Doom metal has its origins in the early 70’s, with heavy metal band Black Sabbath playing songs with slow riffing and dark, foreboding lyrics. In the '80s, bands like Saint Vitus, Trouble, and Candlemass took those elements and warped them into what became known as doom metal. The genre spanned out in the early '90s to include other musical genres, including death, thrash, and black metal to form a multitude of subgenres. Today, the genre is still going strong, especially in the underground scene. Here's a list of the essential albums in the doom metal genre.
Arguably the most well-known of the early doom metal bands, Candlemass has carved out a long career, one full of nothing but consistent material. While 1988's Ancient Dreams wasn’t the band’s first album, it was the first that had the band finding their feet and hitting the ground running. No needless instrumentals this time around. Most of the songs were in the six-plus minute category, but the band kept the songs interesting the whole time.
My Dying Bride’s earlier albums were a small taste of what the group could create as musicians, and 1995’s The Angel And The Dark River was the first album where all the pieces fell into place. Martin Powell’s violin work is a key part of the songwriting, and Aaron Stainthorpe hones in his vocals, almost eliminating the death metal growls, improving upon his lackluster clean vocals that were present in Turn Loose The Swans. Opener “The Cry Of Mankind” is a live favorite to this day.
An American doom metal band that could compete with the rest of the European crowd, Novembers Doom’s 1995 debut album Amid Its Hallowed Mirth is a fantastic group collection of songs that form a wall of sound that engulfs the listener and pulls them down into a black hole of sorrow. The production isn’t great, but most doom metal albums of the early '90s suffered from the same problem. The fact that the band got better as time went on is a feat most can’t even come close to.
Pagan Altar - 'Volume 1'
If this album was released in the early '80s, as it was originally intended to, instead of 1998, Pagan Altar could have been a household name. Instead, the band is regaled to cult status. Volume 1 mixes NWOBHM with a slower vibe a la Black Sabbath, forming a sound that is both menacing and lumbering.
One of the first doom metal albums, Saint Virus’s 1984 self-titled debut is where it all began for the genre. All the elements contained within the five tracks and 35 minutes were copied by hundreds of other bands. The fuzzy production, slow burning melodies, and steady, loud rhythm section is everything that makes doom metal what it is, at least in its early incarnation.
Vocalist Robert Lowe is known now as the lead singer for Candlemass, but before that, he was the vocalist for Texas’s own Solitude Aeturnus. As far as doom metal bands go, they are pretty underrated, and 1992’s Beyond The Crimson Horizon is proof of that. While it wasn’t the defining moment in the genre, the album was a showcase of talented musicians and rock-solid songwriting. Lowe, in particular, is at the top of his game, hitting high notes that left mouths wide-open in amazement.
A dark horse on this list, Solstice has only had two studio albums to its name. That doesn’t blur the fact that their 1994 debut Lamentations is a fantastic doom metal that is epic in scope. The songs are long, some hitting the nine-minute mark, and the band’s philosophy is “patience is a virtue.” Molded in the vein of Candlemass, Solstice wasn’t original, but they were damn good at what they did, and that helped them gain a small cult following.
Along with Saint Vitus, 1984's Psalm 9 is required listening for any doom metal fan. The album crushes everything in its way, with solos that leaned towards melodic tendencies, instead of shredding and fast tapping. The band was able to mix mid-paced, weighty numbers and speedy, straight-forward songs, making the whole album an interesting listen. The cover of Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses” was a nice touch as well.
Type O Negative successfully mixed gothic and doom metal together, forming a depressive and downtrodden sound that has attracted fans of both genres. 1996’s October Rust is the first great album by the band, where the gloomy atmosphere was one of the key elements in defining the legacy of Type O Negative. The band worked as a unit, with the package being more important than one specific part.
Relatively unknown in the genre due to their brief time together as a band, Witchfinder General got a jump start on the early stages of doom metal with their 1982 debut Death Penalty. Short, sweet, and to the point, the album was notorious for its graphic cover art, featuring a bare-breasted woman getting attacked outside of a church.