SLEEP — Dopesmoker

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SLEEP - Dopesmoker cover
4.25 | 21 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2003

Filed under Stoner Metal
By SLEEP

Tracklist

1. Dopesmoker (63:31)
2. Sonic Titan (Live)(9:36)

Total Time 73:07

Line-up/Musicians

- Matt Pike / Guitar
- Al Cisneros / Bass, Vocals
- Chris Hakius / Drums

About this release

Released by Tee pee on April 22nd,2003.

Remixed/remastered and lengthened version of Sleep's opus "Jerusalem".
Also includes a never before released song, "Sonic Titan", recorded live in the
studio.

Remastered and re-released in 2012 by Southern Lord Records with new cover art.

Thanks to The Angry Scotsman for the addition and Prog Geo, Unitron for the updates

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SLEEP DOPESMOKER reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

aglasshouse
Before you read this review, I suggest you check this list to see if you are associated with or are infatuated with the thought of any of the following:

cannabis, hemp, hashish, pot, dope, weed, Mary Jane, bud, hash, bhang, reefer, toke, ganja

If you answered yes to any of these, then you are secured and fully applicable to continue reading.

Sleep's previous work, Sleep's Holy Mountain, was less of a exercise of creative muscle and more of a salute to one of bands foremost influences, Black Sabbath. The instruments were kicked up a few notches in speed and vehement energy, and the slow muddle of their debut was toned down. After the album's release though the band set their eyes on a newer and brighter future. In 1995 the band was set and ready to record a new shining prospect of an hour long track that showcased all of the band's skill and prowess. Due to several problems in the process, mainly a contract with Earache Records preventing them from recording until '96, and the debt the band suffered until signing with London Records, the album Jerusalem was not released until 1999. Jerusalem was a 52 minute epic due to the unauthorized editing down by London Records that the band refused to have released. After a while many versions of Jerusalem were created under different titles and formats, but the most well known, highly acclaimed, and liked by the band was the 2003 release titled Dopesmoker. Cisneros himself admitted it was his favorite and was the closest to what he wanted in the first place, so that's what we'll be looking at today.

Dopesmoker is a concept album of sorts, a muddy brown sludge fest of repetitious chords and rhythms, that supposedly tells of a caravan crossing the desert to transport cannabis. The song is a giant drone-fest no doubt, and is probably one of the biggest milestones of stoner music in current history. Many doom metal bands have either cited it as an influence or a highly admirable piece of music, and I agree with that sentiment. Any fan of doom metal would find this grinding journey of an album to give you your desired state of comatose perfection any day of the week. Dopesmoker isn't subtle, no. But it's amateur composition and recording process make it one of the most organic and overall 'human' pieces I've heard in the metal circuit. Take a load off and go with the flow, bro.
Triceratopsoil
DDDDDDDDRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRROPPPPPPPPPPPPP OOOOOOOOUTTTTTTTTTT OFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF LIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFFFFE WIIIIIIIITH BONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG INNNNNNNNNNNN HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDD

FFFFOLLLLLLLLLLOWWWWWWWWWW THHHHHHE SSSSMMMMMMMMMMOKE TTTTTTTTO THEEEEEE RRRRRRRIFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF FFFFFFFILLLLLLLLLLLEDDD LLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNDDDDDDDDDDDD

Possibly the most essential stoner doom album ever released, Dopesmoker was, in a way, a big "fuck you" to London Records, who signed Sleep in the hopes of another Holy Mountain -esque album. Instead they got this crushingly heavy obelisk of an album. One slow, low, fuzzed out trip of a track spanning three LP sides, what's not to love? As they say, "sometimes a riff is just so fucking good that you want to hear it over and over again... sometimes for 52 minutes."

Dopesmoker is great music for many purposes. The obvious thing it's named after, for starters. Wearing in new stereo equipment. Drowning out your neighbours. Entering a catatonic state of pure aural bliss. Etc. Sometimes you just want to feel like you have been hit over the head with an bat (in a good way). Orange brand, of course.
Time Signature
Sonic titan...

Genre: doom metal

With a band name like Sleep and an album title like Dopesmoker any connoisseur of doom metal – even if he or she was unfamiliar with Sleep – would be able to infer that this release contains music that probably fits very well into the stoner doom genre.

