The Role of Continuous and Ambiguous Tempo Changes in Doom Metal's Heavy Grooves

Dorian Stewart, University of Oregon and David Heetderks, University of North Texas

Doom metal songs—in addition to having trudging riffs, distorted timbres, and despairing lyrics—often feature gradual or ambiguous changes in tempo. Our presentation argues that these tempo changes play a central role in listeners' bodily response, because they achieve many of the same effects of groove described by other authors by manipulating listeners' temporal expectation and attention, and by combining explicit beat with perceptual complexity.

Our presentation identifies two primary effects of tempo manipulation. Ambiguous tempo changes are created when a gradual tempo change creates metric layers that are both faster and slower than before. Elongated beats occur when a final beat in a cycle is stretched in a way that is metrically ambiguous. We suggest that the rhythmic effects of groove combined with temporal disorientation help reinforce the combination of embodied presence and acceptance of weakness that are central to the style.