Opposite Ends of the Spectrum

Most people who know me know that my favorite style of music is heavy metal. Lots of people who listen to metal do so for its therapeutic value; it’s loud, brash, and angry, and listening to it can help you deflate your own similar feelings. For example, who doesn’t feel better after driving around cranking some Testament.

My favorite genres of metal, though are power and progressive metal. Testament is definitely not in those categories. I like them a lot and have a bunch of their CDs, but my overall top preference is for bands that have a significant amount of clear vocals, lots of melodies, and even orchestral components … like Nightwish.

I also love bands that have intricate musical arrangements.

In other words, a lot of the heavy metal I like the most is not made to sound angry – it’s made by people who might have grown up listening to Judas Priest and Journey, and decided to blend the heavy and melodic elements.

So it’s pretty strange that my other favorite type of metal has been “doom metal”. This style is slow and deep, and designed to bring out your feelings of despair.

The progenitors of doom metal are said to be Black Sabbath, who laced most of their music with this (new at the time) style.

Also out there in heavy metal land is “death metal”; this is the style that features what are called cookie monster vocals. I have never become totally accustomed to that style, and I am very hit or miss in terms of which bands in that genre I enjoy. I think that in order for me to like it, the vocals need to still have relatively good enunciation even while being growled … like this:

As that song shows, there is a lot of overlap between the genres of death and doom metal, and there is even a subgenre called (you guessed it) death-doom. If you take the slow and dirgy style of doom metal and lay over it the deep growlies of death metal, you have death-doom. And … odds are I won’t like any one particular offering of it. But here’s where it gets strange: there is yet another subgenre called “funeral doom”, which takes the deep, hellish feel of doom metal and really goes all in. Imagine a slow-paced New Orleans funeral dirge with the band replaced by doom metal, and you have funeral doom. This style is most often accompanied by vocals growled (or better yet, regurgitated) in the deepest death style. You’d think that this is so far away from my usual favorite types of metal that I would abhor it, but the opposite is true! I had dabbled in listening to it in the past, and it never clicked, but recently during a Spotify encounter with a band called Mournful Congregation, something happened and it felt “right” to me. I even found the slowly-brewing growled vocals to be almost comforting.

I think I know why this happened. Outside of metal, I have always loved to use electronic new age music as background ambience while reading or working. Reading a fantasy novel and listening to Tangerine Dream go hand in hand.

The musical components of Tangerine Dream and funeral doom are nothing alike, but I’ve found that the mood I get out of them are very much the same. I’ve discovered another style of ambience that goes well with reading, or even driving, and that makes time go by faster. And since funeral doom mixes slow, tidal music a la Tangerine Dream (especially early spacey / noisey Tangerine Dream like Zeit) with the brutal heaviness of metal – even though the vocals are usually growled – it’s the best of both worlds!

I don’t know what made the original purveyors of funeral doom (supposedly Thergothon and Skepticism) do what they did, maybe they were just have really bad days, but I now have a whole other subgenre to explore that’s at the totally opposite end of the spectrum than what’s been my go-to music for so long.

Along with funeral doom, I’ve found “drone metal” in the band Sunn O))), which is heavy music with no real melodic structure to it, just intense ambient heavy mood – I’d love to go to a Sunn O))) concert and just literally feel the music for two hours.

Now pardon me while I go list more comics to sell on ebay so that I have money to spend on more funeral doom metal like Pantheist and Shape of Despair!

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