5 Common Lyrical Themes in Stoner Rock: From Dopesmokin’ to Mythology

The emphasis is usually on the riff in Stoner Rock. And yeah, for a site called Monster Riff, we’ve spent tons of time studying and writing about riffs, including the best riffs and what a riff actually is.

But let’s not forget about the lyrics.

Lyrics sometimes play a backseat in the heavily distorted sounds of Stoner Rock songs. Unlike a folk song by a singer/songwriter, fans may not pay as much attention to lyrical content in a long jam by Fu Manchu.

Despite this, there are some great lyricists in the Stoner Rock genre. Neil Fallon of Clutch is probably the poet laureate of the bunch, and Josh Homme has a knack for a witty turn of phrase.

We sifted through dozens of Stoner and Desert Rock songs and came up with five lyrical themes you’re likely to come across.

1. Driving through the Desert

The Palm Desert Scene of the early ‘90s has been hugely influential in Stoner and Desert Rock, starting with pioneers like Kyuss and the many bands that spun off from them. As a result, there are plenty of songs about taking long, fast, and furious rides through desert landscapes.

In Truckfighters’ “Desert Cruiser,” Oskar Cedermalm sings over a fuzzy riff about the many pleasures of a desert ride with his babe and some booze. The chorus repeats, “I’m running out of gas!” Hopefully, everything worked out.

Another desert-driving jam is “Riding the Dunes” by Valley of the Sun. Vocalist Ryan Ferrier takes a more mystical approach in this track, singing about the desert and a little space exploration:

Feed my soul
We got a way to go
These endless worldly things
Are better left alone
It’s time to lift away up to the moon
Tranquility awaits within the dunes

Two other notable desert driving tracks include “Dune” by Puta Volcano and “Vidage” by 1000mods. “Vidage” is a gnarly, nearly nine-minute song and one of 1000mods’ most popular tracks. It comes off the band’s debut 2011 album, Super Van Vacation, where the cover art displays a sun-soaked van kicking up desert dust.

2. Riding through Space

Stoner Rockers sing a lot about trips through the desert, but they also have a thing for exploring space. Any number of songs detail riding through the outer reaches of the universe, such as Clutch’s classic “Spacegrass” and Monster Magnet’s signature song, “Space Lord.”

King Buffalo writes songs almost exclusively about space and space travel. On their new album Dead Star, vocalist Sean McVay sings in “Eta Carinae”:

Shades of violet creeping over the sky
Solar wind sweeps away the dust
Shattering anchors under crumbling stone
Beaming brightly form your eye
Viridian rays align
Viridian rays align

Other awesome space travelin’ songs to check out include “Center of the Sun” by German rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, “Ride the Sun” by Mothership, and “Endless Flight” by Egypt.

3. Smokin’ Dope and Doin’ Drugs

They call it Stoner Rock for a reason. There are tons of songs about weed and doing copious amounts of drugs. Many musicians have said over the years they don’t care for the Stoner Rock label, and not every band hit with the label is into the drug culture.

But some bands, well, are very into it. Sleep has based many of its songs on smoking weed, especially the legendary 63-minute track “Dopesmoker.” Electric Wizard is another band that bows to the altar of marijuana. “Dopethrone,” the title track of a 2000 album, is basically the band’s manifesto on doom, drugs, and evil gods.

The ever-contrarian Josh Homme took a shot at the Stoner Rock label in the satirical “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” on Queen of the Stone Age’s 2000 album Rated R. The song consists of Homme simply chanting the names of various narcotics:

Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol
Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol
Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol

4. Mythology

Led Zeppelin and other Classic Rockers’ fascination with mythology was probably passed down to more contemporary Stoner and Desert Rock bands. There are plenty of songs in the Stoner Rock genre with mythological themes, including “The Children of Coyote Woman” by All Them Witches and “Mercury” by Clutch.

In “Queen of All Time (Red Giant),” Egypt vocalist Aaron Esteby combines ombines Greek mythology and space exploration in the lyrics:

Omega run to the center of the universe
Plot the course and head straight for the other side
To a place where all eyes unify Omega run, Omega run
In flight with the son of Icarus bowed down at the feet of Orion
The sky built a shrine above my head asleep in the arms of a giant

The Sword also sings frequently of mythology, especially on its debut 2006 album Age of Winters. “Freya,” a single from the album, is about one of the preeminent goddesses in Norse mythology.

5. Broken Love and Bad Relationships

Many ‘70s and ‘80s Rock bands sang of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, but also wrote romantic ballads every so often. Especially the ‘80s hair bands. This usually isn’t the case in Stoner, Desert, and Doom Rock. A common lyrical theme is about dysfunctional relationships and broken love.

“Your Love Makes Me Wanna Hurt Myself” by Planet is a Zeus is a good example of this theme, though vocalist Babis Papanikolaou also relishes in the lustful parts of the relationship dynamic. “Rational Woman” by Sasquatch and “The Dagger” by Nebula are other tracks about heartbreak.

One of our favorites for this theme is “Good for Nothing” off Honeybadger’s new album, Pleasure Delayer. Vocalist Dimitris Vardoulakis sings:

She is fire, she grows with air
She’s stone, she strengthens with flair
She is water, flows in despair
She is earth, good for nothing

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: