Stoner rock and stoner metal are interchangeable terms describing sub-genres of rock and metal music. It combines elements of psychedelic rock, blues-rock and doom metal. Stoner rock is typically slow-to-mid tempo and features low-tuned guitars, a bass-heavy sound, melodic vocals, and 'retro' production. The genre emerged during the early 1990s and was pioneered foremost by the California bands Kyuss and Sleep.
The progenitors of stoner rock, like their followers today, often share the characteristic that they and their audiences are recreational users of marijuana, or "stoners". While it would be grossly inaccurate to describe all fans and performers of stoner rock as marijuana users, it is certainly accepted that the effects of marijuana and the downtuned, slow, and psychedelic riffs of stoner rock complement one another — which eventually led to the common usage of the term "stoner rock" or "stoner metal" to define the genre.
This kind of connection between music and the use of drugs is not unique in music culture. Similar comparisons can be made between dance music and recreational drugs such as ecstasy. Various musicians who identify themselves as marijuana users (notably Pantera, who have included cannabis logos on their merchandise) do not qualify as "stoner rock" as the style of their musical output is largely outside the genre.
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 avoids stoner metal's positive atmosphere and its usage of psychedelia. Bands such as Bongzilla, Weedeater, High on Fire and Electric Wizard have been reported to fuse both styles.
Like most subgenres of music, the origins of stoner rock are hard to trace and pinpoint. Nevertheless, stoner rock has its known progenitors and signature songs that helped shape the genre. English heavy metal band Black Sabbath and American heavy metal/acid rock band Blue Cheer hold a significant place in the evolution of stoner rock.
Although Black Sabbath were one of the first bands to popularize this type of music, they were not the first to produce it, nor can they be accurately described as a stoner band. Various 60's and 70's bands experimented with guitar sounds that inspired future generations, with Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Grateful Dead, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin firmly among them. Hendrix's "Band of Gypsys" pumped out riff-laden, jam session type tunes with obvious psychedelic overtones, while Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti" displayed a lighter side to the emerging genre. However, it wasn't until after the electropop of the 80's and eventually grunge of the early 90's had taken the stage that people noticed a new style of music was being created from elements of different genres. Allmusic summarizes this 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.
Early development (1990s)
During the early–mid 1990s, a number of Californian 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, which is often regarded as the first stoner rock/metal album. 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 metallers Sleep released their album Sleep's Holy Mountain. It became a favorite of the heavy metal press and the band was heralded, along with Kyuss, as leaders of the emerging stoner scene. These two bands were the first to introduce a "trippy" groove to their doom-influenced sound. 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. The latter are regarded as pioneers of the British stoner scene.
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.
Today, not many bands associated with stoner rock enjoy mainstream success. In the United States, bands affiliated with the genre, such as Monster Magnet, Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu, The Sword and Clutch remain popular in the mainstream. Elsewhere, Canada's Sheavy, Priestess, and On the Verge, USA's Nebula, Sweden's Spiritual Beggars, Britain's Orange Goblin, and Germany's Colour Haze enjoy consistent regional support. Nowadays the Scandinavian stoner scene is also growing with successful bands like Brain Police from Iceland and Dozer from Sweden .
- Sharpe-Young, Garry. Rockdetector – Kyuss biography. Rockdetector. Retrieved on 2007-12-10. “[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. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2007-12-10. “Stoner metal could be campy and self-aware, messily evocative, or unabashedly retro.”
- Eduardo Rivadavia. Kyuss biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2007-12-10. “…they are widely acknowledged as pioneers of the booming stoner rock scene of the 1990s…”
- Eduardo Rivadavia. Sleep biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-07-21.
- Serba, John. Bongzilla - Gateway. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-09-02. “…sounding like a cross between Sleep's drowsy, Black Sabbathy meanderings and Electric Wizard/Burning Witch-style gut-curdling, muddy sludge.”
- Mason, Stewart. Kylesa. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-09-02. “…elements of hardcore punk, psychedelic stoner rock, technical speed metal, and good old-fashioned Black Sabbath sludge appear in their music.”
- Rivadavia, Eduardo. Bongzilla. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-09-01.
- Rivadavia, Eduardo. Weedeater. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-09-01.
- Violante, Isaiah. High on Fire - Surrounded by Thieves. Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved on 2008-09-01. “…manufacturing that sludgy, choleric sound…”
- Rockdetector: High on Fire biography
- Rivadavia, Eduardo and Koets, Tara. Electric Wizard. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-09-02. “…it so effortlessly bridged the stylistic gaps between doom, sludge, stoner, horror, and, at times, even space metal…”
- Rivadavia, Eduardo. Kyuss Biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2007-07-15. “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: […].”
- Kyuss - Muchas Gracias: The Best Of - Album Reviews - NME.COM
- Rockdetector - Kyuss biography
- Leafhound Records - Acrimony biography
- Rivadavia, Eduardo. Wolfmother biography. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2007-07-15. “Wolfmother made the jump to the majors in early 2006 courtesy of an American distribution deal for Modular through Interscope. Their self-titled album debut appeared in May and reached the Top 40”
- Allmusic entry for Stoner metal/rock
- StonerRock.com - websource devoted to Stoner Rock (defunct)
- Riffipedia - The Stoner Rock Wiki
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