SLEEP ... a retrospective !
Sleep - Volume One
Tupelo Records 1991
01. Stillborn [6:18]
02. The Suffering [5:12]
03. Numb [3:30]
04. Anguish [5:37]
05. Catatonic [6:04]
06. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream [4:47]
07. The Wall of Yawn [5:32]
08. Prey [3:46]
09. Scourge [5:02]
Sleep (originally Asbestos Death) were formed in San Jose (California) by singer/bassist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike, drummer Chris Haklus and a second guitarist. Volume One (Tupelo Very Small, 1992), a collection of slow, dark, booming dirges, bridged doom-metal and stoner-rock.
The music's gothic overtones wed hallucinated states of mind and the two become one deep coma. Every song is a gesture of mental apocalypse.
Cisneros mumbles a witch's prayer over the heavy Black Sabbath riff of Stillborn. Guitar and bass deliver an epic and tragic melody towards the end of Suffering. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream erupts black lava.
Melody and harmony are mere accidents of playing instrumentation.
In their hands, the slow-burning blues of Numb becomes a vision of unredeemed horror. A vaguely middle-eastern motive climbs out of Catatonic's trance.
Cisneros' mind is permanently blinded by a dense fog of drugs.
The drums are as lively as zombie steps. The bass carries the melody to make it sound menacing and otherwordly.
Guitar riffs pierce anything that moves in the viscid slurry.
Their debut album Volume One was released in 1991. Frequently compared to bands like Saint Vitus, Sleep soon gained a devoted fanbase within the developing doom metal scene. The record also showcased the band's penchant for lysergic dirges. Marler quit the band soon after to take up life as a monk, leaving the band as a power trio for the recording of their Volume Two EP, which was released unofficially by Off The Disc Records in 1991.
Sleep's Holy Mountain
Earache Records 1993
01. Dragonaut [5:41]
02. The Druid [4:51]
03. Evil Gypsy , Solomon's Theme [7:06]
04. Some Grass [0:47]
05. Aquarian [5:35]
06. Holy Mountain [8:44]
07.I nside the Sun [5:42]
08. From Beyond [10:32]
09. Nain's Baptism [3:01]
The subsequent album Sleep's Holy Mountain showed a more assured combo. Even if pomp still reigns unbridled (The Druid), tracks like Holy Mountain and Evil Gypsy are almost free-form, and Inside The Sun is chamber music for the doom generation. Dragonaut, From Beyond and Aquarian are no less entertaining (the way Dracula was entertaining to rats).
While not very original, the album's sound is the quintessence of "stoner"-rock (Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer).
Sleep - Jerusalem
The Music Cartel / Rise Above Records 1998
1. Jerusalem (pt. 1) [9:25]
2. Jerusalem (pt. 2) [8:26]
3. Jerusalem (pt. 3) [9:01]
4. Jerusalem (pt. 4) [10:28]
5. Jerusalem (pt. 5) [5:45]
6. Jerusalem (pt. 6) [9:01]
After a long hiatus, Sleep returned with the most ambitious work of their career: Jerusalem (Dopesmoker, 1998) contains one huge (mostly instrumental) six-movement suite that represents one of the most extreme attempts at scoring the deepest torments of the human psyche.
The first movement opens with brooding intermittent riffs.
For seven minutes these riffs mutter a fragmented melody. Then the vocals pick it up, but one hardly feels that the human voice is more "human" than the monster rumble that preceded it.
In the second movement the guitar engages in a series of deranged Hendrix-ian solos that conceal an agonizing blues number, despite the loud drumming and monster bass riffs. The voice comes out of its lethargy on the third movement, but, again, Cisneros is hardly a "singer": his style is more similar to a howling wolf. The fourth movement is another convoluted guitar monologue, this time with Indian and Japanese overtones (occasionally reminiscent of the Mahavishnu Orchestra). The guitar returns to the "agonizing-blues" style in the fifth movement before the voice leads the suite to a massive close in theheaviest and most Black Sabbath-ian of the six movements.
Dopesmoker (Tee Pee, 2003) is the original version of Jerusalem.
Sleep - Dopesmoker
Tee Pee Records 2003
1. Dopesmoker 63.31
2. Sonic Titan 9.36
The saga of Sleep's Dopesmoker was already almost ten years in the making by the time of its belated release in 2003.
Originally slated to follow closely behind their second album of a decade earlier, the landmark Sleep's Holy Mountain, it lingered in unreleased limbo instead -- the subject of a vicious legal dispute between the Northern California trio and their record company, London, which refused to release Dopesmoker as delivered by the band -- that is, a single, 60-minute-long song!
The impasse eventually led to the stubborn band's ignominious dissolution circa 1997 rather than conform to the label's demands, leaving fans waiting for an album that most assumed would never be heard. But come 1999, an incomplete, disjointed version of the recordings was cobbled together and released by Rise Above Records with the title Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, this version sounded oddly ragged in places, with senseless digital song divisions and an abrupt, obviously chopped-off ending; so for all intents and purposes, the ideal work as envisioned by Sleep clearly remained unrealized.
Thankfully, all these glitches were finally corrected for the definitive, band-sanctioned 2003 edition of Dopesmoker, which bears a top-notch production job courtesy of Billy Anderson (Helios Creed, Natas, etc.) to boot.
Revealed here at last, in all of its colossal glory, Dopesmoker is at once an instant doom metal classic -- some might even say a masterpiece -- as well as an impossibly dense, nearly impenetrable listening experience for unprepared fans (just to give you an idea, the first vocals only arrive 16 minutes in). Meticulously composed in the style of Gregorian chants as interpreted through the ears of Black Sabbath, "Dopesmoker" esoterically describes -- get this -- the "Weedian" people's pilgrimage to the "riff-filled land."
But lyrics aside -- and there are precious few here to justify stressing over them -- what skeptical listeners must take into account here is that "Dopesmoker" is in fact a single song, not a series of song snippets stitched together progressive rock style. As such, this initially daunting edifice of snarling riffage requires quite a bit more patience and dedicated sampling before its secrets are unlocked and its riddles unraveled, but therein lies the crux of what is ultimately a very rewarding experience.
And for Jerusalem owners still reticent to part with their hard-earned cash for this new and improved edition, Tee Pee Records has added a bonus treat in the form of a live recording of unreleased track "Sonic Titan."
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Sleep on wikipedia