The last we heard from iconic stoner doom trio Sleep was all the way back around mid-2014 when they dropped their single 'The Clarity' as a part of the Adult Swim singles series in addition to performing a handful of reunion shows since their split all the way back in 1998, following the complication of what would end up being the most iconic album in their career (and potentially even the entire genre), Dopesmoker.
In the interim, the members of Sleep are perhaps most well known for their respective music projects. Frontman Al Cisneros went on to start his drone project, Om, guitarist Matt Pike also fronts the metal band High On Fire and Jason Roeder is the longtime drummer for the highly influential post-metal band Neurosis. Now back without any warning, (and released on 4/20 of all days), the three-piece have returned with their first full-length since Dopesmoker, released via none other than Jack White's contemporary label Third Man Records.
The band have obviously not ditched their love of cannabis on The Sciences with the record's first proper number 'Marijuanaut's Theme', opening with the very obvious sound of a bong hit, likely a nod to Black Sabbath's infamous album-opener 'Sweet Leaf'. The group match sound to aesthetic with an abundance of thick, cloudy riffs and Cisernos' calculated and meditative vocals, layered on top of walls of fuzz and feedback with enough supply of signature lyrical puns and wit to prove entertaining.
"Through the hashteroid fields - a transmission yields - now riff beacon signal is received // Trajectory set a new bearing - cross alien skies command module flies // Sojourns the lone stoned soul - Marijuanaut loads a new bowl."
Walls of fuzz perpetuate throughout the record, but the band mix it up in odd exchanges, 'Sonic Titan', while technically not entirely new, usurps the previous edition fans had of a live recording tacked onto the end of Dopesmoker as a bonus track. Purists may disagree, but the re-recorded version is far beefier, wailing guitars and Cisneros vocals are far more crystalline, making it the definitive version of the track.
Album centrepiece 'Antarcticans Thawed' slowly builds on its own momentum, leveraging spacey atmosphere with droning riffs not at all dissimilar to the complexities of Dopesmoker. 'Giza Butler' is another notable highlight, (a cross-reference to the Pyramids of Giza, as well as paying homage to Black Sabbath's iconic bassist Geezer Butler) plodding along at a steady pace, saturated in down-tuned sonic heaviness before rounding out the song's tail-end with a rich, complex solo.
Perhaps the most commendable thing about The Sciences is how organic everything sounds, not solely instrumentally, but Sleep also return to what would be the most logical next step for the band. Tracks like 'The Botanist' close the album with a bit more of an err towards ambient post-metal leanings and blunt riffs but the record as a whole is ultimately spacey, atmospheric and dripping in cannabis-influenced Black Sabbath worship that's sure to satiate any fan aboard the stoner/doom metal train.
One spin of The Sciences and it's easy to be confident enough to say that Sleep have finally returned, and in masterful form, but the truth is - did they really go away to begin with?
Dre’s Top Three:
- Marijuanaut's Theme
- Antarcticans Thawed
- Giza Butler