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Review: Sleep – The Sciences

by Helen Vučić


Sleep – The Sciences

1. The Sciences (Instrumental)
2. Marijuanaut’s Theme
3. Sonic Titan
4. Antarcticans Thawed
5. Giza Butler
6. The Botanist (Instrumental)

Label: Third Man Records
Date: April 20, 2018

Sleep is one of those bands that either do nothing for you or you worship them. There’s no in between, and their last creation bestowed upon us might just nudge you to the latter.

This Californian trio has been described as “the ultimate stoner band”, they’ve paved the way for heavy metal as we know it, and now they’re back with the first official release in whooping 20 years. The bar is pretty high and Sleep delivers.

If you listen closely to Sleep’s entire manifesto, their work can easily be divided into several phases. After ”Volume One”, their 1991 raw and somewhat aggressive debut album, one of the members decided to ragequit reality and pursue the life of a monk, ushering the band into their second phase and doing them a favor, really.

On our voyage towards the desert, we ride the magic caravan, relaxed and optimistic. That sums up my feelings about “Holy Mountain” (1992), undoubtedly the best Sleep album and generally one of the most groundbreaking records to ever see the light of day.

If you’d like to skip the optimism and head straight for the endless plains of scorching sand, then Sleep’s third phase might be for you. After 4 years of dedicated work, Sleep finished their Frankenstein’s monster, a revolutionary piece that would also be the cause of their disbanding. “Dopesmoker” (1995) is essentially different from “Holy Mountain” on many levels. Much slower, less “alive”. If “Holy Mountain” sounds like taking LSD in the back of a sixties Volkswagen bus, then “Dopesmoker” is a camel ride through a sandstorm. The album consists of a single song, around 63 minutes long. London records foolishly refused to release the record, but Sleep came out on top all the same.

During the break period, the members have had fulfilling careers with their other bands, but feeling like Sleep’s story was left unfinished; they reunited to play some shows. Creativity sparked, and almost 10 years later, an unexpected release graced our ears, exactly on 4/20.

The style and vibe of “Dopesmoker” is carried on to the new album, but more mature, classy and contemporary. The only difference is the type of desert. There are bigger deserts to be roamed now, colder, vast and desolate. “The Sciences” takes us to one such desert. We’re going to outer space and we’re not coming back.

The first song bears the album name and serves as the perfect intro to set the mood. This is the rocket ride, the sound leaving Earth behind. “Marijuanaut’s Theme” starts, assuring us that gravity will not be felt from this point on.

What follows are the longest epics of the record, “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticians Thawed”. Both were written long ago, along with “Dopesmoker”, a treat for the old Sleep fans who might prefer the less modern vibe. The Antarcticians may have thawed, but the ice age just begun.

It’s nice to see that Sleep haven’t lost any love for their most important musical inspiration, Black Sabbath. To the contrary, the band is referenced many times (along with references to Frank Herbert’s “Dune”, one of the most important science fiction novels of all time) and the familiar Sabbath sound can be heard without doubt. The fifth song ”Giza Butler” is just different enough, yet similar enough to the rest of the tracks. A real ode to marijuana, a true hymn written from the bottom of a leaf-shaped heart. The lyrics are truly something else, sang slowly, in a sermon-like manner.

The melancholic outro song “The Botanist” leaves us to wonder if this is the end. I certainly hope not. A charming instrumental, telling an intricate tale despite not having any lyrics, leads us to the end of this journey, which I wouldn’t mind taking again.

“The Sciences” proves Sleep has successfully evaded all the problems a band can face when taking a long break. They have not “lost it”, not even in the slightest. They don’t sound like a cover band of themselves and they’re not trying to imitate a 90’s sound they used to have. No, Sleep has only matured, evolved and improved. Their music is still coming from the right place and they’re giving us their most honest selves. This album is not a cash-grab or an old band trying to be relevant again. Sleep came back because they had something to give us. And it could not have been any better.

Despite not being an album track, I’d like to mention Sleep’s new single “Leagues Beneath”, released only a month later through Adult Swim. It’s a phenomenal track definitely worth checking out. Some have even called it better than any of the songs on the album, but I suggest you make your own judgement.

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