Showing posts with label stoner metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stoner metal. Show all posts

Apr 27, 2018

Sleep Transcend The Holy Mountain And Enter The Sciences

by Robert Dean 

When a band releases a record that defines their career, it’s Sisyphean task to follow it up. Very few bands can write a Sgt. Peppers and come back swinging with the White Album as the Beatles did. The same goes with the Stones, who managed to write five classic records in a row, starting with Beggars Banquet and ending with Goats Head Soup. 

Bands like At The Drive In, Glassjaw, Refused, and At The Gates, all have classic records people obsess over and study to an almost scary degree. Genres and styles of play have evolved around the seminal The Shape of Punk To Come and Slaughter of The Soul. Over twenty years later, kids are discovering those records and trying their best to copy the magic caught on tape.  

When Sleep released its droning, doom-defining monolith Dopesmoker, it was met with a resounding thud thanks to the band's label refusing to release it in its original form. A secondary tracked down edition titled Jerusalem finally was released, but it was always Dopesmoker that found its way into tape trading circles and bootlegs pressings. But, the fervor for Dopesmoker bubbled up from the tar pits and over the years, has become canon for all things stoner. 

In the wake of Dopesmoker’s release and subsequent troubles, Sleep broke up, but remained brothers in smoke. Al Cisneros formed his otherworldly OM while guitar hero Matt Pike challenged Lemmy for the baddest man in rock and roll with High on Fire. Drummer Chris Hakius played in OM for a few years but ultimately hung up his sticks to focus on being a family man. 

And then in 2009, Sleep reformed out of nowhere. Capitalizing on the growing doom and stoner scene in mainstream metal circles, Sleep went from playing ½ filled bars in cowboy towns to packing bodies into rooms holding a few thousand across the globe. For almost a decade, the band toured sporadically, hitting the Blue Chip festivals or doing a nationwide run for month or two, raking in the cash. 

Stoner metal fans devoured the chance to see their heroes live, for the chance to be taken to the church of all things Weedian. 

In these past years, Cisneros, Pike, along with new drummer Jason Roeder of Neurosis fame pummeled their way through Sleep’s greatest hits and no one was one bit mad about it. They still got the cherry festival payday, while red-eyed fans gobbled up the band's merch with no fear. For the band, the promoters and the fans, this worked, and it was easy for one simple reason: writing new music could taint the legacy for the world’s greatest doom band that’s not Black Sabbath. 

Music, especially metal fans can be fickle. People care about legacy in heavy metal. Bands can go from hallowed legends to “they wrote The Ugly Organ, but the new stuff sucks” real quick. Once the band falls down the ladder a few rungs, people stop showing up to the shows, and the hype dies down. 

Sleep continually teased new music, but only released one track, “The Clarity”. Everyone figured they’d write a new record, someday, but till then, fans would enjoy hearing “Dragonaut” or “Holy Mountain” at shows, knowing they’d never be bumped out of the set list. 

But then on 4/20 Sleep surprised the world with their first record in two decades, The Sciences through Jack White’s Third Man Records. The Weedians had awoken, and they brought forth new tunes for the stoned masses, but the question that was on everyone’s mind: would Sleep cheapen their legacy or affirm it?

The band did neither. Instead, The Sciences is one of the year’s best records and moves beyond, “good follow up to Dopesmoker,” and places Sleep as the undisputed heirs to the throne of Black Sabbath. The Sciences is not only a neck breaking, sludgy love song to the universe, it’s a poem to the mysteries of faith, but it’s also a masterpiece. 

Al Cisneros taps into the wild, unearthly drones of his OM project and interjects them seamlessly into the 2018 edition of Sleep. The band capitalizes on tight, circular driving grooves that feel familiar, but not tired or a rehash of what they’d already achieved. 

The Sciences offers a narrative on what’s it’s like inside Sleep’s world of churning riffs that demand the listener join them on a quest into the deep recesses of the mind. 

Instead of mindless wandering, which many of their burned out contemporaries are guilty, tracks like “The Botanist” and “Marijaunauts Theme” are soulful explorations of what stoner metal, doom, or whatever you want to call it are capable of thanks to Sleep challenging not only themselves, but where the genre can go sonically. 

The record takes the classic riff exploration of the Sleep blueprint, but showcases the intensity of Matt Pike’s furious playing, should anyone forget he’s more than the shirtless guy with the beer gut, but a metal icon that happens to be relentless guitar hitman. 

The Sciences transcends because of two primary reasons: one being Jason Roeder utterly and undeniably changed the DNA of the band for the better with his brilliant handwork along with his in the pocket, dynamic drumming that’s more John Bonham or Bill Ward than he lets on with Neurosis. 

The second major plot point regarding the success of The Sciences is easy to spot: the band are students of the game. Cisneros, Pike and Roeder are still stoners playing metal in bands who tour most of the year. They’re involved in the evolution of the scene with Sleep, but also High on Fire, Neurosis, and OM. These dudes never lost touch with their mission but evolved as musicians, and people in the process of the band’s successes. 

The songs on the record are playful and on the nose with their love of all things Black Sabbath and the dank kush. The vocals are less hooky sing-alongs to capture an ear, but instead on “Giza Butler” or “Sonic Titan,” they’re droning absolutions to a realm we probably cannot fathom. 

Instead of a lousy cash grab, we’re lucky enough to see this trio of brilliant stoners evolve before our eyes. Who knows how long a record after this one will take to craft, it doesn’t matter, anyhow. These six new tracks on The Sciences are good enough to hold us over for a long while, or at least till the pipe needs repacking.


