Steve

Steve

Music Columnist

Something Old, Something New..

Here we go with Something Old, Something New Album Review - Part 4. I know it's been a minute, but February was a pretty crazy month for me. No worries though, I'm back. This is the one I've been teasing for the last couple of entries. These albums are all about "vibes".
Sleep – The Sciences
2018 Third Man Records Records
Rating: 5/5
 
Sleep is a band that originated over 30 years ago, but one I just got into fairly recently. Not that I hadn’t heard of them, but stoner rock had never really been my thing. I started posting my vinyl collection on Instagram (yes, I’m one of THOSE people) in 2017 and kept seeing Sleep records over and over. Eventually I got the bug to give them a shot. Ironically, that bug bit around 4/20 of 2018, when they dropped their first brand new full length album in nearly 20 years. The thing about this album, The Sciences was that, it was a secret. No promotion, no nothing. The band had hinted they were finishing a new album, but that’s it. It showed up on iTunes on 4/20 and at record stores the same day. I bought a physical copy because the first pressing had 2 limited editions, which to be honest tend to go up in value, so I bought it thinking that if I didn’t like it, I could hang on to it and maybe trade it for stuff I did like later. I was not prepared for how much I got into it though.
Sleep formed in the early 90’s from the ashes of some members’ previous bands, and quickly released an album of songs that were reworked from those previous bands. Their next album Sleep’s Holy Mountain was actually a demo sent to Earache records. Earache liked it so much they released the demo as an album. Holy Mountain was extremely Black Sabbath-esque. But in 1992, nobody was doing that. They gained quite a bit of recognition very quickly in the underground metal scene, and signed a substantial record deal with London records. The band worked on the follow up for 4 years. They immersed themselves in the stoner culture more than ever before. What they delivered as a finished product was unprecedented. Known by two names, both Jerusalem and the more common Dopesmoker. Dopesmoker is ONE SONG that clocks in at just over 63 minutes long. Yes, a ONE HOUR LONG SONG. When they handed it in to the record label, the label understandably said….no, and refused to release it. Legal battles ensued, and versions of the album came out eventually, but the whole debacle made the band split up. If I’m being honest, I enjoy Holy Mountain but Dopesmoker….I can’t get into. It’s slow, and plodding, but I feel like an hour of that for a single song….it’s too much, even in an altered state. There are people that love it, but for me I haven’t got there yet.
Principal members Al Cisneros and Matt Pike formed their own bands, Om and High On Fire respectively. In 2009, Sleep reformed and played sporadic shows over the next decade, releasing a single along the way until dropping The Sciences in 2018.
 
Now I am a relatively new fan, but I believe The Sciences is not only their masterpiece, but a masterpiece in general. With The Sciences, Sleep combined what was great about Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker. The Sabbath-inspired structures with the slow plodding buzz saw riffing and thick pulsing bottom end of Dopesmoker but with vocals that are oddly talky and droning in their delivery, matching the music perfectly. Where Dopesmoker is intimidating, the comparatively short song lengths on The Sciences of 6, 10, 12 and 14 minutes can be long, but not long enough to lose interest. In fact, they are mesmerizing. The vibe is low and slow, heavy and plodding but there is plenty of meat to sink your teeth into and if you add smoking a certain substance, the album is nothing short of astonishing.
I’m no stoner-rock expert, but if this isn’t a top 5 all time album in the genre, than apparently I’ve been missing out on a lot more excellent music than I thought.
 
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
1973 Harvest Records
Rating: 5/5
 
Here it is. The grandaddy of all the mind altering substance soundtracks. More joints have been rolled on the cover of a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon record than on any other surface on earth (ok maybe it’s not a statistical fact but it’s a definitive possibility). The album iself focuses much more on actual songs than their previous work, which if I’m being honest, I can’t get into. Even with that focus, the songs almost blend together seamlessly. Dark Side of the Moon is a concept record that focuses on the themes of conflict, greed, time, death, and mental illness, all things the band were experiencing at the time. 
It’s almost odd to say they streamlined their sound here. That may be the wrong term. This record is too expansive sounding to be called streamlined, it’s just different. Their previous records had been more influenced by founding member Syd Barrett’s psychedelic songwriting. Although he was only in the band for their first 2 albums, Barrett’s influence carried on for their next few records. By the time of Dark Side of the Moon however, Barretts psycadelic experimentation had given way to focused thematic lyrics from Roger Waters and vast soundscapes built around David Gilmour’s guitar playing. They experimented with tape loops, effects, synthesizer’s and ambient sounds to create their masterpiece. I honestly didn’t get the hype around this album until I listened to it on my high fidelity stereo on vinyl. Finally being able to hear all the subtle nuances and layers to the music, it’s an absolutely breathtaking record and if you’re in an altered state of mind, there is lots here to keep your brain busy.
 
 
Thank you for taking the time to read my reviews! Hopefully you check out at least one of these 2 albums! Sit back, smoke something (please not crack or meth) and get lost in the vibe! Not sure what direction I’m going in for the next set of reviews, so if you’ve got suggestions, get at me @Stevedestruct on Instagram and let me know! 
‘Til next time! 
 
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