Doom Goes Pop

God May Be Dead But DOOM Isn’t

Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum

Doom metal has always been about as underground as you can get for a metal sub-genre. I fondly refer to it as the most long-suffering of my favorite genres, the Rodney Dangerfield of metal. Perhaps because of its strong links to depression and alcohol/drug abuse, most of the early bands were so hapless they simply couldn’t get it together enough to put out an album in early years. That and the fact that the music was not considered remotely commercial and most of the initial recordings sounded like they were recorded in moldy basements with primitive 4 track recorders. Pentagram were rejected by all kinds of labels, and even KISS left a basement rehearsal shaking their heads. Their first album came out in 1985, a full 16 years after they first formed, and three years after the album was actually recorded. Pagan Altar’s debut album from 1982 wasn’t released for another 16 years. The Obsessed’s debut album stayed in the vaults for 5 years until it’s release. But despite several landmark albums from Trouble, Saint Vitus and Candlemass having been released by the late 80s, most metal fans had never heard of doom.

Nevertheless doom did see a modest explosion of new bands in the early 90s, and after a lull in the second half of the decade, has become increasingly popular and widespread through the 2000s. Martin Popoff covered doom in his metal record guides, even though he was dismissive of most everything but Trouble, and Ian Christe tossed doom a bone (four pages) in Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal (2003). It gets a passing mention in Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History Of Heavy Metal (2013). Doom’s reach extended to many different genres, from stoner metal (Electric Wizard, Goatsnake, Warhorse) to sludge (Eyehategod, Ufomammut) drone (Earth, Boris, Sunn O)))), funereal doom (Skepticism, Shape Of Despair, Esoteric) and experimental/avant garde (Corrupted, Neurosis, YOB) and some even getting pretty close to mainstream crossover via their hybrids with classic metal, punk, goth, hard rock and sludge pop (Crowbar, Corrosion Of Conformity, Type O Negative, Down and Torche). But even newer but traditional doom bands like Reverend Bizarre, Lord Vicar, Krux, Orchid, Pilgrim, Pallbearer and Conan, have been fairly successful in reaching good sized audiences and generating a fair amount of media attention thanks to numerous doomcentric blogs and good coverage from UK metal magazines Terrorizer (which published a special “Secret Guide to Doom” in April 2012), Iron Fist, which just started publishing in late 2012, and Decibel in the U.S. Decibel just featured Solitude Aeturnus’ Beyond The Crimson Horizon (Roadrunner, 1992) in the most recent issue’s “Metal Hall of Fame.”

No one was storming the charts, but it was enough to inspire nearly every major early doom band to reunite or rally with a comeback tour and album, including BedemonSymphony Of Shadows (Housecore, recorded in 2002, released in 2012), Pagan Altar Lords Of Hipocrisy (Oracle/Shadow Kingdom, 2004), CandlemassCandlemass (Nuclear Blast, 2005), Solitude AeturnusAlone (Massacre, 2006), TroubleSimple Mind Condition (Escapi, 2007), Witchfinder General Resurrected (Shadow Kingdom, 2008), Count Raven Mammons War (I Hate Records, 2009), Iron ManI Have Returned (Shadow Kingdom, 2009), PentagramLast Rites (Metal Blade, 2011), Saint VitusLillie: F-25 (Candlelight, 2012), Dream DeathSomnium Excessum (Dream Death, 2013). One of the only classic bands missing from this list is The Obsessed, and they reunited recently for Roadburn and Maryland Death Fest, so there’s hope.

Then something remarkable happened in June 2013. Doom literally stormed the charts! Black Sabbath’s reunion album 13, the first to feature Ozzy Osbourne in 35 years, topped the UK Albums and US Billboard charts for the first time ever.