The Sciences is available everywhere you enjoy music. 

Jan 31, 2018

Live Review: SLEEP, Moody's Theater, Austin, TX

by Robert Dean 

If there’s anything you can count on when seeing Sleep plow through their songs live, it’s that you’re going to get stoned even if you aren’t the one pulling off the joint and the wall of amplifiers will be so loud it’ll rattle the skeleton inside your meat suit.

At Sleep’s recent stop at Austin’s Moody Theater, best known as the location of Austin City Limits, the doom masters didn’t disappoint with almost two solid hours of riffing and off the cuff jamming. Wandering through classics like "Dragonaut" and "The Druid," Sleep maintained zero communication with the crowd and let their riffs do the talking.

If there was any shining star in the constant chugging Twilight Zone, it was Jason Roeder’s precision, almost mechanical drumming that sounded more like a box factory than a heavy metal drummer. Bassist Al Cisneros and everyone’s favorite Lemmy stand-in, Matt Pike ripped through off the cuff renditions off their much-lauded records Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker.

It’s easy to dismiss Sleep as the premier stoner rock band or Black Sabbath tribute act, but once seeing Sleep, it’s apparent that the group are much more groove reliant than any Sabbath tune. While Black Sabbath ventures off into the weeds, sometimes crafting riffs from the middle of nowhere, Matt Pike instead hovers around three or four sonic ideas and explores them endlessly. While a spaceman might traipse around the stage, giving the already enchanted crowd a nod to the otherworldly experience, the presence of the music relies on the ever-building sense of wholeness and the slow, muddy groove that is unrelenting.

Experimenting on moments, ideas, feelings, Sleep might have stuck to the setlist as a means to have guidelines, but once in the music, they never relied on track length or what was expected, but instead traveled down sonic back alleys, looking for new ways to stake out territory in their universe. For a setlist comprised of eight songs, it took two hours for Sleep to find their way through them. There’s more to Sleep than meets the eye and certainly more musically going on than many give them credit for. There’s a little Black Flag and Motorhead in there, despite what sludgy slowness might bubble up from the murk.

As the packed room gave every inch of themselves over to the masters of the riff, there’s one hot take that’s unavoidable: Sleep is a jam band for dudes who like Motorhead.

Not from the same show, but it'll give you a sampling of Sleep.

Mar 4, 2016

Robert Dean Introduces Bellringer

In local Austin news, that’s not about breakfast tacos or ironically voting for Trump if Bernie loses, there’s a pretty sick band that’s been creeping into my newsfeed constantly. They’re called Bellringer, and you know what? I understand why everyone’s talking about them.

Typically, as we all know, most local bands suck balls. It’s just how it goes. That’s why radio station “local talent showcases” blow and that dude from your hometown who played guitar and sang Dave Matthews tunes to fuck chicks, still lives in your hometown. But, in Austin – it’s a whole different game. Pretty much everyone here can play Purple Haze, it’s something in the water, I dunno. You could say there’s a lot of talent here if you count you know: Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray, The Sword, Ume, Gary Clark Jr, etc., etc.

Anyhow, back to the hotness of Bellringer. Comprised of some local Austin heavyweights, Bellringer is like if you took the Melvins, Robin Trower, Supersuckers, Queens of The Stone Age, and even some Donovan. Take all of this awesome shit and toss them all into a blender. But, when you poured the frothy riffage drink for consumption, you may or may not have dropped a little something to get weird into the liquid madness to turn it up to 11.

That’s the kind of vibe Bellringer gives off. It’s fast, punky and chaotic one minute, and the next, it’s fuzzed out stoner jams ala Sabbath.

For dudes who like to party, this is the perfect mix because there’s smoke and chill and drink and fight songs – all in one band. And you know what? I support this message.  

The weird array of songs don’t disappoint and there are so many stylistic hints, it’s neat to spiral and weave along a musical journey that’s flooded with influences. The bass can give off a real Helmet sounding vibe, but then once the drums lay in, it goes straight up rock and roll city.

If you’re online searching for some new tunes, give Bellringer a listen. They’re currently hard at work on their debut record, but if you cruise the depths of Youtube, you’ll find some of their songs. Give them a whirl if you’re about to break out the glass and are looking for a good time – these dudes bring it like only Austin could. They’re onto something. 


Robert Dean

Feb 22, 2016

Album Review: White Fire - Burned in Effigy

*salty language and drug references*

White Fire - Burned in Effigy
A Review by Robert Dean

Attn: freakazoids who like bands like Coalesce, Botch, Converge, but still like to chill and smoke hella weed to bands like Mountain of Wizard, Sleep, or whatever doom the guy at the gas station always talks to you about.

White Fire is a band that you should give your hard earned Internet time for a few spins. The now-defunct St. Louis band is one of those bands that while they’re not around anymore kinda hurts because they’re really fucking good. I can’t say if they got so depressed about living in St. Louis that was the critical factor in their demise, but I do know that it’s a major bummer.

The songs are well rounded and offer some mellow boysetsfire vibes while leaning on that smoke-obsessed stoner that heshers adore. One their ep Burned in Effigy, we’re treated to some moments that harken to lesser known bands like The National Acrobat, or even Keelhaul.

If you’re looking for some solid jams to stroke your beard to, get on this White Fire shit. It delivers on the metal with some touches of prog as the ep delves deeper – which is cool because luckily, it never gets shitty like Mastodon has. I’d take White Fire any day over that sad fest any day of the year.

Sorry, you had to call it a day boys, the screaming guy community is worse off for it.

I give this record a seven bong pulls out of ten.


Related Posts with Thumbnails