They were doing it before it was popular and we know they’ll be doing it long after our pathetic souls are wiped off the face of this fucking planet – Sleep has been channeling a ‘higher’ riffing power since their inception and even with greater than 10 years of dormancy (and nearly 20 years of no new fully fleshed material), their current sound is vital and their legacy (and relevancy) remain untarnished. It’s as if their ‘musical stream of consciousness’ (a Matt Pike term, not mine) was flowing through other galaxies during the hiatus as the altruistic quintessential “weedian” benefactor – honing the gift, spreading the word, and spreading the riff.
Core members Matt Pike (guitars) and Al Cisneros (bass/vocals) have been tapping into this bottomless reservoir of mind numbing ecto-riff-o-plasm for most of their respective musical careers; more recently, Cisneros as the master of subsonic droning introspection (OM) and Pike as the infamous skull crusher (High on Fire) – but Sleep’s Dopesmoker (in all its various incarnations) was the presumed pinnacle as it displayed these forces combined, inspired by a lifestyle of marijuana worship that reached near religious proportions. Suffice it to say, they’ve returned to earth with The Clarity, a 9+ minute rocker that’ll have all the ritual doomsters praising the lord, counting their blessings, and cuddling the bouncing baby sweet leaf.
Those of you who haven’t been living in a coma for the past 5 years know that John Roeder (Neurosis) has been heading up the rhythm section and this latest slab sees his chops captured and on display; his hypnotic pound and shuffle slips right in – the seamless skeleton beneath the ten ton cut of flesh that is the Pike/Cisneros assault. Crisp production and great instrument clarity highlight the trio’s familiar dirge and grind – the fact that this (excellent) track was composed in less than 2 days and recorded in a similarly short time span is testament to the band’s creativity, skill, and consistency. The song’s opening passages have a similar drive and feel to OM’s Unitive Knowledge Of The Godhead – an unsurprising parallel, yes, but Pike’s paired razor sharp rhythms and solo shredding (badass at about the midway point) add that extra something we’ve all been craving – the extra dimension that separates a classic band from the herd of good and great ones. The slew of jamming twists and turns feel natural as part of an organic (creative) evolutionary process – the riffs live, breathe and seemingly guide themselves to the song’s closing seconds.
For sure, there’s no arguing Sleep’s classic status – however, The Clarity doesn’t necessarily redefine their sound or blaze new territory; it’s just another notch on the belt (or skull on the wall) to remind us all they’re still here kicking ass. Would we expect anything less? I think not.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore