Every person is different, especially when it comes to picking their preferred music to spark a joint to. That said, few genres are as ready-made for getting high on cannabis as stoner rock. If you’re inclined to listen to bands with guitars at the forefront, chances are your taste runs towards the fuzzed-out and slowed down when the clock strikes 4:20.
Stoner rock is everything that you could ask for. It’s bluesy yet doesn’t feel antiquated; it’s heavy yet spends more time in hypnotic repetitions instead of unleashing aggression and interesting enough to feature enough guitar, drums, and bass soloing to get lost in the moment. To put it simply, it’s music that rocks out yet doesn’t require much physical activity other than nodding your head to the easy grooves.
Latin America has a long history with the genre. Some of the earliest psychedelic bands from the late ‘60s and ‘70s that have become legendary in each of their country’s scenes—Pescado Rabioso, Los Dug Dugs, Tarkus, etc.—practiced a form of heavy rock that can be retroactively called stoner rock. When bands started using the name in the ‘80s and ‘90s, consciously trying to replicate the music from that era, bands like Los Natas from Argentina and The Sweet Leaf in Mexico became some of the first bands to do it. By the turn of the millennium, the influx of stoner rock bands adhering to the style or one of its many subgenres, like doom metal and sludge, has increased exponentially, with a cross-continent scene gelling into something really inspiring.
Here are five contemporary bands that take stoner rock to the highest of standards—IYKYK—hence making the perfect 4/20 playlist additions.
While there are plenty of space-themed stoner rock bands the world over, seldom do you get a band so committed to the bit as this Mexico City-based quartet. Vinnum Sabbathi (which is about to embark on a European tour) takes a scientific approach to its subject matter without actually having lyrics. It samples scientists talking about gravity theory or archival recordings of transmissions from astronauts and pairs it nicely with a heaviness that ebbs and flows between crushingly slow and atmospheric to headbanging riffing. Their latest full-length, 2020’s Of Dimensions & Theories, takes a sci-fi approach to their music without changing much of their approach, rather fine-tuning their style to deliver as crushing as it is hopeful.
Out of Parana, Argentina, we find a psychedelic yet crushingly heavy unit that will be your favorite band if you’re into trippy, drone-out riffing and evil vibes to go along with it. This trio vows to the altar of bands like Electric Wizard thanks to their hypnotic riffing, larger-than-life distorted sounds, and love for occult-centric exploitation movies. Their latest album, 2022’s Violent Theater, keeps the flame burning black with songs such as the multipart “Communion Of The Vile,” Sabbath-worthy “The Meaning Of All Evil,” and swinging “Last Will.” Mephistofeles are into developing their sound into a perfect, smoked-out diamond that will keep you locked into their grooves. Grave a hooded robe, light some candles, and get blazed to the dark powers of Mephistofeles.
Santiago de Chile’s Arteaga certainly has a sinister edge—the band’s titles and artwork suggest all types of macabre entertainment you can imagine. And yet, their sound does with a little bit of sunshine. The band’s riffing owes as much to first-generation flower power psych-rockers from the ‘60s as it does to doom metal. For example, songs like “Brujo” feature riffs straight out of a motorcycle gang/free-love hippies movie soundtrack, with groovy guitars turning into swamp creatures and back again. Loose drumming and wah-drenched guitar solos also contribute to the acid-damaged yet feel-good approach to heavy riffing that makes Arteaga a band to put on your road trip playlist.
There’s nothing pretty about Basalt’s musical approach. Here, everything’s pitch black and layered like the circles of hell. This Sao Paulo, Brazil, band takes its cue from noisy and expansive bands like Neurosis as well as the nihilistic sonic attack of black metal to deliver something seldom heard anywhere else, yet never cross into actual metal violence. As proven by their latest album, 2020’s Silêncio como Respiração, this quartet can warp their sound into different shapes with simple elements like repetitive riffing and conjuring visions of psychic netherworlds. Their roaring songs should leave you plenty satisfied if you like a little harshness with your mellow.
This Lima, Peru, trio takes its time to build its impressive walls of distorted guitar sound while reveling in its slow yet groove-heavy music. Cuarzo is all about setting up the mood and inviting the listener to reside in it once all the threads are woven together. 2020’s Vol. 2 takes you on a peyote trip of an album with impressive musicianship with plenty of headbanging moments to make the trip worthwhile. Their sense of drama and composition make it an ideal listen that recalls the usual type of mental imagery, as well as so much more. This is stoner rock as a film soundtrack, where the film takes on many twists and turns with a firm plot line.