With a band name like Sleep and an album title like Dopesmoker any connoisseur of doom metal – even if he or she was unfamiliar with Sleep – would be able to infer that this release contains music that probably fits very well into the stoner doom genre.
And, lo and behold, it does. Containing one track only (plus a very badly produced 11 minutes long live bonus track), which clocks in at 63 minutes (and, according to the promo material, has quite a history of writing, label rejection, rewriting, more rejection, renaming, rewriting, shelving etc.), Dopesmoker takes the listener on a journoey through a landscape of slow and heavy riffs, crunchy guitars, heavy but dynamic drums, and a big, fat, round bass, all of which is shrouded in a thick cloud of hashish-infused intervert atmosphere. The main source of inspiration – and the nearest comparable artists – appear to be early Black Sabbath, Pentagram and Saint Vitus (Sleep even make used of Iommi-styled double guitar blues-based solos).
Needless to say, 63 minutes of pure stoner doom is somewhat of a challenge to the uninitiated, and I can imagine that even some seasoned doom metal fans will need to just pause the album for a couple of minutes at the time. However, while the uninitiated may find this album monotonous and boring, people who understand doom metal will ultimately be able to appreciate the subtleties in variation and Sleep's use of heavy doom-laden riffs and the power of variation. In other words, all the aesthetics that define quality doom metal are there.
Seasoned fans of doom, stoner and sludge metal should definitely check out Sleep's Dopesmoker, but if you are new to the doom metal genre, you should probably save the release for later and go for some less dense and hypnotic releases. In any case, Dopesmoker is dark and heavy and strikes a perfect balance between the darkness of doom metal and the psychedelia of stoner rock.
2. Holy Mountain (Live @ the I-Beam SF, CA. 1994)