Sleep - Dopesmoker

There's nothing better than some good old fashioned Black Sabbath style stoner doom - and Sleep are the best of the best, even being hailed by Ozzy Osbourne himself as the band that sounds the closest to classic Sabbath that he's ever heard - now that has to account for something. After the release of 1993's astonishing "Sleep's Holy Mountain", the band signed a deal with London Records and began work on the followup "Dopesmoker" in 1995 - and they spent the generous grant they recieved from the label on orange Amplifiers and a hell of a lot of marajuana. The label refused to release the end result, so the band re-recorded the album and were once again refused a release, with London Records labelling them as 'unmarketable'... and therefore Sleep disbanded. This re-recorded version of the album would be released eventually as an official bootleg in 1999 under the moniker "Jerusalem", but it was only in 2003 that we got to hear the original "Dopesmoker" recording fully remixed and remastered. One might ask 'Why did the label refuse to sell the album? "Sleep's Holy Mountain" was amazing, so surely it can't be that bad?' and you'd be absolutely right, so let me enlighten you - the label refused to release the record because it consists of only two songs. One of which is 63 minutes long.

You read that correctly - the entirety of "Dopesmoker" clocks in at one hour, thirteen minutes and seven seconds over two songs, one of which is the bulk of the record at 63 minutes. The track - entitled 'Dopesmoker', obviously - cannot be described to the point of understanding it fully. The only way to understand it is to experience it, because 'Dopesmoker' may well be the most epic song (album?) ever recorded by man. All of the suffocating, grooving riffs from "Sleep's Holy Mountain" are still present, but in much lesser numbers - in fact, I think there is probably a total of about twelve riffs. Now that may sound unbearably boring, especially since a lot of these riffs can go on for anything between five to twenty minutes at a time, but in this exceptional instance it really manages to work to such a massive effect. It's pure Sabbath-influenced stoner doom, non stop grinding grooves, heartfelt leadworks and intricate basslines of the highest caliber, the sound of a band who are stoned out of their minds and almost in a completely different dimension to our own, making music that you will not hear anywhere else these days. Or ever for that matter. Matt Pike's chugging, suffocating guitar surrounds you and ensnares you, you feel every hit from Chris Hakius' drums right on your chest while Al Cisneros' vocals melt your mind out of your fucking ears - the experience is utterly breathtaking. Al's wails of "Proceed the Weedian... Nazareth" leave you speechless, and it just.... I don't even know what else to say here, everything is so epic. Some people would say that 'Dopesmoker' is long for the sake of being long, but I completely disagree - some copies of "Jerusalem" split the song into seperate tracks, which kind of ruins it a little bit as no sections here are meant to be songs by themselves. It's intended to be heard as one piece, and that's the ONLY way to listen to it no matter how impatient some people are. Any fan of Sleep's previous works, Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard etc. have to experience this at least once.

As for the second song, this can come across as more of a bonus than anything else because let's face it, after hearing the title track, nothing is going to top it. Saying that, 'Sonic Titan' is a pretty incredible track in it's own right. Recorded live in the studio, it's much closer to the likes of 'The Druid' or 'Nain's Baptism' from the last album than the main track here - it picks up the pace a bit more, and in a way it's sort of a relief. Like having a massive weight lifted off your chest to relieve the pressure from the sheer heaviness 'Dopesmoker' laid upon you, as 'Sonic Titan' has a much brighter sound than the previous song. Much more upbeat, a very welcome closer to the record.

Need I say more? Sleep's "Dopesmoker" is a masterpiece. In my eyes, it's one of the greatest achievements in music history - let alone in the stoner doom scene. Many people will struggle to listen to this all the way through, but anyone who is a fan of music will appreciate this for what it is - and with Sleep's reformation, here's hoping they can try and top this with a new album soon. "Dopesmoker" is the stuff that dreams are made of so turn off the lights, get your weed ready and prepare to go on an epic journey of the likes you will never believe, it's absolutely essential. Though I must warn you, it WILL give you a crushing headache once it's over!

1. Dopesmoker
2. Sonic Titan

Tee Pee Records
Reviewer: Dave Ingram Jr.
Apr 24, 2010

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