For a while it looked like the album would never be completed. The band announced their reunion on 11/11/11, and the new album would be produced by Rick Rubin, who has worked with Trouble, The Cult, Danzig and of course Slayer. But shortly after it was announced that Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma, and not long after that, Bill Ward pulled out of the reunion due to mysterious contract disputes. Yet against all odds, the band managed to play some triumphant sets in the UK and at Lollapalooza in Chicago (albeit without Ward), focusing on the cream of their first seven albums. Then on June 10, 2013, 13 (Vertigo) was released, and a week later it was topping the charts.

graceland-4Despite (and/or because of) its immense popularity, there was plenty of bitching. Some fans wanted to have nothing to do with it due to the absence of Bill Ward. Others just didn’t think it was any good. I’ll cover some of that drama at the end of the article. But the important thing is that BLACK FUCKING SABBATH IS FUCKING NUMBER 1!!!! To fathom how incredible that is, none of their albums, even the revered first six, ever did that. The closest was Master Of Reality (Vertigo, 1971) at #8 in the U.S. While the band may never identify themselves as doom, the fact is that they deliberately aimed for a sound that refers to their early albums, and the result is undeniably a doom album. And a very, very good one at that, with Ozzy’s vocals sounding better than anyone should have expected, and Iommi’s riffs and Geezer’s playing in top form. The songwriting is definitely more consistent than Technical Ecstasy (1976) and Never Say Die! (1978). Here’s an epic review from Witch Mountain’s Nate Carson for the final word on 13.

What does this mean for the doom metal genre? Maybe not a lot, but it’s likely at least some of their large audience will come looking for similar stuff. That’s how it all started after all, when the likes of Bobby Liebling, Wino and Dave Chandler could listen to the Sabbath records only so many times before they wanted to hear more. And since there was nothing else, they had to write their own songs. Cult proto-doom/psych band Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats got to open for Sabbath on the European tour, which can’t hurt their sales. But it’s unlikely that another doom band would ever reach that kind of mainstream popularity again. But who knows? Below is a simple timeline of the first 25 years of doom history for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, with hopefully enough info that would be new even to some longtime doom fans. Hopefully in the near future someone will be inspired to write the first full book focused on doom.

Doom Metal Timeline

1970 On Friday the 13th, February 1970, Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut album on Vertigo. While much of it is essentially heavy blues rock, it’s without a doubt the first proto-metal album that planted the seeds for nearly every metal genre, including doom. Much of their first five albums contain the DNA that can be found in every metal band thereafter.
1971 Bobby Liebling and Geof O’Keefe form Pentagram. During their first year they toy with other names like Virgin Death, Macabre, and Wicked Angel (you won’t see these kinds of names for another decade!) before returning back to Pentagram.
1972-1976 Pentagram record various demos that will languished unreleased except for bootlegs until Relapse released First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection) in 2001 and First Daze Too in 2006.
1973-1974 Randy Palmer records some of his songs with friend Mike Matthews, and Bobby Liebling and Geof O’Keefe of Pentagram as Bedemon (a combination of Demon and Behemoth). These songs and others were eventually released as Child Of Darkness (Black Widow) in 2005.
1976 Scott “Wino” Weinrich forms Warhorse in Potomac, Maryland. By 1978 they change their name to The Obsessed and moved to Rockville.
1978 Dave Chandler and Scott Reagers form Tyrant in L.A., to become Saint Vitus by 1980.

In the UK, Pagan Altar gets together. Early demos were recorded that year. In 2012, Cruz Del Sur lovingly remastered the five songs and released them as The Time Lord.

1979 Zeeb Parkes and Phil Cope form Witchfinder General in Stourbridge, England. Like Pagan Altar, they were considered post-facto as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. But they weren’t really. They were fuckin’ doom!

Rick Wartell forms Trouble in Aurora, IL. Vocalist and lyricist Eric Wagner was Catholic, and addressed some religious themes in their songs. So much was made of this they were referred to as “White Metal,” something that could just have easily applied to Black Sabbath.

1982 Pentagram - Relentless (Peaceville, 1982)After the first of countless Pentagram break-ups, Victor Griffin formed a Virginia-based Death Row in 1978. By the time Liebling joined the next year, they called themselves Pentagram and recorded a demo tape called All Your Sins. It was partially re-recorded in 1984 and released as Pentagram’s self-titled debut album in 1985. However, when it was later reissued as Relentless, the original 1982 recordings were used.

Pagan Altar recorded a self-titled demo tape. This was not officially released until 1998 as Volume 1 on Oracle. It was finally remastered and released under it’s originally intended title, Judgement Of The Dead on Cruz Del Sur in 2012.

Witchfinder General releases debut Death Penalty (Heavy Metal).

1983 Witchfinder General - Friends Of Hell (Heavy Metal, 1983)After recording demos in 1980 and 82, The Obsessed release Sodden Jackal EP (Invictus), later reissued along with other demos on Southern Lord as Incarnate in 1999.

