Legendary doom metal outfit Sleep put out their first LP in 15 years as an unannounced release on 4/20 to the surprise and joy of many. Matt Pike and Al Cisneros join forces again while bringing Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder into the fold. Most of Sleep’s work is revered, and for good reason. While there is a heavy Sabbath influence, few have done what Sleep has done over their whole discography, much less 3 albums. Many bands to this day try to emulate and imitate Sleep’s sound and fail miserably. With Sleep’s 4th album we see if they can successfully defend the throne of doom metal or will their latest effort just be another comeback album that is a shadow of the band’s former self?
The Sciences is an instrumental intro with weird distorted sounds that eventually lead to a calm at the end of the track. Normally I skip over this track because there really isn’t any music on it, but it isn’t the worst intro I have ever heard.
The Marijuanauts Theme starts off with a bong rip and goes up from there. One of the things that is amazing about this album is the guitar tone and walls of sound the guitars create. Right from the opening riff you get a healthy dose of that. Riffs and drums crash against the listener’s ears like waves of the ocean smashing against a rocky cliff. One by one you are pummeled by the slow and consistent riffs as Mr. Pike sings of Heavy Metal The Movie-esque worlds with copious amounts of Marijuana. Towards the middle of the song they change the riffs up and bring in more of a grimy bare bones sound before slowly going back to the heavy riffs from earlier. They have a pretty sweet guitar solo and jam out part before the same riffs that started the song slowly carry the listener away to the end of the song.
Sonic Titan has actually been released, but only as a live track. It is great to finally hear a studio version of this track. I haven’t compared it to the live recording, but I can imagine they changed a few parts since it came out over 10 years ago. The opening of this song is pretty epic with huge riffs and drums and after about a minute they scale back the tempo and slow things down so they can ingrain each riff in the listeners mind. The same main riffs repeat over and over with some cool guitar work and sounds thrown in between. Again the song manages to convey the feeling of being in an ocean of riffs. Chaotic yet steady and unrelenting. Around the five minute mark of this song they strip back most sound and then Matt Pike brings the riffs back with his vocals in tow. Again space and mind altering substances are the primary lyrical subjects as the jagged riffs lurch all around the percussion. The song follows the crushing riffs as they are ran into the ground and eventually some of the same riffs from the beginning of the song start to bubble back up. That eventually evolves into a bad ass guitar solo that peaks and reverts back to the same slow motion riffs that carried most of the song.
Antarcticans Thawed is another older song Sleep used to play live before they broke up, but never recorded. This song starts out pretty slow and stripped down compared to the last song. They rock out the minimalistic approach before slowly layering more instruments on the song. Eventually the drums and vocals join in unison with the slowly pulsing riffs. Around the five minute mark they add some dark and doomy guitar work that just adds to the sonic wall they are building during this song. I could totally see them making a video just showing glaciers falling apart and crashing into the sea. The song continues with the heavy and darker guitar tone and eventually it comes to a head in the form of an awesome guitar solo that is drawn out for a few minutes while the crushing sea of doom churns in the background. The song hits its peak with the solo and musical chaos swirling around like a cloud of smoke. The song slowly dies down by stripping all sounds until it sounds almost like how it began.
Giza Butler has one of the more interesting openings of a song on this album. Not only does it pay homage to Geezer Butler himself, but also to Giza. The song has a middle eastern/desert vibe to it at the very beginning. The opening is somewhat melodic before the crushing riffs kick in around the two minute mark. Again lyrics of fantasy abound with talk of temples and pterodactyls. The riff in this song is pretty much the same all the way through. Towards the end the drums pick up a little as they keep sending riff after riff at the listener. They again throw in some solo work and keep the song in attack mode for the rest of the song never letting up on the riff onslaught.
The Botanist is probably the most diverse song on the album. The song starts off very melodic and keeps that tone for most of the song. Lots of cymbal crashes accompany the lighter guitar work and towards the middle of the song a few minute long guitar solo bleeds across the track until it hits a peak and they again strip most sound from the track. Minimal drums and random guitar sounds close out the last few minutes of the song as it slowly winds down.
I listen to all kinds of metal and Sleep has always been ahead of their game on their genre. While I know Matt Pike has been busy with High On Fire and Al Cisneros has been busy with OM it seems like the chemistry they had when Sleep formed is still there. For fans of Sleep this is just another lament over the band’s dissolution. If you like doom/stoner metal that doesn’t take itself too seriously you owe it to yourself to check out Sleep and this release. Their new album exceeded my expectations and it definitely is one of my favorite releases of 2018. This is an album that was meant to be listened to from front to back. I recommend finding a place where you can use your substance of choice, turn this up real loud, and zone out while this plays from front to back to get the best results.
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– Daniel Mesich