The 10 essential stoner metal albums

Black Sabbath standing in front of a window.
Black Sabbath (Image credit: Getty)

Much maligned for some of its proponents’ terrible, terrible band names (see: Stoner Kebab and Weed Is Weed) and perceived one dimensionality, stoner metal, the slacker cousin of doom metal, is a niche subgenre with surprisingly grand beginnings. For over 40 years now all hues of metals bands have been incorporating ‘stoner’ elements – some full throttle, others more subtly, but all with equal debt to arboreal inspiration. So, roll that shit, light that shit and enjoy 10 of the most potent stoner records.

Black Sabbath – Master Of Reality (1971)

“What do you do for fun, to relax?” Ozzy was once asked in an interview sometime in 1970. “Smoke marijuana” came the smirking response. Sure they might’ve been having their cocaine delivered in cereal packets whilst recording Master… but from the crunching ode to the ‘erb Sweet Leaf to the down-tuned riff masterclass Into The Void,Sabbath’s third LP is unarguably year zero for what would eventually become known as stoner metal. RIYL: smoking wacky baccy with your weird uncle in a church yard.

Sleep – Holy Mountain (1992)

If Black Sabbath invented stoner metal then cult Californian power trio Sleep perfected it with their second record. The resiny, Sabbathian charge of opener Dragonaut and the hardcore-tainted, Saint Vitus-like Inside The Sun are enough alone to get your bong water bubbling, but it’s during the droning, almost tantric grooves of the title track and the 10-minute From Beyond when the record becomes most cosmically immersive. RIYL: Bong hits in the temple at the top of Olympus Mons.

Down – NOLA (1995)

If Sabbath, Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to hot box their rehearsal room and record the results it’d probably sound something like Louisiana supergroup Down’s debut record. Along with the sludgy, pot-hailing Hail The Leaf and epic closer Bury Me In Smoke, the likes of the languid, blissed-out Jail and the crushing Eyes Of The South combine to make NOLA a stoner classic. RIYL: Smoking sticky buds out of a Pabst Blue Ribbon can.

Acid Bath – When The Kite String Pops (1994)

When sludge gets existential. Fusing elements of grunge, doom, death metal and even gothic poetry, throughout their short career, Louisiana’s Acid Bath were always more than just a stoner band. A scattered, acid-fried record, their debut, When The Kite String Pops, veers from EyeHateGod-like gutter-sludge, to the opiated Zeppelin-ish strains of Scream Of The Butterfly. It’s tracks like the anguished stoner onslaught of Dope Fiend, however, that have made the LP a cult classic. RIYL: Smoking meth in Ed Gein’s shack.

Earthless – Sonic Prayer (2005)

Even when you’re as high as Willie Nelson in Jerry Garcia’s kitchen it’s easy to spot overindulgence over true immersion, something San Diego jam band Earthless understand implicitly. Lead by guitar virtuoso Isaiah Mitchell, the instrumental trio’s first full-length record, the two-track Sonic Prayer, drips in Japanese psyche rock influences and lysergic, blues-hued grooves that always threaten to drift on into eternity. RIYL: Ditching the stoner lifestyle to go and munch peyote in the desert.

Iron Monkey – Our Problem (1997)

Former members of Nottingham based Iron Monkey might joke now that they played their first gig to 45 people and their last gig to 50 people, but since the untimely passing of vocalist Johnny Morrow the stoner-sludge quintet have become cult legends. And it’s Morrow’s harsh, shrieking, and utterly nauseating vocals that remain the group’s secret weapon – the threatening caterwaul opening Bad Year bristling the hairs on your neck every time you press play. RIYL: Trucker caps and smoking a homemade gravity bong in the car park behind a Greggs.

High On Fire – The Art Of Self Defense (2000)

The first full album from guitarist Matt Pike’s post-Sleep juggernauts, and subsequently featuring a number of riffs Pike originally composed for his former band – such as that of opener Baghdad or the bouldering Master Of Fists – beefed up and discharged at often bong-melting velocity. RIYL: Dungeons And Dragons, Ancient Aliens and weed that’s the result of government experiments.

Electric Wizard – Come My Fanatics… (1997)

The Dorset doom legends seminal 2000 release, Dopethrone, might seem the obvious choice here, but the then trio’s second record is arguably enveloped in a more impenetrable, acrid haze than just about any other record that dare tag itself as ‘stoner’. The likes of fuzz-drenched opener Return Trip and the disorientating Doom-Mantia are the sound of your sanity drifting out of the window. RIYL: Pot-induced psychotic breakdowns and Russ Meyer movies.

UFOmammut – Eve (2010)

Existing somewhere in the space in between Sleep, Motörhead and Barret-era Pink Floyd, Italian trio UFOmammut have amassed an impressive eight full-length albums in their 16 year career – with last year’s Ecate continuing an impressive hit rate. But for warped, spaced-out stoner vibes the band have yet to better 2010’s five movement opus, Eve, a vast doom-hued exploration of the story of the first woman on earth. RIYL: Smoking so much dope that Hawkwind’s Space Ritual sounds like the terrifying chant of a Thuggee death cult.

Belzebong – Greenferno (2015)

With a seemingly endless cavalcade of stoner metal bands intent on farting out every weed-related reference they can think of, instrumental Polish quartet Belzelbong are one of the few who stand apart, by actually putting more time into writing riffs than thinking up pot puns. And on the evidence of their second album, Greenferno, they put a lot of time into writing their crusty, strung out Sabbathian riffs. RIYL: Getting very, very, very, stoned indeed.

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