The first time I smoked weed is somehow still one of my most vivid memories from my sophomore year of high school, as I’d been invited to a friend’s birthday party and once there the Fellowship of the Douche saw promise in me. “Hey, I bet you’d be really weird when you’re drunk and high.” (Note: Because I’m a weird person.) But there was a quest involved as only four could fit in the car to go buy weed and two of us were tasked with walking through the suburban hills of Corvallis, Oregon towards a friend’s house where another friend’s big sister would pick us up to go to another friends house that was out in yonder farming territory. Tom and I, like Frodo and his endearing Samwise, landed in the midst of Walnut Park. A great place for a picnic, my first baseball game, and later where I’d discover LSD. At the time they’d been tearing up the brambles, blackberry bushes, that covered a huge portion of the land to excise a portion of the park for the development of new homes. As such there were paths between the bushes and pine trees where we lit up there in the dark.
He filled up a small water-pipe with fountain water. You see, in mid-90’s suburbia water fountains always worked. It was a bubbler, a small bearded pipe with a reservoir for water. From the point of toke we had roughly fifteen minutes to run to our other friends house, so we could be picked up by another friend’s sister, to go to his house. I immediately became night blind, giddy, and loose-jointed to the point of nearly falling down. But there was no time to be sixteen and stoned in the Oregon wilderness at 9:30pm on a Friday night, we ran like wolves towards our Chinese friend’s parent’s mansion. Tom’s house was nearby, they could only fit one of us in the van and so I was picked to go rather than make me walk home. If not for his sacrifice, and relative unpopularity, I wouldn’t have made friends that lasted a few years past high school. That night I slept in a camper where their cats peed and fought outside my friends house feeling pretty great about the whole ‘getting stoned’ thing.
But really it wasn’t until I started playing the guitar that I began to realize the potential experience of mixing riffs with marijuana. From Morbid Angel to Possessed I felt the adrenaline-enhancing effects of lighting up and playing fast, but it wasn’t until I discovered Neurosis and Crowbar that I’d gotten a brief hint of doom’s warm and fuzzy grip upon the stoned mind. Electric Wizard‘s ‘Dopethrone’ was the only socially acceptable stoner music among my friends who were stuck on Sublime, Kottonmouth Kings, and whatever reggae they’d stolen off KaZa or eMule. My interest in music was more important than the terrible friends I’d made in high school, so I moved on. Getting high, playing the guitar and listening to music was the only important thing to me from age 16-25 and I achieved very little in that time period outside of a few college courses and a pretty sweet Sega Genesis cartridge collection. I discovered Sleep when ‘Dopesmoker’ came out but only because it was relevant to High on Fire who’d more or less just released the underrated ‘Surrounded By Thieves’.
The bulk of my indoctrination with Sleep‘s stoner rock and doom metal hybridization took place in the mid-2000’s and with High on Fire and Electric Wizard going strong there were plenty of other things to move onto. Upon firing up ‘The Sciences’ I was absolutely sure that this was the same band but have yet to find greater musical value in a full listen of the album. Released to an awkward level of “Hey bro, u high 2 day 2?” twitter hype on 4/20 I put off listening to ‘The Sciences’ because not only was I not stoned, but there are endless streams of Sleep influenced stoner/doom bands releasing albums every month and most of them are arguably better than the bunk reek of their ‘The Clarity’ single from 2014. Why give a legacy group priority, or money, just for showing up again after twenty years?
Well, to be fair they’re all still really good at what they do. From Violent Coercion all the way up to ‘Fires Within Fires’ Jason Roeder has played on several of my favorite records of all time. Matt Pike is basically sludge metal’s Lemmy and ‘Blessed Black Wings’ is still sharp as a tack. Al Cisneros is maybe the squirt of the operation who only really ever appealed to me in Sleep, and I couldn’t really bring myself to follow Om after ‘Conference of the Birds’. So, in giving into the groove and lyrical puns of ‘The Sciences’ I’ve found myself enjoying it despite not really getting high anymore. I don’t think Pike‘s solos are particularly good, or well recorded. Cisneros‘ bass tone is a bit lost compared to previous Sleep records. But it all amounts to a pretty decent listen that doesn’t actually end up as a self-parodying crime. That is about all one can ask from any band returning after twenty years avoiding each other.
At some point in listening to this album over the last several weeks I realized that I was having more fun thinking about other Sleep albums, and times I got high as a teenager, rather than enjoying ‘The Sciences’. Also, several of these songs were already familiar or previously released in other forms so if it all feels warmly familiar it isn’t just because ‘they’re back’. The Black Sabbath inspired riffs are there, check. The weed puns are alive, check. The unholy guitar tone is different, but close enough, check. I’ll stick with ‘Volume 1’ and ‘Jerusalem’ in general. The same way I didn’t personally need any other Slayer records after 1994, Sleep don’t have any great reason to return to what they were doing in 1999. It’s a cool thing that happened, though.
|Released||April 20, 2018|
|Listen on Spotify||Follow Sleep on Facebook|
Planet Iommia nearing. 3.0/5.0
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