Sludge metal

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Sludge metal (also known as sludge, sludgecore, and sludge doom) is a genre of heavy metal music that originated through combining elements of doom metal and hardcore punk. It is typically harsh and abrasive, often featuring shouted vocals, heavily distorted instruments and sharply contrasting tempos. The Melvins from the US state of Washington produced the first sludge metal albums in the late 1980s, as well as being influential in the grunge scene.[5] Sludge as a distinct genre emerged after 1990 also through the work of Louisiana bands such as Eyehategod and Crowbar.[6][better source needed] Later bands often border on stoner rock (e.g. High on Fire) or post-metal (e.g. Neurosis).


Buzz Osborne, frontman of sludge metal pioneers the Melvins

Sludge metal generally combines the slow tempos, heavy rhythms and dark, pessimistic atmosphere of doom metal with the aggression, shouted vocals and occasional fast tempos of hardcore punk. As The New York Times put it, "The shorthand term for the kind of rock descending from early Black Sabbath and late Black Flag is sludge, because it's so slow and dense."[7] According to Metal Hammer, sludge metal "[s]pawned from a messy collision of Black Sabbath’s downcast metal, Black Flag’s tortured hardcore and the sub/dom grind of early Swans, shaken up with lashings of cheap whisky and bad pharmaceuticals".[8] Many sludge bands compose slow-paced songs that contain brief hardcore passages[9] (for example, Eyehategod's "Depress" and "My Name Is God"). Mike Williams, a founder of the sludge style and member of Eyehategod, suggests that "the moniker of sludge apparently has to do with the slowness, the dirtiness, the filth and general feel of decadence the tunes convey".[10] However, some bands emphasize fast tempos throughout their music. The string instruments (electric guitar and bass guitar) are down-tuned and heavily distorted and are often played with large amounts of feedback[9][11] to produce a thick yet abrasive sound. Additionally, guitar solos are often absent. Drumming is often performed in typical doom metal fashion. Drummers may employ hardcore d-beat or double-kick drumming during faster passages, or through the thick breakdowns (which are characteristic of the sludge sound). Vocals are usually shouted or screamed,[9][11][12][13] and lyrics are generally pessimistic in nature.[14] Suffering, drug abuse,[15][16][17] politics and anger towards society are common lyrical themes.

Many sludge metal bands from the Southern United States incorporate Southern rock influences.[2][9][11][12][18][19] There is some controversy as to whether the term refers to only the style emerging from New Orleans and later the American South more broadly, or to "a complete consciousness in the heads of like-minded Black Flag/Black Sabbath influenced scenes and individuals all over the world".[10] So-called "atmospheric" sludge bands adopt a more experimental approach and compose music with an ambient atmosphere, reduced aggression and philosophical lyrics.[20] Due to the similarities between sludge and stoner metal, there is often a crossover between the two genres,[21][22] but sludge metal generally avoids stoner metal's usage of psychedelia. Sludge metal also bears some musical and lyrical resemblance to crust punk, due to the usage of political lyrics and thick, "dirty" guitar sounds.



Along with Black Sabbath and Black Flag, musicians cited by pioneers of the style as influential include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Celtic Frost, Greg Ginn, Trouble, Carnivore, Saint Vitus, Gore, Righteous Pigs,[10] Amebix[5] and Swans.[5] Early sludge metal groups also borrowed from the industrial music of SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Chrome and Swans.[10] The beginnings of sludge have been traced to the "slow punk" of Flipper, Swans' 1984 album Cop, and Black Flag's album My War, the latter often cited as one of the first works in the genre.[5]

Joey Lacaze and Mike Williams, founding members of Eyehategod, performing at Roskilde Festival 2011

Perhaps the most significant influence was Melvins, a band from the state of Washington. Their earliest releases, Six Songs (1986) and Gluey Porch Treatments (1987), are often regarded as the first sludge records.[5] At this time, the band was also an important member of the Washington grunge scene. Another prominent band from the Washington grunge scene, Alice in Chains have also been influential to early sludge metal with their second album Dirt.[23][24] Neurosis, from Oakland, were also significant early practitioners.[25]

At the beginning of the 1990s, a number of bands from Louisiana (particularly New Orleans with its metal scene) took these influences and developed the style that would be known as sludge,[6] specifically Eyehategod (formed in 1988),[1] Crowbar (formed in 1989 as The Slugs)[26] and Acid Bath (formed in 1991).[27] On the East Coast, Buzzov*en (formed in 1989),[28] 16 (formed in 1990) and Grief (formed in 1991)[29] adopted a slower-paced approach to the emerging genre.

