Ben Winch's Review
There is music that suits the modern world and music that doesn’t. When a bandsaw is wailing nextdoor, or your neighbours are fighting, or you live by a dual carriageway and your life is the roar of one passing truck after another, Beethoven just ain’t gonna cut it—you need something fat, ugly and virtually without dynamics. Not only that, but if and when the metal machine noise breaks through, you need it to not dissolve the illusion, to fit as if it was meant to be there all along. That said, and groovy-as-f**k as this post-Sabbathian riffage is, it’d be nice if Sleep—who eat up trucks and power tools like so many protein bars—didn’t feel the need to grace this groove with vocals, especially as their singer sounds like a constipated orc. Other criticisms: the drum-sound is one-dimensional; the snare has less cut than woof and the whole kit sounds like a bunch of logs and a crash cymbal, played with not a lot of finesse. But I’m willing to accept that may be a side-effect of extreme volume, which both simplifies playing and challenges engineers... Agh, and now it’s that “Nazareth” line! WTF?! But he just spits it out, then shuts up for 64 bars or something. Meantime there’s a half-decent, restrained yet adrenalin-fuelled guitar solo, again kept incredibly brief given this is a one-hour track. Sleep are disciplined—it’s what redeems them. They mean business. Sure, in one sense they’re bombastic as hell, but in another they’re lean, shaved to the bone. If I hadn’t heard it myself I wouldn’t have believed it could be done. Funny thing too, whereas Sleep’s Holy Mountain bores me with overt-seeming repetition, Dopesmoker—by going deeper—holds my interest. Whereas Holy Mountain seems like Sabbath-by-numbers, not even Sabbath would have had the balls to put out Dopesmoker. (“Israel”? “Zion”? “Stoner caravan”? I’m gonna have to look up these lyrics. Yeah I wish the guy would shut up, but his band cooks. A common complaint with me.) Overall, maybe a 30-minute cut (minus vocals) would have suited me better, but this is some kind of achievement. A modern classic?