Review: Sleep’s Dopesmoker

Sleep: DopesmokerSleep: Dopesmoker (reissue) (Southern Lord)

“Dopesmoker” (excerpt)

[audio:|titles=Sleep: “Dopesmoker” (excerpt)]

Since its adulterated release and subsequent reissue in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Sleep’s Dopesmoker (also released as Jerusalem) has stood as a monolith of metal. With its weighty, repetitive, hour-long opus, the stoner/doom-metal trio played a pivotal role in the evolution of metal by pushing conventions, well, higher. But under the weight of contractual issues pertaining to its epically lethargic piece, the band broke up before seeing a complete version of Dopesmoker available to the public.

Though Tee Pee Records released a nearly complete 63-minute version of the track in 2003, this reissue from Southern Lord (including a live recording of “Holy Mountain”) is the first to truly reflect Sleep’s submitted song. But besides this version being remastered and totally uncut, it’s again worthy of attention because it seems entirely bereft of time and space. The heaviness and style of the material, owing to the droning, the foggy vocals, the incredibly down-tuned guitar and bass, and the overall monotony, suggests that it could have been recorded last week or in the early 1970s.

Guitarist Matt Pike and bassist Al Cisneros have gone onto other greatness — the stoner-metal trio High on Fire and the hypnotic, Eastern-inflected duo Om, respectively. But in many ways, they’ll never outlive the Sleep legacy, a testament that is acknowledged by the trio’s reunion shows and performances in conjunction with this reissue. Sleep is dead; long live Sleep.

Danielle Turney 

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