Witchfinder General releases Friends Of Hell (Heavy Metal).

1984 Trouble - Psalm 9 (Metal Blade, 1984)Trouble releases self-titled debut on Metal Blade in March, and is later titled Psalm 9. It’s the first doom album released in the U.S.

After years of hard touring, often supporting Black Flag, Saint Vitus release Saint Vitus (SST). No one notices.

Leif Edling and Matz Ekström form Candlemass in Stockholm, Sweden, but do not have a regular vocalist.

1985 The Obsessed - The Obsessed (Hellhound, 1985)Dream Death form in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Obsessed record their first album for Metal Blade, but it remains unreleased until 1990 on Hellhound. The band breaks up in frustration.

Trouble releases their second album, The Skull (Metal Blade) in March. Despite their Christian image, songs explore Wagner’s drug abuse and inner-band turmoil. It is the mid-80s, after all.

Saint Vitus also releases second album Hallow’s Victim (SST). Still, no one seems to care.

1986 Saint Vitus - Born Too Late (SST, 1986)Candlemass releases their debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (Black Dragon) on June 10. They still did not have a regular vocalist, and Johan Längqvist performs the vocals without having previously heard the music. Despite this, the album is considered by many as the pinnacle of doom metal.

Vocalist Scott Reagers leaves Saint Vitus, Scott “Wino” Weinrich joins, and they release Born Too Late (SST) in October, rivalling Candlemass as the premier doom band of the 80s. People suddenly care about Saint Vitus. Was it the pink cover art?

Revelation were formed in Baltimore, MD.

1987 Candlemass - Nightfall (Axis, 1987)Stormvarning form in Stockholm, Sweden, changing their name to Count Raven in 1989.

Robert Lowe forms Solitude in Arlington, TX, later changes name to Solitude Aeturnus.

Internal Void forms in Frederick, Maryland.

Lost Breed forms in New York, soon to move to Los Angeles.

Pentagram releases Day Of Reckoning (Napalm).

Trouble releases Run To The Light (Metal Blade). It’s a transitional effort and they will soon sign to Def American.

Dream Death releases Journey Into The Mystery (New Renaissance) on October 16. It’s a rough recording, but it’s clearly pioneering in its hybrid of doom, thrash and death metal. Several bands will soon follow this template in a few years.

Messiah Marcolin becomes Candlemass’ first full-time singer and they release Nightfall (Axis) on November 9.

1988 Just Osborn forms Lord Of Putrefaction in Dorset, England. The band name would evolve to Thy Grief Eternal, Eternal, and then Electric Wizard.

Paradise Lost forms in Halifax, England. They began as a hybrid of death and doom metal, and would later also incorporate goth.

Winter forms in New York City.

Alfred Morris III of Maryland bands Force and Rat Salad forms Iron Man to perform Black Sabbath covers, and would eventually put out several albums of original material.

Saint Vitus releases Mournful Cries (SST) on August 22.

Candlemass releases Ancient Dreams (Music For Nations) on November 22.

1989 Lee Dorrian leaves Napalm Death and forms Cathedral.

Ted Williams leaves Dream Death, and the rest of the band changes their name to Penance.

Wino hooks up with Lost Breed and records some demos, which will be reissued as Wino Daze (Helltown, 2007).

Candlemass releases Tales Of Creation (Music For Nations) on September 25.

Blood Farmers form in Brooklyn, NY.

1990 Trouble - Trouble (Def American, 1990)Rich Walker of hardcore/grindcore bands Sore Throat and Warfear forms Solstice in Dewsbury, England.

San Jose-based band Abestosdeath, with Al Cisneros, Chris Hakius and Tom Choi, release two singles of raw, sludgy doom, Unclean (Asbestos) and Dejection (Profane Existence). Tom Choi left to form Noothgrush and was replaced by Justin Marler and eventually Matt Pike, renaming their band Sleep. The singles were reissued by Southern Lord in 2007.

Andrew Craighan and Rick Miah of Abiosis form My Dying Bride in Bradford, England.

Three brothers in Liverpool, England, Vincent, Daniel and Jamie Cavanagh, form Pagan Angel and mix death and doom. They soon change the name to Anathema.

Paradise Lost releases debut Lost Paradise (Peaceville) in January.

