Sleep - Dopesmoker review
02. Sonic Titan [live]
03. Holy Mountain [Live May 1994 I-Beam, San Francisco, CA] [2012 Reissue bonus]
Sleep's Dopesmoker is the sonic equivalent of powerwalking a marathon through a valley filled with green Jello.
Like trying to hike 26.2 miles through lime-colored molasses, listening to this album in its entirety is slow going, lasts forever, and is a physically and mentally draining endeavor. While this album has only one actual new studio track on it, that one track happens to be a longer listen than sitting through than a double header of Slayer's Reign In Blood followed by Divine Intervention. It chugs along, and just keeps going and going and going. I imagine you can probably figure out the symbolism behind "green."
Ultimately this album resulted in the break-up of the band, which I guess has a happy ending as ex-Sleepites went on to form Om and High On Fire… The nutshell version of the story is simply this: Stonerdoom Sleep were "the next big thing" following Holy Mountain, London Records dropped gobs of money snapping them up, they went off to Jerusalem, got really, really, really stoned and cut this monstrosity of an album/track. The label freaked out and refused to release it. The band then trimmed it to a svelte 52 minutes and the label still refused to release it… the stress caused the band to break up. Fast forward three years to 1998, a friend of the band, with their blessing released it. Eventually Jerusalem was released - with that album being the shorter version randomly hacked into six separate tracks. Finally, in 2003, eight years after it was actually recorded, Tee Pee Records had the balls to release the full hour-plus long track in all its monolithic glory.
Back to "Dopesmoker"… it's basically an hour long droning track with only a couple riffs repeated ad nauseam with the occasional lyrics (i.e. "Drop out of life bong in hand/Follow the smoke to the riff-filled land") or solo bits to break up the monotony. The riff and groove are undeniable… it's Matt fucking Pike, after all. The easiest way to describe it is to look at the works of their subsequent projects. Imagine, if you will, a nice, fat riff from The Art Of Self Defense slowed down to, and layered over the top of a hypnotic drum and bass jam off Pilgrimage … strung out to over an hour.
The disk also includes a live version of the track "Sonic Titan" - which, after the enormity of "Dopesmoker" is a lot like getting a complimentary apple pie after taking on a steak house's 96 ounce steak challenge… a nice sentiment, but really completely unnecessary. After the main course, you're done and need a nap.
To some this is undoubtedly incredibly boring. As someone who hasn't touched the hippie lettuce in over a decade, if in the right frame of mind, it still sucks me in. (If not in the mood, well, there's always the "next" button, eh?)
It's a challenging listen, a test of endurance and battle of wills. It's thoroughly enjoyable if you are up to the challenge. Or if you are stoned, I imagine.
||Written on 09.09.2009 by BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.|
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