Drone metal is a music genre that rarely comes up in conversation, and when it does, the concept is most often met with a look of perplexity. As far as the American public is concerned, drone is fairly obscure compared to the likes of Metallica or Soundgarden. However, drone, sludge and other associated subgenres have been rising in popularity over the last 20 years and are considered by many in the attentive online cult-community as the next evolution in psychedelic rock.
Drone (used to define a group of subgenres including but not limited to sludge, doom, and stoner-doom) is a combination of slow, crawling tempos and heavily detuned riffing that create an extremely dark and trance-inducing wall of noise. Rumor has it that at some shows, especially those of the band Sunn O))), attendees in the back of the hall actually pass out due to incredibly strong bass vibrations.
Despite the relative obscurity of drone music, the substantial online community devoted to exploring the genre is propelling it from deep-underground to higher levels of popularity. This can be largely attributed to the increasing number of sites that provide album reviews. One such website is Spirit of Metal, a cross-genre heavy metal blog that provides album reviews, video and audio band interviews, tour dates, photo galleries and a comprehensive list of artists. I have fooled around on this site a lot, and it is a huge wealth of information for the listener who isn’t familiar with drone. A similar site is Captain Crawl, a user-generated music blog index. This is a great tool for finding out more on the genre because blog posts are compiled based on genre keywords. Very cool. Another site that I frequent for new music is Sludge Drone Metal Albums “All Kinds of Noise and Silence” which tracks new album releases. In addition to this, the blog writes reviews and posts album information to the site while providing links to artist webpages. Possibly the best place for reviews that I have found is Sonterobixx, which reviews the music, but goes deeper into the inner-workings of the drone metal scene. The writer of this blog has an in-depth knowledge of bands in this scene and gives the reader a “who’s who” of drone.
Because drone music is distributed on a much smaller scale than most popular music, finding albums available for download is particularly hard. I have spent hours trying to find albums that were either released solely on vinyl, or in such small quantities that they are nearly impossible to find unless you go to a specialty record store such as Exiled Records in Portland, OR. Sludge Drone Metal Albums provides single-song downloads so the curious listener can sample new bands without committing to buying an album. This can be a good option for those who don’t want to go hunting for vinyl (which is, in my opinion, half the fun), or for a listener who is frustrated with the lack of availability on pirate sites.
While blogs and reviews sites can provide a lot of information on drone, I have to
recommend visiting the sites of various record labels, where one can find new releases, tour news, band bios, official photo galleries and sometimes even killer deals on records. Some good ones to check out are: Southern Lord Records, Alternative Tentacles and Inoxia Records. I’ll be posting more on drone metal in the coming weeks.