When we think about Stoner Rock’s heroes, we typically point back to the genre’s heroes: Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet. These names come up over and over again, and one of the main reasons is that the Stoner Rock genre is small. There aren’t many bands who’ve made careers out of Stoner Rock.
But that doesn’t mean other bands haven’t dabbled. Since the early ‘90s, other bands have occasionally grabbed onto Stoner Rock’s styles, themes, and techniques and baked them into their own sound. Let’s take a look at a few Stoner Rock tunes by groups we don’t think of as Stoner Rock bands.
Back in the mid-’90s, Local H was ready to jump into superstardom. Fresh off the success of As Good As Dead (a gold album popular for their hit single, “Bound for the Floor”) the band headed back to the studio and recorded their third album: Pack Up the Cats. Although a much more consistent effort over their previous two albums, the band missed its shot at the big leagues when their record label went under. Although commercial success eluded them, the Chicago two-piece soldiered on, adopting a tireless touring schedule that has lasted into the 2020s.
Local H was always cloistered into the Grunge/Alt Rock movement, but they have experimented with different sounds over the years. With their penchant for heavy riffs and heaps of distortion, the band has released a few Stoner Rock-qualifying gems over the years.
This 10-minute, multi-part song is the climax of Local H’s Whatever Happened to PJ Soles? album. While we’ll admit the first half doesn’t fit the Stoner Rock template, the second half latches on to its central riff like the rest of the album depends on it.
The Smashing Pumpkins
Alt Rock heroes from the 1990s, The Smashing Pumpkins found worldwide success and critical acclaim for 1993’s Siamese Dream and 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. For Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan & Co. experimented with an enromous variety fo distortion pedals to create a huge wall of fuzzy, layered guitars. This ferocious attack continued in Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and 2000’s Machina: The Machines of God.
Although Corgan would likely never consider the Pumpkins a Stoner Rock act, the band does have a few Stoner Rock-flavored tracks in their back catalogue.
“Where Boys Fear to Tread”
Don’t be fooled by the first half minute of “Where Boys Fear to Tread.” The beginning opens loud and loose with scattered drums and feedback. Once the riff hits, however, the band is happy riding it through the rest of the track.
When Hum scored its hit single “Stars” in 1995, the band’s sound was notable for its beautiful melodies, endless waves of feedback, and Matt Talbot’s flat but soothing vocals. Part Industrial, part Pop, and part Alternative Rock, Hum was a special combination of sounds that earned it a small cult following through the rest of the decade.
While the band’s work showed glimmers of Stoner Rock tendencies throughout its career, its first album, 1993’s Electra2000 showed the biggest ties to California’s desert scene.
“Iron Clad Lou”
Like many of Hum’s songs, “Iron Clad Lou” takes a moment to find its groove. Around the 3:50 mark, however, we encounter a true Stoner Rock riff packed with fuzz and overlayered with an occasional screeching guitar.
By their very nature as a metal band, Helmet is, by default, the closest one on this list to the Stoner Rock genre. Incredibly influential in their early days, acts like Godsmack, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, Mastodon, Pantera, and Tool have taken pages from the Helmet playbook.
“In the Meantime”
Close your eyes, head back to 1992, and pop on the open track of Meantime, “In the Meantime.” With that pulsing guitar riff and Page Hamilton’s rough vocals, “In the Meantime” sounds like it may have inspired all of Clutch’s Transnational Speedway League.