grow, it needs some fertilizer and that comes in the form of the other major influence on the sound, aesthetics and artistry of stoner rock and metal, namely psychedelic rock. And no one man was more important than the bright burning star of Jimi Hendrix. In the few short years that he graced the music stage of the world, he revolutionized guitar playing and all of rock music, becoming the spark that started a revolution. 


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Metal itself owes a lot to the psychedelic bands of the 60s and a lot of songs from this era are among the heaviest pre-Sabbath recordings ever. Their vibrant colours and flowing lyricism embodied this decade and were a major influence on a lot of popular music. Their effects-heavy Hendrix-style guitar work, extrapolated from blues, would be a key ingredient for a big fire to come.


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With the seed planted and fertile soil provided, it was time for stoner rock to truly sprout into it’s own during the early 90s. All it needed was plenty of sunshine. This would be found out in the deserts of California. With its love of freedom, rebellious nature, rich and storied music scene and strong stoner culture (where do you think the name comes from), Cali was the perfect breeding ground for this new sound to come to life. A lot of this development was born around the so called generator parties, with the bands playing out in the desert, most often in a little place you may have heard called Coachella, with equipment powered by diesel generators. This is also why you often hear the term “desert rock” be used interchangeably with stoner rock. These performances were long, improvisational and involved frequent intermixing and collaboration between various bands.  From the nature of these parties, the stoner sound would get it’s slow and mellow sound based on the repetition of central riffs with variations layered on top. Through natural selection, two main bands would arise that would establish the genre proper – Kyuss in Palm Desert, SoCal and Sleep in San Jose, NorCal. From then and to this day, these dudes are the quintessential essence of the stoner sound. 


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Beyond that, their California fellows from Yawning Man would be another key influence to the desert rock sound, but would release an album only after many many years. On the other side of the US in New Jersey, the titans of Monster Magnet would tangentially arrive at a very similar sound, joining the growing movement that was ready to become a global sensation.


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The United States would remain the most fertile ground and the biggest fire pit for stoner rock and metal to grow around during the 90s and the vibe was being shared all over the place. Passing the influence from one epic band to the next, the genre was growing bigger and louder. 


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Into the 2000s, this American fire was still burning and stoner rock and metal had become staples of the greater metal sphere with world tours and festivals spreading the good word all over. The smoke had already managed to spread to Canada, with the mighty Sons of Otis hopping in on the fun.


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The pioneers from Kyuss and Sleep would have turbulent histories, but would remain an influence all throughout. The legendary Queens of the Stone Age by former Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme would achieve worldwide success and the titans from High on Fire and OM, formed by former Sleep members, would keep plowing new ground and growing new sounds into the greater stoner metal sphere.


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Such a powerful vibe couldn’t be contained to one nation of course. It wouldn’t take long for the smoke to spread over the Atlantic and for Europe to begin its own growth. The first big batch would be from the UK. Being the home of the progenitors Black Sabbath and many classic psychedelic rock acts, Great Britain was a breeding ground ripe for the picking with countless band rising up to the occasion and cementing themselves as some of the greatest stoner metal bands of all time. A lot of them also went for a much more magical and whimsical approach to their artistry, whilst keeping the original vibe intact.


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Across the channel, many countries from continental Europe caught a whiff of the loud party going on also began growing their own stoner metal legends that would add more kindling to the global blaze. 


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Germany, Sweden, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, regardless if north, south, east or west, everyone wanted to share the vibe.


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One country that warrants a special mention would be Greece, who would grow a particularly strong local scene of stoner rock, stoner metal, psychedelic rock, southern metal and many adjacent genres. I mean, some of it is a bit odd, but in the grand scheme of things, Greece is pretty southern in Europe itself, so it checks out I guess. Also the hot sun and amazing coasts could prove a similar breeding ground for this same vibe to form as in California. Also, the Hellenic lands are full of millennia of history that has soaked their earth with magical energy and if this isn’t the perfect atmosphere to grow this movement, I don’t know what is.


