There are numerous genres and subgenres of rock and metal music, stoner being only one of the many. Although I’m not really into tagging bands depending on these subgenres, as I prefer to focus on enjoying the music itself, I’m not against it.
As long as the affiliation to a subgenre – stoner rock, in this case – does not strangle the artistic freedom, creativity, and does not impose restrictions of any kind, it can’t do any harm. On the contrary, it helps us, the audience, discover great music similar to that we already love on YouTube or Spotify, see and hear some of the best stoner rock bands gathered in one single place (at a concert or a thematic festival), and train our ears into the sound of the riffs and elements specific to this subgenre, for those of us who want to approach a similar style in the music we create.
Roughly speaking, stoner rock is a fusion of subgenres characterized by groovy bass sounds, distortion and low tempo, all of which create a particularly profound state calling for introspection. The pioneers of this genre were Kyuss, but it is said that stoner-like elements were first heard at Black Sabbath. Stoner rock has increasingly gained popularity in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, with fantastic bands emerging from all over.
1. Stoned Jesus, Ukraine
Stoned Jesus is a stoner/psychedelic/doom Ukrainian band founded in 2009 in Kyiv and probably the most famous representative of its genre. Their first album was released in 2010 and it was positively received, but what caught worldwide attention was their 2012’s “Seven Thunders Roar”. This album has become a staple of stoner rock, with the track “I’m the mountain” being the most popular track within the stoner rock community, amassing over 15 million views on YouTube. Stoned Jesus have released four studio albums so far, and for the last of them, “Pilgrims”, they signed to Napalm Records in 2018.
2. Nightstalker, Greece
Though they have stated they don’t like to be placed in any category whatsoever, I cannot help but include Nightstalker here, as this list would be incomplete without them. Formed in 1989 in Athens, Greece, Nightstalker has had a prolific career, with eight releases and hundreds of performances worldwide. They gained notoriety after they released “Use” in 1996. Within over three decades of existence, they managed to maintain a front position on the European stoner rock scene. Fusing dark groovy sounds with heavy metal influences, Nightstalker have created a solid fanbase that have shown their loyalty and appreciation by joining the band at the festivals and tours they attended.
3. 1000mods, Greece
Greece has given many remarkable stoner rock bands, one of the youngest being 1000mods. The band was born in 2006, in Chiliomodi, Greece. Their debut album “Super Van Vacation” received immense appreciation among fans of stoner, and the following two, “Vultures” (2014) and “Repeated Exposure To…” (2016) did not fall short of expectations, either. Over the few years they have been around, 1000mods extensively toured all around Europe, sharing the stage with some big bands and attending important festivals like Desertfest Belgium, Up In Smoke 3, Rockwave, Keep It Low and Blue Moon Festivals.
4. Belzebong, Poland
Belzebong is an instrumental stoner/doom band from Kilelce, Poland, formed in 2008. They are known for not divulging their real names, using pseudonyms, each of them identifying as “a Dude” (the Cheesy Dude, Sheepy Dude, Hexy Dude and Alky Dude). To preserve this mysterious aura they have created, they keep their faces covered by hair or by smoke. Their fuzzy and distorted sounds gave birth to the first album, “Sonic Scapes and Weedy Groves” (2011), which propelled the band onto the underground rock scene. In 2015 the second album “Greenferno” was out, followed by “Light The Dankness” in 2018. They have taken their heavily distorted riffs over the ocean, to the United States and South America.
5. Dopelord, Poland
Dopelord is a Polish stoner/doom band originating from Lublin, which have been playing from 2010 on. Their first album, “Magick Rites” saw the light in 2012 and the second one, “Black Arts, Riff Worship & Weed Cult”, was out in 2014, both of them having been wholeheartedly welcomed by the public and the critics. To promote their albums, they toured both around Poland and abroad, taking part in some prestigious festivals, Red Smoke Festival, Desertfest London and DesertFest Berlin. The fourth release, “Sign Of The Devil” (2020) received the most appreciation and positive reviews, but the tour was postponed because of the CO-VID19 Pandemic.