And, lo and behold, it does. Containing one track only (plus a very badly produced 11 minutes long live bonus track), which clocks in at 63 minutes (and, according to the promo material, has quite a history of writing, label rejection, rewriting, more rejection, renaming, rewriting, shelving etc.), Dopesmoker takes the listener on a journoey through a landscape of slow and heavy riffs, crunchy guitars, heavy but dynamic drums, and a big, fat, round bass, all of which is shrouded in a thick cloud of hashish-infused intervert atmosphere. The main source of inspiration – and the nearest comparable artists – appear to be early Black Sabbath, Pentagram and Saint Vitus (Sleep even make used of Iommi-styled double guitar blues-based solos).

Needless to say, 63 minutes of pure stoner doom is somewhat of a challenge to the uninitiated, and I can imagine that even some seasoned doom metal fans will need to just pause the album for a couple of minutes at the time. However, while the uninitiated may find this album monotonous and boring, people who understand doom metal will ultimately be able to appreciate the subtleties in variation and Sleep's use of heavy doom-laden riffs and the power of variation. In other words, all the aesthetics that define quality doom metal are there.

Seasoned fans of doom, stoner and sludge metal should definitely check out Sleep's Dopesmoker, but if you are new to the doom metal genre, you should probably save the release for later and go for some less dense and hypnotic releases. In any case, Dopesmoker is dark and heavy and strikes a perfect balance between the darkness of doom metal and the psychedelia of stoner rock.

(review originally posted at seaoftranquility.org)
Warthur
This audacious doom metal classic was previously released in a truncated form as Jerusalem, and there were a couple of extremely rare bootleg and promo releases preceding that; according to the band, no version which exist is quite identical to the one they submitted to their label for release, but this is the one which comes the closest. The title track, an hour long ode to weed which compares the experience of the drug with a holy pilgrimage and exhorts the listener to "drop out of life with bong in hand", takes the premises of stoner doom to an absolutely lunatic extreme, and does so whilst laying down some of the heaviest and slowest riffs ever recorded outside of full-on drone doom.

It'd an ambitious experiment, but it actually works - and you don't have to toke up to enjoy it. The slow, hypnotic pace of the track really does work best when it unfolds over the full hour, and the inclusion of the live track Sonic Titan as a little bonus at the end of the disc is the cherry on the cake. It's a shame that their record label, after hyping up the creative freedom they would have, balked at releasing this album for so long; unlike many legendary "lost albums", this one really does live up to its reputation as the band's best and most iconic work.
Kingcrimsonprog
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.
The Angry Scotsman
Sleep must have been smoking the wildest stuff on Earth when they made this one!

This album consists of one, 63 minute song which is entirely droning riffs and barely changes at all throughout. It should be no surprise that the record execs were horrified. So much so that Sleep was refused to release it back 1995. They trimmed it down 11 minutes and broke it up into 6 sections, but the label still refused. Sleep decided to break up instead of compromising their vision. That version would later be released as "Jerusalem". However, almost a decade after it was recorded, it was finally released in all its uncut glory. The stoner metal epic: Dopesmoker.

With this release there was also a live version of their song "Sonic Titan" which drudges along in a sludgy, bluesy manner complete with strained vocals and epic guitar solo. But this album is all about the title track.

As I mentioned before, this is a 63 minute song. Anyone looking for a prog metal epic, please go away. The droning riff kicks in from the start, and does not let up. Some drums come in and eventually the vocals, delivered in a droning strained style. The song dirges on like this for over an hour, with vocals sporadically layered on and the only variation being the occasional guitar solo. Challenging is an understatement.

I have no problem with long songs, even in metal. I'm talking in upwards of 40 minutes here! However, the song needs to do something. I am not sure how it is humanly possible to keep attention for the duration of this album. One hour of constant drone bludgeoning. No variation. I simply can't listen to this album, and when I tried to do so as a challenge...it was just that. Not a particularly interesting or enjoyable one either.

Maybe this album is not really intended to be "listened" to, but left playing through a speaker, filling the room. Perhaps Dopesmoker is best left as background music for doing just that.

Regardless, this is an album only fans will want.

Two Stars

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