We’ve had some lively debates around Monster Riff while trying to nail down once and for all what Stoner Rock is. Yes, we’ve even started a series about it, but that doesn’t go quite far enough. For all the Wikipedia articles out there, we still find blurred lines between Stoner Rock, Desert Rock, Fuzz Rock, Stoner Metal, Doom Rock, and Sludge Metal.
We’re settling the score once and for all. So that we can continue having productive conversations without splitting hairs, we’re defining Stoner Rock and some of its closest sonic cousins.
Definition: Stoner Rock is inspired heavily by the heavy riffs of Black Sabbath and the quick, frantic focus of Black Flag. There’s an emphasis on distortion, down-tuned guitars, massive riffs that are frequently repeated, groove, and a slow to medium tempo. In many cases, a Stoner Rock song is built around one or two meaty, catchy riffs that propel the song forward. Without these elements, you don’t have Stoner Rock.
- Fu Manchu
- Monster Magnet
Song Example: “Thumb” by Kyuss
Definition: For some, Stoner Rock and Desert Rock are synonymous, but that’s an oversimplification. Desert Rock is a sub-genre of Stoner Rock. Much of today’s classic Stoner Rock tracks were born in the desert—Palm Desert, California, to be exact. This is the same region that birthed groups and artists like Kyuss, Mondo Generator, Queens of the Stone Age, Brant Bjork and the Bros, Unida, Hermano, and more. Desert Rock is a term typically reserved for Stoner Rock that comes from this region. Another key differentiator: Thanks to Palm Desert’s proximity to Mexico, you’ll often hear hints of traditional Mexican and Spanish guitars.
- Queens of the Stone Age
- Karma to Burn
Song Example: “Regular John” by Queens of the Stone Age
Definition: Stoner Metal is best described as a faster, heavier version of Stoner Rock. Stoner Metal has darker overtones, and it frequently features elements of thrash and sludge. It’s not as melodic as Stoner Rock, but hey, Stoner Rock isn’t very melodic to begin with.
- St. Vitus
- Corrosion of Conformity
Song Example: “Albatross” by Corrosion of Conformity
Definition: Doom Metal is a less melodic version of Stoner Rock that exchanges groove for extra helpings of riff and distortion. Doom Metal often focus more jamming out to create a sonic landscape than delivering tight songs. While Doom Metal can be sludgy, it’s also occasionally theatrical or cinematic, as bands may mix in Gothic Metal and other influences.
- We Hunt Buffalo
- Electric Wizard
Song Example: “Heavy Low” by We Hunt Buffalo
Definition: Fuzz Rock contains many of the traditional Stoner Rock elements, but it rejects the “stoner” label. Fuzz Rock riffs are delivered through amps drenched in fuzz effects, and the song structure offers more opportunities for guitar solos inspired by ’70s Rock. You’ll also find a wider variety of tempos in Fuzz Rock albums.
- Valley of the Sun
Song Example: “Hearts Aflame” by Valley of the Sun
Definition: Sludge Metal delivers slower, denser riffs than those you’ll find in Stoner Rock. And while Stoner Rock can be aggressive (think Kyuss on “Green Machine”), sexy (think 1000mods on “Big Beautiful”), and fun (think Fu Manchu on “Mongoose”), Sludge Metal brings a general sense of dread, foreboding, and depression. Thanks to the slow, dense riffs (occasionally divided by fast tempos), Sludge Metal is moody without ever slipping into Emo territory.
- Electric Wizard