From Witchfinder General to Candlemass, doom metal has continued to evolve and inspire musicians from all corners of the globe. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a curious newcomer to the genre, this list will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the best that doom metal has to offer. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the ten greatest doom metal albums of all time.
Witchfinder General – Death Penalty
The 1982 debut of these British miscreants is nearly perfect doom record and one of the finest moments in the entire NWOBHM movement. Witchfinder General expertly fused the slow, apocalyptic terror of Black Sabbath with the driving, anthemic force of their contemporary metal brethren. Sadly, the band was better known during their tenure for their provocative cover art than their exceptional music.
Skepticism – Stormcrowfleet
Many of the most intense and important metal bands in the world have called Finland home over the years. Out of all the extreme music that the Finns have perfected, their darkness takes extra shine in the funeral doom department. Skepticism are the leaders of the pack and their debut album Stormcrowfleet is a genre defining moment. The firmly lo-fi production complements the mournful keyboards, sparse riffs, and mallet-heavy rhythm perfectly. The sound of being buried alive.
Pagan Altar – Judgement Of The Dead
A hidden gem even in its time, Pagan Altar’s 1982 debut didn’t see an official release until the late 1990s. These NWOBHM doom-mongers are more than simple acolytes of the Black Sabbath template, incorporating folk-infused songwriting tricks and a powerful gallup in order to propel their occultist sermons into a netherworld beyond the realms of imagination and understanding. The nasal vocals might not be for everyone, but it undeniably adds an element of evil that will creep under your skin.
Esoteric – The Maniacal Vale
The fifth album by these british masters of suffering is a crawling psychedelic journey beyond the void. Monolithic in scope, this 140 minute opus is an exercise in atmospheric artistry that transcends conventional funeral doom boundaries. Dynamic prog-influenced riffs and complex structures place The Maniacal Vale in a similar realm to King Crimson after drinking too much Nyquil. Brilliant, epic, and essential.
Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Although a commercial failure at the time, Candlemass’ 1986 debut album ushered in a seachange in the world of traditional doom. At a time when Black Sabbath were creatively floundering and popular metal was consumed by speed, the Swedish band harkened to yesteryear with crawling hard rock riffs and introduced the element of operatic vocals to the genre for the first time. This is indeed the birth of Epic Doom Metal.
Katatonia – Brave Murder Day
The second album from these Swedish purveyors of despair is the gold standard of doom death. Long before it was fashionable in the metal community to name drop Swans as an influence, Katatonia were utilizing simple repetition as a tool for building unbearable tension. The band reaches levels of hypnotic beauty on Brave Murder Day that reach shoegaze levels of ecstacy. An album that is as influenced by the songwriting prowess of Robert Smith as Tony Iommi, Brave Murder Day is a melancholic masterpiece.
Saint Vitus – Born Too Late
The third album by Saint Vitus is a triumph of hopelessness and easily one of the best doom records ever made. The band’s flawless, earth churning psychedelic blues were given added depth by guitarist Dave Chandler’s heartbreaking autobiographical lyrics about alcoholism and depression. The addition of new frontman Scott “Wino” Weinrich put the whole package over the top. The benchmark of misery.
My Dying Bride – Turn Loose The Swans
Arguably the most important death doom record ever created and an important precursor to the gothic metal movement of subsequent years, Turn Loose the Swans is a masterclass in melodrama. Their deft use of traditional orchestral elements (that sometimes abandoned guitars altogether), combined with Aaron Stainthorpe’s animalistic growl create an aura of mournful romance that was completely new at the time and has yet to be surpassed.
Trouble – Psalm 9/The Skull
It’s impossible to pick one over the other, but Trouble’s first two studio albums are the pinnacle of doom metal as we know it. Unlike the more straightforward Black Sabbath-esque psychedelia of contemporaries in Saint Vitus, Trouble took a ton of sonic inspiration from the NWOBHM movement, owing as much musically to Glen Tipton as Tony Iommi. Most of Trouble’s lyrics on these records were lifted straight out of the Bible, which singer Eric Wagner used to reference his ongoing drug dependence and chronic depression. Simply the greatest doom metal record(s) ever written.