Review: Sleep – Dopesmoker

Posted: February 1, 2014 in Band of the Day, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

How do you wite a review about a record that is one track and over an hour long? I once tried to review Boris’ debut ‘Absolutego’ and have still never managed to finish it. Here I am though, trying to put into words the vast scope of Sleep’s brilliant and hypnotising final studio album. The definitive and lengthened version of magnum opus ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Dopesmoker is probably the highpoint of all stoner doom. It’s also the proper official version, and is so brilliantly noncommercial that their original record label wouldn’t release it.

‘Dopesmoker’ is one long, fuzzy stoner dream. The riffs undulate within each minute, weaving a tapestry of doom from which there is no escape. After seven odd minutes of swaying grooves, we’re greeted with clattering cymbals before once more, the riff takes us by the hand and leads us on our pilgrimmage. The cover art portrays the sound perfectly; as a listener, you are drawn into the journey through a desert of riffs and Al Cisneros’s shamanistic roar. New riffs appear out of the haze, solos appear like mirages to break up the monotony, but the track is anything but boring. Where it would never win any awards for inspirational song writing or technicality, what ‘Dopesmoker’ has in its favour is the atmosphere. You’re there, wandering across the lifeless desert, ‘dropping out with bong in hand’ to quote the song’s sparse lyrics.

‘Dopesmoker’ has a strong Middle Eastern vibe to it, but Matt Pike’s guitar riffs are anything but. They rise straight from the American desert, soaked in marijuana and whiskey. What is also amazing is how they vary just ever so slightly every so often, so that you suddenly realise that isn’t the same riff from the start, even though it has never stopped. Or is it the same riff? Have I become high while listening to this? Dave’s not here man… It took a full 36 minutes before I checked how long I’d been listening to it. Not because I was bored, but because I lost track of time and space.

‘Dopesmoker’ feels like a religious experience. It’s difficult not to just close your eyes, relax and let wave after wave of crashing doom roll over you. The preaching howl of Al Cisneros is hypnotising, the rumbling riffs of Matt Pike provoke probably the slowest headbanging experience you can get. If you like stoner doom, there is no holier mountain to summit than this. Massive, crushing, eternal.

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