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Sludge metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that fuses doom metal and hardcore punk. In addition, it sometimes takes inspiration from sources as disparate as industrial music and Southern rock. Sludge metal is typically aggressive and abrasive; often featuring shouted vocals, heavily distorted instruments and sharply contrasting tempos. While the style was anticipated by the Melvins from Washingtonmarker, many of its earliest pioneers were from the state of Louisianamarker.


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." Many sludge bands compose slow-paced songs that contain brief hardcore passages (for example, Eyehategod's "Depress" and " My Name Is God (I Hate You)). 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". However, some bands emphasize fast tempos throughout their music. The string instruments (electric guitar and bass guitar) are downtuned and heavily distorted and are often played with large amounts of feedback to produce a thick yet abrasive sound. Additionally, guitar solos are often absent. Drumming is often performed in typical doom metal fashion, but drummers may employ hardcore D-beat or double-kick drumming during faster passages. Vocals are usually shouted or screamed, and lyrics are generally pessimistic in nature. Suffering, drug abuse, politics and anger towards society are common lyrical themes.

Many sludge metal bands from the Southern United States incorporate Southern rock and blues influence, although not all sludge bands share this style. There is some controversy as to whether the term refers to only the style emerging from New Orleansmarker 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".So-called "atmospheric" sludge bands adopt a more experimental approach and compose music with an ambient atmosphere, reduced aggression and philosophical lyrics. Due to the similarities between sludge and stoner metal, there is often a crossover between the two genres, 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 Flag and Black Sabbath, musicians cited by pioneers of the style as influential include Mississippi John Hurt, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Greg Ginn, Celtic Frost, Trouble, Carnivore, Corrosion of Conformity, Saint Vitus, Righteous Pigs, Amebix, and Swans. Early sludge metal groups also borrowed from the industrial music of SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Chrome and Swans.The beginnings of sludge have been traced to the "slow punk" practiced by Flipper and Black Flag on the album My War. Melvins subsequently became known as the first band to transform this style into sludge.

Early sludge

Perhaps the most significant influence was the Melvins, a band from the state of Washingtonmarker. Their earliest releases, Six Songs (1986) and Gluey Porch Treatments (1987), are often regarded as the first sludge records. At this time, the band was also an important member of Washington grunge scene. Neurosis, from San Francisco, were also significant early practitioners.

At the beginning of the 1990s, a number of bands from Louisianamarker (particularly New Orleansmarker with its metal scene) took these influences and developed the style that would be known as sludge. Eyehategod (formed in 1988), Crowbar (formed in 1989 as The Slugs), and Acid Bath (formed in 1991) pioneered this movement. In the East Coast, Buzzov*en (formed in 1989), 13 (formed in 1990), and Grief (formed in 1991) adopted a slower-paced approach to the emerging genre.

Phil Anselmo described the origins of the scene:

Subsequent developments

Sludge metal subsequently spread throughout the Southern and Eastern United States. The popularity of Down, initially a Pantera side project and a sludge supergroup, is often given credit for the spread of the sludge scene throughout the United States.

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

List of sludge metal bands by style

Traditional/Southern sludge metal

These bands are the pioneers of the genre or are strongly influenced by those bands. Many are from the Southern United States.

Stoner sludge metal

These bands have mixed typical stoner metal traits with typical sludge metal traits, and may be considered a part of both genres.


Other fusions with sludge metal

See also


Terrorizer Staff. "Sludge Special". Terrorizer #187, Summer 2009, 43-56.

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