By Chris Ricci
Doom metal pioneers Sleep have been cited as not only one of the most important bands in the drone rock genre, but also one of the most triumphant stoner rock bands of all time. In the mid 90s and early 2000s, their releases were hailed as triumphs, and their last two albums “Jerusalem” and “Dopesmoker” (both consisting of one roughly one hour long song) constantly find their way to the top of many lists celebrating contemporary metal. Since 2003, there’s been talk of a new Sleep album, but the members have been busy doing many other things. Al Cisneros has been working with OM, Jason Roeder has been working with Neurosis, and Matt Pike has been working with High On Fire. Then, without warning, on April 20th of this year (an apt day for the “Dopesmoker” band), Sleep announced that their new album was done and that it was coming out soon. How soon? Well, a few minutes later of course. Wait. What?
Sleep’s fourth album “The Sciences” features the first bit of new material the band has written in over 20 years, and boy was it worth the wait. The chugging and brutal riffs that they’ve been long idolized for sound as fresh as ever and the band soars through the stratosphere and into uncharted territory. The familiar sounds of “The Sciences” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme” (which, by the way, is the finest song title I’ve seen in years) makes way for their first crushing song, “Sonic Titan,” a track that was featured as a live tune on 2003’s “Dopesmoker” but sounds fresh and new over a decade later.
The lyrics featured prominently throughout are equal parts whimsical and absurd, but that’s the whole point. Al Cisneros’ time with OM has really sharpened his lyrical prowess vs. the juxtaposition of the kind of band we’re talking about here. I mean, if you’re expecting some Ralph Waldo Emerson-level captivation on an album with the song “Marijuanaut’s Theme” on it, then I apologize, but I think you’re on the wrong track. The six songs on “The Sciences” come in at exactly 53 minutes total, meaning there’s some long tunes on there. Tracks 3-5 all clock in at over 10 minutes, and can be seemingly repetitive at points, but the payoff that comes through on “The Botanist” is well worth the trek. The six minute final track is one of the most precise songs they’ve ever done, and serves not as a brutal ending to an already heavy album, but as an experimental and relaxed palate cleanser before returning back to Earth. It’s an unexpected end to the album, but welcome nonetheless.
For fans of all things heavy and all things Sleep, this is an incredible album that can’t possibly be missed. For those who are looking for a good introduction into the heavy sounds of Sleep, then this is an album you also can’t miss, as it’s not only one of their best, but it’s also their most accessible. Is it for everyone? Absolutely not, but I am sure you’ve gathered that at this point. “The Sciences” is a brutal journey through the sounds that made the band so memorable 20 years ago, and serves as an amazing reminder that some things just get better with age. Be sure to check back here in 20 years for a review of their next album!