Released as a surprise at midnight on 4/20, legendary, and genre defining, stoner metal band, Sleep, has unleashed their follow up to the stoner metal staple Dopesmoker. Released through Jack White’s Third Man Records, no less. The band, and the genre, is known for its slow, chugging riffs and otherworldly lyrics. On both fronts The Sciences delivers.
Sleep makes music to nod off to, using prolonged song structure, stretching out to over ten minutes on some tracks, to create an atmosphere designed to be lost in. One of the keys to creating their signature vibe is a drum and bass guitar that operate in lock step. Sleep has one of the best rhythm sections going by way of keeping a repetitive riff propulsive, not robotic.
As far as the content, there’s little left to the imagination for why Sleep is an exemplar of stoner metal. Titles like “Marijuanaut’s Theme” or “The Botanist” are unlikely to draw in new fans who aren’t extremely enthusiastic about either toking up or rocking out (probably both). On the other hand, neither one of those pursuits is nearly as counterculture as they were back in the Nixon years. Sleep has been making this type of music for twenty years, and their audience has aged but not forgotten (older, not old). Here’s how Pitchfork describes their lyrical approach:
These songs are funny, loaded with the sort of pot portmanteaus (“rifftuals” goes into the lexicon immediately) and puns (as does “The CBDeacon,” their amazing nickname for Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler) you’d expect from a band that once recast weed smoke as the Star of Bethlehem. They celebrate the “indica field” and talk about space travel through the “Iommisphere.” There’s a song that turns the universe of Dune into a land of bud and bongs, another that urges melting icebergs to fight back against the cities that are killing them. (Feeling stoned yet?)
If you’re not feeling stoned yet, give this a listen:
If you’re a fan of Sleep, you don’t need me to tell you to give this a stream. The band sounds true to form, maybe even elevated. There is nothing tired or post-peak about The Sciences–nothing off-putting for long time fans. In a sense, it’s just what a new Sleep album should be. If you’re on the fence about The Sciences based on my descriptions, here’s some guidance:
Sleep’s target group is a young-ish, middle-aged group of pot-friendly metal fans, so let’s start there.
Fans of other stoner-inspired rock like Kyuss, The Sciences, and Sleep’s back catalogue, are essential. For metal fans who are drawn to sludgier, heavy guitars by Melvins or Boris, for example, there is plenty to enjoy. Death metal fans of Cannibal Corpse will find some heavy moments, but always at more restrained tempos. Those into the trippyness of alternative rock bands like Soundgarden, but willing to lose the tighter song structure for more zoning out, will find Sleep a worthwhile listen.
An older crowd who has been listening to pot-themed music like Monster Magnet, and willing to try something heavier, Sleep is a great pick. Or maybe those who grew up listening to the sludgier side of hardcore punk like Black Flag should give this a spin. Then there’s the druggier side of the rock canon like Pink Floyd (“Comfortably Numb” but metal), Led Zeppelin (“Dazed and Confused” with no radio-friendly hook), Jimi Hendrix (without the blues and the haze is black, not purple), or especially Black Sabbath. Even Metallica fans should give this a spin.
Younger drone metal fans of acts like Sunn 0))) will want to look into Sleep’s catalogue if you haven’t already.