Saint Vitus releases V (Hellhound), recorded in Berlin, and their last with Wino.

Trouble releases the Rick Rubin produced Trouble (Def American), which incorporates psychedelic influences and attempts to expand their audience.

Sweden’s Count Raven releases debut Storm Warning (Hellhound).

Winter releases their first and only album, Into Darkness (Future Shock) another pioneering hybrid of death and doom metal. They remained virtually unknown until years after their 1992 break-up when their album was reissued by Nuclear Blast. They reunited to perform at Roadburn fest in 2011.

1991 The Obsessed - Lunar Womb (Hellhound, 1991)When Hellhound Records put out The Obsessed’s first album the previous year, Wino left Saint Vitus to reform The Obsessed with a new rhythm section consisting of Scott Reeder and Greg Rogers and released the exceptional Lunar Womb (Hellhound). The cover art features the famous painting “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco de Goya.

Sleep releases debut Volume One (Tupelo). The cover art features Salvador Dalí’s “Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon”. This was their most traditional doom album before they helped pioneer stoner/desert rock. Guitarist Justin Marler quits band to become a monk.

Paradise Lost releases Gothic (Peaceville) in March.

Solitude Aeturnus releases debut Into The Depths Of Sorrow (Roadrunner).

Cathedral releases debut Forest Of Equilibrium (Earache) on December 6 in the UK (February 11, 1992 in the U.S.).

Revelation releases debut Salvation’s Answer on up-and-coming new British label Rise Above, founded by Cathedral’s Lee Dorian.

Blood Farmers release their demo Permanent Brain Damage, a highly influential mix of psychedelic stoner doom and occult themes that would serve as a template for the likes of Electric Wizard. It was reissued in 2004 by Leaf Hound.

1992 Solitude Aeturnus - Beyond The Crimson Horizon (Roadrunner, 1992) My Dying Bride releases debut As the Flower Withers (Peaceville) on May 22. Aaron Stainthorpe exclusively uses a death metal cookie monster growl here, but will soon leave it behind.

After Messiah Marcolin departs Candlemass, Thomas Vikström fills in on vocals and they release Chapter VI (Music For Nations) on May 25.

After Chritus’ departure from Count Raven, guitarist Dan Fondelius takes on vocal duties and they release their most acclaimed album, Destruction Of The Void (Nuclear Blast/Hellhound). Rock Hard Magazine called it “Doom Album of the Year.”

Trouble releases their fifth album and second produced by Rubin, Manic Frustration (Def American) on June 16. While their two major label albums were critically a success, they failed to sell. Doom was doomed to remain underground.

Paradise Lost releases Shades Of God (Music For Nations/Metal Blade) on July 14.

Solitude Aeturnus releases Beyond The Crimson Horizon (Roadrunner) in August. It’s considered one of the best albums of the genre, making Decibel magazine’s Hall of Fame in July 2012.

Revelation releases second album Never Comes Silence (Hellhound).

Penance releases debut The Road Less Travelled (Rise Above) in August.

Saint Vitus releases C.O.D. (Children Of Doom) on Hellhound in September with Count Raven’s Chritus Linderson on vocals.

Sleep sent a demo to Earache records and they released it as-is in November as Sleep’s Holy Mountain. It became known as part of the holy trinity of early stoner rock along with Monster Magnet’s Spine Of God (Caroline, 1991) and Kyuss’ Blues For The Red Sun (Dali, 1992).

1993 Count Raven - High On Infinity (Hellhound, 1993) Cathedral releases The Ethereal Mirror (Earache) on February 1.

Anathema releases debut Serenades (Peaceville) in February.

Internal Void releases debut album Standing On The Sun (Hellhound) in February. They wouldn’t release their second until 2000 on Southern Lord, and 2/3 of the band joined Pentagram. They eventually broke up May 18, 2013.

Iron Man releases Black Night (Hellhound).

Lost Breed releases The Evil In You And Me (Hellhound). With just as much rock ‘n’ roll as metal, they could be credited with pioneering doom rock or stoner doom.

Count Raven releases High On Infinity (Hellhound) on September 2.

Paradise Lost releases Icon (Music For Nations/Metal Blade) on September 28. It’s the last with any hint of their death/doom origins, as they evolve into goth metal.

My Dying Bride releases Turn Loose The Swans (Peaceville) in October. Like labelmates Paradise Lost and Anathema, they cross over between death and doom, add violins and explore goth undertones.

1994 Electric Wizard - Electric Wizard (Rise Above, 1994)Candlemass break up, but will reform just a few years later with Björn Flodkvist on vocals.

Despite Trouble’s failure, Wino took a crack at major label stardom, and The Obsessed signed to Columbia Records and released The Church Within (Columbia) on March 1. Despite some rave reviews and a 25 minute documentary on the history of the band, the album doesn’t sell. Columbia wonder what the hell they were thinking, and The Obsessed break up again by the next year.

Pentagram releases third album, Be Forewarned (Peaceville) in April.

Solitude Aeturnus releases Through The Darkest Hour (Pavement).

Solstice releases Lamentations (Candlelight) in August.

Penance releases Parallel Corners (Century Media) on September 7.

Iron Man releases The Passage (Hellhound) on October 31.

Electric Wizard releases debut Electric Wizard (Rise Above).

1995 Saint Vitus - Die Healing (Hellhound, 1995)Trouble releases Plastic Green Head on April 24. Shortly after, the band goes on an extended hiatus for nearly twelve years.

Original vocalist Scott Reagers rejoins Saint Vitus and they release Die Healing (Hellhound) on May 9. Saint Vitus breaks up the next year. This and C.O.D. will be re-issued August 20, 2013.

Lost Breed releases their second and last album Save Yourself (Hellhound).

Revelation releases third album …Yet So Far (Hellhound) and will soon go on hiatus. They will resume in 2004 as Against Nature and then return to their original name by 2008.

Blood Farmers release their self-titled debut on Hellhound, and are not heard from again until 2014. Guitarist Ross Markenish joins Ogre in 1999.

Anathema guitarist Vincent Cavanagh takes over vocals after Darren White’s departure, and releases The Silent Enigma (Peaceville) on October 23. The band shows signs of leaving behind their death/doom origins into goth, psych, alt rock and neo-prog.

As mentioned before, the number of bands and releases start to increase exponentially after 2000. The Paranoid Hitsophrenic blog began compiling monthly doom charts in June 2013 based on submissions from bloggers and critics, and provides a great entry point to exploring current doom and other genres like stoner/psych/sludge/retro rock and metal.

graceland-6Real information is frustratingly sparse on why Bill Ward pulled out of the reunion. The closest I could find was in a recent Ozzy interview:

“…we all had to ask, ‘Can he do an hour-and-a-half, two-hour gig? Can he cope?’ My suggestion was that we run through a set and see how he got on because he was so out of condition and the drummer is the most demanding job in the whole band. We looked at Bill and he couldn’t remember what the fuck we were doing. But he didn’t come clean and say, ‘I can’t cut this gig but can we work something out, guys, where I’ll come on but with another drummer backing me up?’ Or, ‘I’ll come and play a few songs’, that would have been cool.”I get where he’s coming from, though. His pride was hurt and I get it. I really do get it. The guy will always be a dear, dear friend and a brother to me, but you either shit or get off the pot.”Ozzy continues: “I get up and I hit the gym most mornings. I vocal exercise and I keep myself going. I sing for a living so if I don’t sing for two or five years then I go, Oh I’m going to get back together with Black Sabbath, if I don’t make any adjustments to my attitude towards it then I’m not going to get the gig, you know. He can’t be surprised that he didn’t get the gig. He can’t be! (nearly shouting) Fucking hell!””You know them yellow fucking stick-on memo notes? He had them all over his fucking drums. I was like, What the fuck’s that for, Bill? He said, ‘I can’t remember what I’m doing.’ I go, how are you doing to remember out of those 500,000 bits of paper stuck all over your kit, which one you’re looking at, Bill? ‘I’ll know’ Ah, OK great.’ — MOJO

My opinion is, Ward didn’t play on Heaven & Hell’s 2009 album and no one cared. He hasn’t played on ANY full album since Born Again in 1983. They recorded two songs in 1997 and on “Selling My Soul,” Bill’s was deemed “too out-of-time”, so they used a drum machine instead. He then had a heart attack and has not gotten into physical condition to be able to play a two hour show. Out of shape, out of practice, Bill Ward in 2013 is not the Bill Ward from 1973 or even 1993. If the band can get over it, so should the fans!

Below are other shots taken earlier today at Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery.


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