Weed's legal now. So you're all stoned and need a soundtrack? Try some stoner metal, bruh
It's 2014, which means you can now legally smoke marijuana here. Of course, most of the people smoking now probably haven't been waiting patiently for the government's seal of approval to sample nature's goodness. Still, we get the feeling that the end of prohibition means there's a lot of newly minted stoners among us in search of a soundtrack. If so, you've come to the right place, my friend. We've got a list of bands for you to check out, one of which you can see in the flesh tomorrow night at the Gothic.
On the surface, metal doesn't appear to pair well with pot. It's very loud, caustic and aggressive, and it demands that you rack your body with whiplash and spinal trauma -- hardly a good time, by many people's standards. But for the musically and mentally adventurous, there is a whole world of possibility. An alien place where you must shift your perspective and develop new senses to survive. It's the world of stoner metal.
Metal is a genre of extremes. That means testing the boundaries of both speed and slothfulness, infinity stretching in both directions. Stoner metal is a broad term in today's musical climate, but it's generally used to describe any metal that falls on the slower end of the spectrum. In its purest form, stoner metal means the uber-heavy but bluesy psychedelics of Sleep (due at the Gothic Theatre this Friday, January 3), but the term now encompasses so much more. Death metal and black metal have bled into the pot, creating endless wonderful perversions of noise.
Patience isn't a virtue in a lot of music. A relatively quick payoff is expected, naturally, in the form of a chorus or a hook. Metal isn't an exception. You demand the monster riff, and while there are still plenty of those in stoner and doom metal, they don't always make themselves apparent.
Sleep is actually a pretty good place to begin the journey. Rising from the ashes of Asbestosdeath in the early '90s, Sleep combined the heaviest parts of '70s rock with previously unheard levels of distortion to create the essence of stoner metal. Sleep's 1993 album Holy Mountain sounds like Led Zeppelin stuck in a tar pit. Big riffs like the opening of "Druid" are familiar enough for more conventional rock fans, but they are heavier than lead.
Since then, of course, things have gotten even more interesting.
Seattle's Samothrace, like the Greek island it's named for, is both beautiful and imbued with tragedy. Like a lot of stoner bands, Samothrace play the blues, but not the kind you weep to rather than party over. Frontman Bryan Spinks howls with a death-ish roar over slow-burning but recognizable riffs of immense emotional substance. The effect, like on "Awkward Hearts," from 2008's Life's Trade, is breathtaking and nearly tear inducing. Though the band has the power to hurt it also has the power to be equally uplifting like on the mid-section of "When We Emerged," where the outfit suddenly transforms into a better version of early-era A Perfect Circle.