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With the genre having become such a global sensation, it was only natural that the sound would evolve into various offspring as well. One important evolution came from the pioneers Sleep when they would release one of the most unique and monumental albums of all time – 2003’s Dopesmoker. What really stands out is that this entire album is comprised of just a single song with a length of over one hour! While something like this had been done in the past many time from progressive rock bands and the like, it would never be in the format that Dopesmoker is in. To me, this album is the quintessence of what stoner metal is all about. It has the signature sound and the same riff idea is experimented and expanded upon for the duration of the entire record. It truly feels like one song beginning to end. With a lot of obvious improvisation and a very dense atmosphere, combined with the iconic desert imagery, this record truly feels like a generator party you can listen to at home or on the go. Its iconic status is well deserved.




This type of bold album has become a staple of stoner metal and has even spread beyond to other adjacent genres. Once people found that such an approach was possible, a whole new creative was lit and more and more have become confident enough to take it.


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Another offshoot and kindred spirit of stoner metal would be sludge metal. A very befitting name, sludge grew alongside stoner as another disciple of doom metal with significant overlap forming between the two as time went on. But while stoner metal was a nice pleasant vibe channeling the legendary generator parties, sludge metal is like a bad trip, fully embracing the darkness of doom metal. Sludge is also slow, low-tuned, grimey and wrought with dense atmosphere and delving into the most painful aspects of life. No better example can be found than the eccentric and enthralling Louisiana legends Acid Bath, who dropped two of the greatest albums of all time and then promptly dipped out of existence. 


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From the 90s onward, sludge has continued to spread like miasma. Its overly bleak nature has kept it relatively niche and few have achieved significant commercial success, but for the true lurkers of the darkest corners of life, this is just the medicine they were looking for.


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On a more positive note, we mentioned way back in the beginning how 60s psychedelic rock was one of the key influences behind the creation of stoner rock – well, some bands have delved especially deeply into that influence to craft what is known as psychedelic stoner rock. Carrying the 60s vibe with colourful imagery and esoteric subject matters, these acts are a peer into almost an alternate version of what the whole genre could’ve been. This is also one of Adam’s favourites and he has the following to say - “There’s also a fair number of good instrumental bands in these genres, especially among the “psychedelic stoner rock” bands, and I’ve noticed that I tend to prefer listening to instrumental music most often in general. Some of my favorite psychedelic stoner rock bands like Causa Sui, My Sleeping Karma, and The Re-Stoned are completely instrumental projects, which I think is great.”


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As we approach the end of this caravan ride, I hope you have gained appreciation for this fascinating genre. In fact, to really capture this appeal, I think I really need to leave it to the wise one himself. Adam, take it away: “I don’t know for certain why stoner rock and stoner metal are two of my favorite genres of music, or those of other fans; however, I can elaborate on a few ideas regarding my own appreciation of these genres. One potential reason why I like these genres is that in stoner rock and stoner metal, there is a lot of emphasis on electric guitar, my favorite instrument to hear (as well as to play, even though I’m not very good at it). Furthermore, in these genres of music, there is also an emphasis on distorted guitar tones and effects from guitar pedals that produce sounds like “fuzz” distortion or “wah” - all sounds that I personally tend to enjoy hearing. I also would say that there’s a lot of variety in the analog gear that musicians use in these genres, and it’s fun for me to listen to different bands with their own unique choices of sounds to produce from their guitars and basses.”




Very well said, thank you, Adam! Not just for that quaint segment, but for enlightening me and by proxy everyone reading this on this fantastic realm of music. I’m gonna be honest, stoner rock/metal had flown under my radar for the longest time and I didn’t pay much attention to it. But now, that has all changed! I have fundamentally changed my opinion on the genre and can now fully appreciate it and its uniqueness. I too love guitar driven music and awesome riffs, so this was all right up my alley. Through this blog I’ve discovered so many bands and albums that I enjoyed delving into and so many more to explore. And I hope that you, reading this, also enjoyed this magnificent trip. Good vibes are to be shared and I’m very happy with the collaborative journey taken. Check the playlist for more awesome tracks and until next time, peace out!