13 Smoking Stoner-Rock Record Labels
If it’s heady, it’s heavy, and it’s on vinyl: It’s here.
Billowing up directly from the hypnotic coughs that open Black Sabbath’s fuzz-soaked 1971 love ode to cannabis sativa, “Sweet Leaf,” stoner rock is a hybrid metal strain of doom, sludge, prog, punk, acid, and garage-band abandon. Its artists, fans, and purveyors all orbit around the same blazing inferno of inspiration: marijuana.
Rooted in the 1970s, stoner rock music most properly exist as vinyl albums. It’s not just for nostalgia, nor the sonic and aesthetic superiority of the format. It's because LPs come in cardboard jackets perfect for joint rolling while the slab spins.
The following 13 record labels have sparked a global stoner rock movement. Their every new release fans the flames even further.
Based in Italy, Go Down has been importing and exporting musical mind-blows since 2003. The all-purpose label boasts a recording studio where bands can create their discs on the spot. No need to expound on how spectacular the local post-session munchie cures are.
Key Artists: Karma to Burn, Fatso Jetson, OJM, Fuzztones
New Releases: The Soul Comes Out to Boogie—Lu Silver String Band; Live at Maximum Festival—Yawning Man
Website: Go Down Records
The mission statement of Flint, Michigan’s Emetic Records could not be more direct: “We release what we think needs to be out there.” Clearly, the label has a finger on the stoner rock pulse and bong choke, as its roster is revered worldwide.
Key Artists: EyeHateGod, Pentagram, Church of Misery
New Releases: Greenferno—Belzebong; And Then There Were None—Church of Misery
Website: Emetic Records
Heavy Psych Sounds
Gabrielle Fiori, frontman and multi-instrumentalist of Italian psych-rockers Black Rainbows, launched Heavy Psych Sounds in 2007. As his band has conquered a planet loaded with lit metal fans, so, too, has his label.
Key Artists: Black Rainbows, White Hills, Deadsmoke
New Releases: 5—Farflung; 4-Band Split #2—The Golden Grass/Killer Boogie/Wild Eyes/Banquet
Website: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
“We are underground stoner metal and acid rock vinyl-worshiping kingpins of criminal noise,” declares Hydro-Phonic Records’ Facebook page. The output backs up the claim, with deluxe packages, special editions, and beautifully captured psychedelic metal ugliness ruling Hydro-Phonic’s selections.
Key Artists: Bongzilla, Black Pyramid,
New Releases: The Once and Future Car—Space Mushroom Fuzz; The White Staff Burned—Blue Aside
Website: Hydro-Phonic Records
In terms of packaging alone, every Kozmick Artifactz release out of Berlin, Germany, is a keeper, pouring forth on 180g vinyl contained in heavy gatefold covers. Even in streaming form, though, KA’s output is something to light up and cherish.
Key Artists: Ruby the Hatchet, Space God Ritual, Somali Yacht Club
New Releases: Songs for the Rejects, Slackers, and Rabble-Rousers—Mississippi Bones; Red Spektor—Red Spektor
Website: Kozmick Artifactz
Conceived in Texas and based in Berlin—two particularly fertile stoner rock hotspots—Nasoni consistently unleashes knockout trips on hot wax.
Key Artists: Stoned Jesus, Vibravoid, Liquid Sky Company
New Releases: Alienfunk—Knall; Forsaken Memoriam—Forsaken Memoriam
Webite: Nasoni Records
Ozium calls Malmö, Sweden, home and “stoner rock, fuzz rock, progressive rock, psych rock, doom rock and retro rock” its specialty. Ozium albums will make you say, “Ja!”
Key Artists: Lugnoro, Haddock , Bad Acid
New Releases: Danse Macabre—Haddock; Olde One Ascending—Vokonis
Website: Ozium Records
Skull-flowering sounds escape from Hamburg, Germany, by way of Pink Tank Records, which declares up front: “Stoned, psychedelic, and heavy—that’s how we love it!” Last October, the label mounted a Pink Tank Festival across Germany. Everybody’s still high.
Key Artists: Atomic Vulture, Bone Man, Laserdrift
New Releases: The Zenith Cracks—Kaleidobolt; Live in Berlin—Naam
Website: Pink Tank Records
In the late ’70s, Hermosa Beach, California, gave birth to much of the extreme musical attitudes that would dominate hardcore punk in years to come. The sounds remain heavy in Hermosa, the HQ of RidingEasy records, but the grooves smoke in myriad different directions. Be sure to check out the label’s RidingEasy Potcast.
Key Artists: Danava, Holy Serpent, Mondo Drag
New Releases: Test Press—Svvamp; Higher Time—Electric Citizen
Website: Riding Easy
Lee Dorian, then the vocalist of Napalm Death, founded Rise Above as a hardcore singles label in 1988. Now, as Rise Above itself puts it, they cover “an eclectic mix of underground rock from doom metal to acid folk and classic-styled progressive rock and Proto Metal.” Somebody there lit up (all for the better!).
Key Artists: Ghost, Electric Wizard, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
New Releases: Lord of Misrule—Blood Ceremony; Lusus Naturae—Beastmaker
Website: Rise Above Records
In many ways, Southern Lord is to modern stoner rock what SST was to ’80s punk and Sub Pop was to ’90s grunge. Founded by Sunn 0))) and Goatsnake frontman Greg Anderson and named as a joking reference to Slayer’s South of Heaven album, Southern Lord has proven crucial to defining the 21st century incarnation of the genre.
Key Artists: Sunn 0))), Sleep, High on Fire
New Releases: Poisonous Legacy—Sarabante; Satyagraha—Paranoid
Website: Southern Lord
The smoke emanating from Brest, France, rises courtesy of Totem Cat Records, one of Europe’s most rapidly expanding stoner labels. In addition to TC’s own lineup of artists, the label reissues heavy classics on the order of Saint Vitus’s original onslaught of LPs.
Key Artists: Wo Fat, Stonehelm, Dopethrone
New Releases: Forever Dead, Forever Stoned—Goya; Cyclopean Riffs—Wo Fat/Egypt
Website: Totem Cat Records
Heavy metal and horror movies have been intertwined since Black Sabbath named themselves after a Boris Karloff fright flick. Waxwork Records electrically taps that connection, and specifically packs it into the stoner rock bong, by remastering, repackaging, and releasing vintage horror and other extreme cinema soundtracks for the doom/psych/prog audience. That the music is hard, heavy, trippy, and freakout-inducing only makes it more perfect.
Key Releases: My Bloody Valentine; Nosferatu the Vampyre; Black Christmas
New Releases: Taxi Driver; Tales From the Darkside: The Movie; Goosebumps
Website: Waxwork Records