10 Stoner Metal Albums Ranked by a Metalhead Who Doesn't Smoke Weed
I hate weed, but love riffs.
Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz
It's Weed Week, so we're lighting up a monster joint and celebrating all things marijuana. In honor of the occasion we had a stoner who doesn't listen to metal rank stoner albums. We also had a metalhead who doesn't smoke weed rank stoner metal albums. What follows is the later.
I remember the first time I ever smoked weed. I was about 13 at the time, and the boy I liked, Steve, was super into being a stoner. His eyes were always red, he talked at a stumbling glacial pace, he sucked at school, and he really only talked to me when the subject of nu-metal came up (as far as I was concerned, it was kind of our "thing"). For some reason, I thought all of these excruciatingly obvious red flags were all super attractive. So, one day, determined to forge a deeper connection, I plucked up the courage to ask him to sell me a "dime bag," as I was pretty sure it was called. We made the exchange the next day after lunch, and then I promptly forgot about it until about a week later, when he asked if I wanted any more. Shit.
After school, my best friend Beth came over to help me on my quest for stoner bliss. We scampered out to the back corner of my family's property, where she served as a lookout. Sweating bullets, I crouched down next to my dad's butcher shed and furtively pulled out my little baggie and the "one-hitter" that Steve had thrown in to sweeten the deal. It was made out of a grey pen, and got very hot as soon as I held the flame up to its tiny "bowl," which I'd packed (loosely) with mysterious green herbiage.
In retrospect, Steve had definitely sold me what I've come to realize is known as "dirt weed"—the shittiest possible kind of weed, and a terrible way to introduce oneself to the alleged wonders of cannabis. At that point, though, I was determined to make it happen. A couple of puffs and ensuing flurry of dry, racking coughs later, I… felt the same. After a few minutes, I convinced myself that I "totally feel something," but all I really felt was bummed that I'd wasted ten bucks on a sore throat and muddy knees.
Every close encounter of the green kind I've had since has been summarily disappointing—from coughing through high school parties, to huffing gravity bongs in college, to the time I ate a weed cookie at Roadburn and fell asleep during OM. One time, I accidentally ate a weed brownie on the first day of my first tour running merch for Corrosion of Conformity, and legitimately thought I was dying. The few times I have actually managed to get high, it went wrong; I'd get all giggly and silly and say a bunch of dumb shit, and then get really hungry and eat a bunch of garbage food… and then, I'd end up getting really sad and upset, because I didn't want to be high anymore, but couldn't make it stop. I'm sure this is the kind of thing you'd get over if you smoked more habitually and built up some tolerance, but I personally just don't see the point of wasting all that time when whiskey exists.
At this point (even while leaving treacherous baked goods out of the equation) I generally just… hate… weed. I know that's a controversial thing to say on this website, but I cannot hold my silence any longer. I hate how it smells, how the smoke soaks into my hair when people around me are smoking it, and the effect that it has on me. I also 100 percent believe that it should be legal, and that anyone incarcerated for selling (or using) it should be promptly freed and given reparations—but beyond that, keep it the fuck away from me.
On a more superficial (but still annoying!) level, I hate the way that it's seen as some kind of prerequisite for enjoying albums by some of my favorite bands. See, I hate weed, but I love stoner metal. Whether we're talking lumbering ganja-stained riffs, or fuzzy-wuzzy psych, or desperate, dirty sludge, I'm all in—and the insinuation that I'm somehow "missing something" about bands like Sleep or Bongzilla just because they like weed and I don't is more than a little grating. I love EyeHateGod, too, but that doesn't mean I'm stoked on heroin, you know?
In talking about this with my coworkers, I decided that I need to make a stand for all the sober stoner doom lovers out there. The term "stoner doom" itself can be as fuzzy as an Orange amp set to stun, so for the purpose of this exercise, I'm focusing on the "metal" part, and leaving out obvious stoner rock rifflords Kyuss, Nebula, Fu Manchu, and Graveyard in favor of their more distorted counterparts. So, without further ado, here are what I consider to be the top ten stoner metal albums of all time… ranked by someone who really, really fuckin' hates weed.
10. Belzebong, Sonic Scapes & Weedy Grooves
Belzebong is an instrumental Polish stoner doom band comprises of dudes with stage names like Alky Dude, Cheesy Dude, and Felony Dude. They have an album called Sonic Scapes & Weedy Grooves, with a song called "Bong Thrower." Their riffs are solid (and with no vocals to potentially muck it up, they eliminate the risk of falling victim to one of the major pitfalls of the genre—weak ass vocals). Their band name mashes up weed and the Devil. What more could any self-respecting stoner doom 'head ask for, honestly?
9. Acid King, Busse Woods
Fun fact about San Francisco's Acid King: they allegedly took their name from the Acid King, a local drug dealer who'd murdered a friend over angel dust while high on mescaline. With that kind of auspicious origin story, how could they be anything but dark, cosmic, and utterly addictive? Guitarist and vocalist Lori S. formed the band back in 1993, and 1999's Busse Woods still stands as one of Acid King's finest hours. Every inescapably groovy note is perfectly calibrated to life your spirits and bow your head, and Lori's tough, soaring vocals especially stand out in a genre crowded with crooning hippie dudes. Heavy on biker vibes and a life-fast-or-die-trying attitude, Acid King is the odd stoner band that actually seems like they might kick your ass once they finish their bowl.
