The words “heavy metal” to most people conjure up visions of blazing-fast guitars, rapid double-bass drumming, and whiplash-inducing headbanging. The bands below, however, are the antithesis. In fact, there's a growing substrata of groups that are defying metal stereotypes, slowing their music to a molasses pace, incorporating slow-motion riffs, and allowing their songs to come up for air only briefly before plunging back into the murky depths once again. Our five slowest metal bands may move only a few miles an hour, but the destination is well worth the wait.
Yob founder/vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt has plowed through lineup changes, breakups, and lawsuits over the years, but has never abandoned the trademark crush that has made his Eugene, Oregon-trio a favorite in doom metal circles for over a decade. Yob's new album Atma continues to showcase riffs bathed in a dirty cloud of slow-bake grime, and Los Angeles audiences will get a chance to be drowned by those riffs Friday night when the band headlines at Echoplex. (They're supported by Florida death-doomsters Dark Castle and local psych-metal favorites Ancestors.)
Possessing more in common with European gothic bands (such as Paradise Lost) than American doom bands, Esoteric's music is an appropriate backdrop for those rainy days that never seem to end. Their 2008 work The Maniacal Vale is an ambitious double-disc, a 100-minute slab of pure depression that is as lively as a funeral. Currently working on a new record, Esoteric has set the bar very high.
Doom supergroup Khanate has been broken up since 2006, but the output they left during their brief career has left ears bleeding. Featuring Stephen O' Malley of Sunn O))) on guitars, James Plotkin on bass, and Alan Dubin of OLD on vocals, Khanate has the most disturbing sound of all of the bands featured here. Their caustic riffs are drowned in acid feedback, and the shrieking vocals of Alan Dubin sound like a mental patient being tortured. “In That Corner,” above, is from the band's final release Clean Hands Go Foul, which saw them go out with what sounded like a tortured cry for help.
Moss once embarked on what they called their “Slow As Fuck” tour, and that name was very appropriate. Listening to English doom trio Moss is like watching a city block slowly getting demolished; it doesn't happen very fast, but each act is powerful. Moss fires off a riff — one building tumbles to the ground. Time goes by, the dust clears, then Boom! Another riff, another building topples, and the cycle never ends. It is a very clean demolition too, very precise and very well-planned. The above sample from the song “Subterranean” is from the band's 2008 release Sub Templum, their most recent full-length slab of rumble.
On “South Park” the character Butters Stotch once confessed, “I always fall asleep to the sound of my own screams.” We imagine the nightmarish slow-pounding of French avant-metal group Monarch as the soundtrack to those evenings. The haunting vocals of Emilie Bresson frame a backing track of suffocating low-end sounds, as depicted above in the track “Winter Bride,” from Monarch's 2007 album Die Tonight.
Now we're going to go listen to some Dragonforce, and try to lift ourselves out of this swamp.