Seven Rock Bands that Influenced Sludge Metal

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Are you a fan of Sludge Metal, but don’t know what classic rock bands influenced and evolved the Sludge Metal Genre? Maybe you wonder when Grunge Music became Sludge Metal?

Maybe you’ve always wanted to know more about the subgenre of heavy metal known as Sludge, and who influenced the style?

Good News!

In this article, we’re going to discuss our Top Seven Sludge Metal Godfathers, all of them influencing today’s sludge music scene. Furthermore, you will learn how Grunge lasted into the early 2000s, but after the genre went underground, what resurfaced was Sludge! Most importantly, you’ll find out who Sludge Life selected as the Godfathers of Sludge Metal.

What is Sludge Metal?

Sludge Metal Cover for

Sludge Metal is an extreme style of music.  It has elements of doom metal and hardcore punk, in addition to the obvious industrial and grunge musical influences.

It reflects its root genres in the scales used and dissonance. Sludge Metal has high vocals, often just shouted vocals, and sharp tones contrasting with the distorted instruments.

Lastly, many sludge bands play slow-paced songs with brief passages of hardcore music. The guitars are played with a large amount of feedback, but guitar solos are minimized in favor of moody instrumental sections. Additionally, the drumming is very heavy, done in an aggressive “doom metal” style.

Roots of Sludge Metal Music

Not to be confused with ACTUAL sludge.

The Sludge music sound (though not called that yet) developed in the 1980s, and became very popular, spreading throughout the southern and eastern United States.

Sludge took inspiration from numerous classic rock bands, and was influenced by rock, hardcore punk and metal music.

During the late 1990s, many artists started to use post-rock elements in their music, too. This fusion of post-rock and sludge metal was inspired by many experimental bands at the time.

The Godfathers of Sludge Music

There are many pioneers of this music and they did impressive work in the genre. Sludge Life has selected our Godfathers of Sludge Metal. Lovers of this genre should remember their contributions. Of course, this is not a definitive list, and we hope to inspire others to tell us who their Sludge Godfathers are. Our seven bands are:

  • Vanilla Fudge
  • Blue Cheer
  • Black Sabbath
  • Black Flag
  • The Melvins
  • Soundgarden
  • Alice in Chains

Now, let’s discuss what each of them contributed to Sludge Music today.

1. Vanilla Fudge

Sludge Metal Godfathers

They are an American band known for being a link between the Psychedelic Rock of the late 1960s (when guitars got loud and fuzzy) and the nascent Heavy Metal and Hard Rock arriving in the 1970s. Most know them for their slow, grinding cover of the Motown hit, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, but among musicians, they were better known for their wildly distorted guitars.

They influenced many renowned ’70s artists, including Led ZeppelinDeep PurpleUriah Heep, and Alice Cooper.

2. Blue Cheer

Sludge Metal Godfathers

Did you know that this San Francisco band named themselves after a popular variety of LSD?

Blue Cheer only had one big hit, a cover of the rebellious 1950’s Eddie Cochran rocker Summertime Blues. Their version was so heavy, loud and distorted, music historians called it the first heavy metal single. They stood out on the San Francisco music scene due to their loud volume and aggressive playing style.

Eric Clapton even stated that they were “probably the originators of Heavy Metal”.

They influenced many bands with their heavy style. 

3. Black Sabbath

Sludge Metal Godfathers

Black Sabbath came from Birmingham, UK, and the heavy industry of the working class city became a part of their playing style.

While a large part of the music scene at that time sang about Peace and Love, Sabbath dared to say that the world was fucked up. It was their sound AND lyrical content that made them the prototypical Heavy Metal band, and a Godfather of Sludge Music.

Bands like Guns N Roses, Metallica, Slipknot and Soundgarden wouldn’t even exist if Black Sabbath never played.

4. Black Flag

Sludge Metal Godfathers

Formed in 1976 in an LA, California suburb, Black Flag was one of the first West Coast Punk bands to come up.

While punk music was intentionally fast, loud and amateurish, generally sticking to three chord, three minute tunes, Black Flag blazed their own path.

Their later albums and shows included instrumental sections and slower, longer, and more complex songs, with abrupt tempo changes, much like Sludge Music today. For the best example, check out My WarIt’s a really sludgy album.

5. The Melvins

Sludge Metal Godfathers

This amazing band formed in 1983 in Washington State, hardly a hotbed for musical talent at the time.

They combined punk aggression and metal tones to create a new, powerful sound.

Not content with just those influences, they also added hints of country, jazz rock, noise rock, and avant-garde styles, plus unconventional song structures.

In fact, they had a style that was called “sludgy” at the time, and they influenced a lot of the Seattle bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, plus Tool, Faith No More, Slipknot, Eyehategod and Neurosis, among many others.

6. Soundgarden

Sludge Metal Godfathers

Soundgarden is an American grunge metal band from Seattle, Washington, formed in 1984. They were one of the first hard rock bands to get a record deal from that city in 1989, but didn’t break through nationally until Nirvana’s success two years later.

They have a special place as Godfathers of Sludge Metal. Starting as a fusion of punk, metal and noise rock, their style evolved into something described as “sludgy, murky music“. They played with tuning and riffs that were in the Sabbath vein, but distinctly their own.

Their famous albums include Superunknown, Badmotorfinger, and many more. They reunited in 2010, touring and releasing their first new song in years on the Marvel Studios Avengers movie soundtrack in 2011, followed by a new album, King Animal. Not as sludgy as their earlier work, it sounded more like their Down on the Upside period.

Sadly, the reunion was cut short when Chris Cornell suddenly died in May 2017.

This band influenced Sludge because of their inventive riffs and usage of distorted, fuzzy guitar tones.

7. Alice in Chains

Sludge Metal Godfathers

The band with their favorite barrels of sludge.

One of the pioneers of Grunge music, they also formed in Seattle, Washington. The band included many elements of heavy metal. Their most famous albums include Dirt, Unplugged, and Facelift.

They were so influential that we have heard their songs covered by metal bands like Opeth, Queens of the Stone Age, Theory of a Deadman, Avenged Sevenfold, Breaking Benjamin, Tantric, and less hard bands like Stone Sour, Days of the New, Incubus and Smile Empty Soul.

Godsmack drew great inspiration from them. Surprisingly, they even took the name of their group from a track off the Dirt album.

The Seattle group’s sound got more sludgy in later years, mainly because of elements like extended, riffy instrumentals, atonal solos and heavily distorted guitars.


Sludge Metal Godfathers

Sludgy gold.

These seven bands are our Godfathers of Sludge Music, because each has made significant contributions to the genre. These bands sold millions of records, have memorable songs and thus, greatly influenced the creation and spread of Sludgecore.

Sludge metal culture is expanding rapidly, not only in America, but in other parts of the world, while absorbing many subgenres including doom metal and stoner rock.

The above mentioned Godfathers changed rock music, bringing darker, moodier music to the masses.

Tell us more about who your favorite sludge metal bands and the songs that defined them to you.

Who are YOUR Godfathers of Sludge?

Comment below, and let us know.