Jerusalem by Sleep is an album with a very interesting history, released posthumously after the band’s demise in different forms none of which were the exact version the band intended upon releasing. Jerusalem was the first version to surface for commercial release in 1999 and Dopesmoker, a version closer to the band’s original plan found commercial release in 2003.
Which ever version you choose, it is really down to personal preference as they are both slightly different versions of not just the one album but the one song (discounting bonus tracks of course) I personally find Jerusalem to be a little better, it is edited and mixed to be slightly easier going on the listener, more like a normal song. If you are in this for the intensity of the experience however, Dopesmoker may be more for you.
The album consists of one track, almost an hour long, with very few vocals and lyrics about a caravan transporting cannabis across the desert. Read that sentence a few times, and that will be all you need to know as to whether or not this album is for you. One track. Almost an hour. Cannabis Caravan.
When I first heard about the album, I was very excited. I am a fan of a lot of 1970s prog rock bands who wrote 20 minute songs often and occasionally a few, like Jethro Tull who would write entire albums out of just one song. I am also a fan of Stoner Rock and the thought of combining the two seemed like an amazing idea.
The album is certainly amazing, a very intense and challenging experience with a hypnotic quality to it. It takes a few minutes before the drums even kick in and the band jam out each riff for minutes on end, trying a variety of drum beats under almost every one, going minutes on end without any vocals and then doing it all over again once the vocals come in, then doing it all yet again with guitar solos.
When prog bands wrote an album out of one song, they only really had forty minutes to cover because of vinyl. The extra twenty minutes makes Sleep’s effort all the crazier. Furthermore, prog bands wrote entire albums out of one song by filling them with hundreds and hundreds of ideas; with acoustic sections, piano sections, fast bits, slow bits, theme and variation and all the bells and whistles the could attach. If they had lyrics they would often tell some epic story to capture your imagination.
Sleep deliver the experience with about six or seven riffs in the whole song, the only paces to be found are slow, slower and funereal. The vocals are monotone and though the lyrics technically do tell a story, they are so few and far between that it doesn’t drive the record. The lack of variety is impressive (or horrible depending on your personal taste.)
To summarize, Jerusalem/Dopesmoker won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it is very challenging but a really unique experience. Its heavy, with absolutely massive riffs too, in case you thought otherwise. If you like the idea, definitely give it a shot.