According to Phil Anselmo

Back in those days, everything in the underground was fast, fast, fast. It was the rule of the day. But when the Melvins came out with their first record, Gluey Porch Treatments, it really broke the mold, especially in New Orleans. People began to appreciate playing slower. With that, all the old Black Sabbath came back around and then you start digging and you come to your Saint Vitus, your Witchfinder General, your Pentagram, etc.[30]

Subsequent developments[edit]

Sludge metal subsequently spread throughout the Southern and Eastern United States.

Jose Carlos Santos notes a focus shift as a result of the impact of the British group Iron Monkey's first album in 1997:

Coincidence or not, it seemed like the sludge floodgates opened to the rest of the world, and in the past decade small pockets, or mini-scenes, can be spotted in just about any country you'd care to mention.[31]

These include the Japanese group Corrupted and contemporary American groups such as Dumb Numbers, Lair of the Minotaur, Old Man Gloom and Kylesa.[31] In addition, the U.S. state of Georgia has been identified as a major source of new sludge groups such as Mastodon, Baroness, Black Tusk, and Kylesa.[31]

During the late 1990s, many sludge metal bands began to incorporate post-rock elements into their music. This post-rock/sludge crossover was greatly inspired by the experimental style of Neurosis during the early to mid 1990s, and is performed by prominent bands such as Isis,[20] Cult of Luna and Pelican.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Eyehategod". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  2. ^ a b c Piper, Jonathan (2013). Locating experiential richness in doom metal (PhD). UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  3. ^ "These Are The 13 Most Essential Sludge Records". Kerrang!. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Sludge Metal: Doom's Filthier Sibling". Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Sludge Special", p. 44.
  6. ^ a b "AllMusic: Doom Metal". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  7. ^ "Pop/Jazz Listings, page 2". The New York Times. 2007-10-05. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  8. ^ Chantler, Chris (12 October 2016). "The 10 essential sludge metal albums". Metal Hammer. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d York, William. "Eyehategod - In the Name of Suffering". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  10. ^ a b c d "Sludge Special", p. 43.
  11. ^ a b c York, William. "Eyehategod - Dopesick". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  12. ^ a b York, William. "Eyehategod - Take as Needed for Pain". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  13. ^ York, William. "Soilent Green - Sewn Mouth Secrets". AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  14. ^ Jeffries, Vincent. "Crowbar - Crowbar". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Patrick. "Buzzov-en - To a Frown". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  16. ^ Kennedy, Patrick. "Buzzov-en - Sore". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  17. ^ York, William. "Acid Bath - When the Kite String Pops". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  18. ^ Huey, Steve. "Corrosion of Conformity". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  19. ^ York, William. "Soilent Green". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  20. ^ a b Downey, Ryan J. "Isis". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  21. ^ Serba, John. "Bongzilla - Gateway". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02. …sounding like a cross between Sleep's drowsy, Black Sabbathy meanderings and Electric Wizard/Burning Witch-style gut-curdling, muddy sludge.
  22. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Kylesa". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02. …elements of hardcore punk, psychedelic stoner rock, technical speed metal, and good old-fashioned Black Sabbath sludge appear in their music.
  23. ^ Conway, James. "How Haven't You Heard… Alice in Chains – Dirt". Vulture Hound Magazine. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  24. ^ Christopher, Michael. "Alice in Chains: Dirt". PopMatters. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  25. ^ "Sludge Special", p. 51.
  26. ^ Huey, Steve. "Crowbar". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  27. ^ York, William. "Acid Bath". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  28. ^ York, William. "Buzzov-en". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  29. ^ J. Bennett, "Hazardous Prescription", Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, Albert Mudrian, ed., Da Capo Press, p. 177.
  30. ^ J. Bennett, "Pillar of Eternity", Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, Albert Mudrian, ed., Da Capo Press, p. 268.
  31. ^ a b c "Sludge Special Part 2", p. 41.
  32. ^ Burgess, Aaron (2006-05-23). "The loveliest album to crush our skull in months". Alternative Press. Retrieved 2008-09-02.