8. Goatsnake, Flowers of Disease
You know who knows his way around a riff? Greg Anderson. Before he deconstructed the entire idea with Sunn 0))), he was throwing down with the funereal Thorr's Hammer, as well as the eminently more stoner-friendly Goatsnake, whose 2000 opus Flower of Disease has long been hailed as a drugged-out doom classic. Greasy rock 'n' roll licks and low-slung grooves abound, anchored by Pete Stahl's robust wail and lyrics about coyotes, dying, and tripping back and forth to the moon, Flower of Disease forged the missing link between Black Sabbath and Acid Bath.
7. Saint Vitus, Born Too Late
I really could've picked any Saint Vitus recording and felt justified in including it on a list like this, but Born Too Late is one of the band's most influential and universally beloved releases (it's also my favorite). Recorded back in 1986 (back when the band were a mere youthful shadow of the hoary elder statesmen they'd eventually become), Wino's distinctive yowl provided a perfect foil for Dave Chandler's winding, psych-tinged, monolithically heavy riffs and manic, skittering leads. The fact that most of the songs are about being fucked up (and fucking up one's life with substance abuse) sure doesn't hurt its stoner cred, and the record's crawling, thunderous pace mirrors those dark, paranoid moments when being high stops being fun and your mind becomes a prison.
6. Melvins, Stoner Witch
One of my favorite tidbits about the Melvins is that, while they released this album and have generally served as messy spiritual forefathers to all manner of sluggish, ugly, difficult, druggy heavy music, band mouthpiece and chief hair farmer King Buzzo doesn't even smoke weed. He's on my team! One assumes this general aversion to drugs is a result of growing up in the Seattle grunge scene and seeing a bunch of his friends meet grisly ends at the end of a needle, but only he knows for sure. Anyway, in addition to spawning at least a few dozen Instagram handles, Stoner Witch is weird as shit, riffy as hell, and seems like it would definitely freak out anyone who was in any way impaired in a (probably?) good way.
5. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality
You already goddamn know why this is on the list. I was just going to paste the lyrics to "Sweet Leaf" here but figured that'd be overkill. This is arguably Black Sabbath's most perfect Ozzy-era album (yes, it's my favorite; yes, there is no way in hell I will entertain any arguments to the contrary). Even discounting "Sweet Leaf," the rest of the record is wall-to-wall stoner gold. "Into the Void"? "After Forever?" "CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE"!? Fuck "Iron Man," this is the pinnacle of drug Sabbath.
4. Weedeater, God Luck and Good Speed
Southern sludge and stoner metal make for extremely easy bedfellows; some might categorize them as one and the same. That's a minutiae-flecked argument for another day, but for our purposes here today, can we just talk about how Weedeater is probably the weediest band that ever wended their way through a weedy field of blunt guts? These dudes love getting fucked up (and weed is probably their tamest vice) but their superpower lies in their ability to get honest-to-god blasted... and then step onstage and absolutely kill it, every damn time. God Luck and Good Speed remains their most impactful release, littered with their trademark syrupy Southern grooves and vocals that sound like Dixie Dave's been gargling glass alongside his customary cough syrup. There is a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover. There is a song called "Weed Monkey." I once overheard Dixie tell someone that he was "higher'n owl pussy." What more do you need, really?
3. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone
Speaking of wizards, these British gods of all things mind-altering really outdid themselves here. Dopethrone is a stone-cold stoner classic, chock full of elongated, endlessly woozy riffs and weird tales. Black amps tear the sky, T.H.C. visions and holy feedback reign, and Jus Osborn delivers dire proclamations on drug lust, blood lust, and zombies in his windswept, half-lucid whine. After taking a few hits off Osborn's fretboard, living in Electric Wizard's world of black nebulas and dope priest prophecies starts to sound pretty fucking appealing.
2. Sleep, Holy Mountain
Oh, you thought listing just one Sleep album would suffice? You thought wrong. The opening riff to "Dragonaut" alone will get you stoned as a fucking kite, no herbal accessories required. You want dragons? There are dragons. And druids. And spaceships. And reptilians. You know how when D'Angelo plays, someone's bound to get pregnant? Well, as soon as "From Beyond" hits, your ass is gonna be fucking high. Stoner caravan from deep space arrives, rides on the suncraft toward the glowing eye, babyyyyy!
1. Sleep, Dopesmoker
This is it, the granddaddy of them all, the ultimate stoner metal album: Dopesmoker. Drop out of life with bong in hand, and follow the smoke toward Matt Pike's gloriously heavy, mind-melting, riff-filled land (just try not to inhale).
BONUS: BONGRIPPER, Hippie Killer
I just wanted to stick this on here because Bongripper rules and so does this album, even though it doesn't really fall under what I'd consider to be stoner doom (it is, however, very trippy and warped, which might work well with weed?). I am also firmly anti-hippie, partly because I hate weed so much. Phish sucks, tie-dye is stupid, and metal rules. Later, nerds!
Kim Kelly will not be getting stoned on 4/20. Follow her on Twitter.
Check out the rest of Noisey's Weed Week here.