matt pike

Dopesmoker, cover

A jazz guy listens to Sleep’s “Dopesmoker” in one sitting

[Cough, coughcoughcough....]

No drums for nearly 3 minutes! Nice….

Cecil Taylor-ish; one note, and that one more about percussion than melody; recurring bass drum over snare is awesome. Funny that they’re only detuned to C (cello tuning); not really that far by doom metal standards… their use of, and confidence in, the musical idea of resonance, is wicked cool. They know the power of a open chord on a stringed instrument, especially if detuned, and they’re not afraid to beat you in the face with it….

First vocals at nearly 9 minutes… funny that they’re playing in C, the easiest key to play in… it’s like they opening their hearts up musically, to allow anyone to improvise over their riffing… a very generous sonic gesture… first solo at nearly 15 minutes… continues the generous idea, as they’re clearly not concerned with impressing you with music chops… of course, now we got a guitar solo that would make Kerry King wince at the simplicity….

“Proceeds the Weedian…” first lyric I could understand… these are like, lyrically, scary Dune-type nerds who also rock out… holy shit….

[Burning really thick, dense sage smoke...]

Holy God, I actually feel connected to you….! Matt Pike, you fuckin’ shaman…! Show me the netherworld…! The shadow world, that beyond the glimmering world… the other…!

[Now a restrained, subtle nag champa...]

Man, I fucking FEEL that low chord [C]…!

[From 39:00:]

Almost Clapton-y, just sitting way back behind the beat… fingering whatever comes along (hah)….

At about 42:00 everything goes away except the guitars, and once they re-enter, the Riff has changed… the phantasmigoric stoner….

[From 45:00:]

The Vedder-like vocals again…!

At over an hour now… that Riff has promised me more in its sheer power than any of the testaments… and in the end, it just stops. It just fucking quits.

Well done, man… well done.

[ link to the reissue]

Dopesmoker reissue cover

Sleep, Dopesmoker, Deluxe Reissue (Southern Lord)

(Click for ultra hi-res.)

As of the date of my submission, there’s no downloadable content available from Sleep. Which means I have to stream it to hear it at all.

It’s not like the album’s called Dopesmoker, or anything… that implies one would do well to listen to this one NOT chained via headphones to their computer….

Fine! I’ll stream it! Anything to just hear it!

Because I am a whore for Sleep! And Southern Lord in general! I even bought a freaking Sleep shirt for my wife, who doesn’t even like metal! And she wears it! And gets compliments on it! And then says, “It’s his.”

Even though I have the first two iterations of Dopesmoker (Jerusalem and Dopesmoker), I am (quite figuratively) dying to hear this one– it’s remastered, there’s Arik Roper’s new stoner-via-Dune esque cover, there’s crazy anecdotes about the recording of the album, e.g.:

Pike stated that the “song was getting slower and slower and then it got weird. We started tripping out and second guessing ourselves.” Recording the album was difficult. Pike   recalled that “there was so much to memorize for that album, and we had to do it in like three different sections because a reel-to-reel only holds 22 minutes. It was really cool, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in in my life.” SLEEP were in the studio for one month then went home to rehearse and returned for another month. Pike noted that they ended up with two or three different versions of the song.

It also features an unreleased live recording of a live performance of “Holy Mountain” from San Francisco’s I-Beam in 1994.

When Racer sent this to me I was literally listening to the older version of Dopesmoker on the stereo. It’s fate/ kismet/ karma/ destiny….

Ironically, there is no weed with probably a quarter mile of me. Interpolate as is your wont, my minions. You may find this fact journalistically-dishonest (Pike and co. have said repeatedly that Dopesmoker was written to be heard while stoned), but I feel I must fully disclose.


I’ve heard this new version a dozen times now: the first thing you notice is that the riff entering at around 0:15 is much clearer and louder. I don’t really know that much about remastering, mastering, et cetera, and maybe they’ve only made it louder, but I can actually hear the pick hitting the strings, whereas on the version of Dopesmoker I’m familiar with, it’s a bit harder to pick that out. At this point, I want both versions of Dopemoker on vinyl, at jet-engine volume, to truly try and parse the differences between the two editions.

Of course, my lineage is mostly German and Scandinavian, a notoriously-detail-oriented/obsessive people, and I personally am anal-retentive as fuck, so maybe I’m overdoing things.

Again: interpret as is your wont.

At about 21:30, once everything but the main riff drops out, you can again hear the strings over-vibrating against the pickup… which is pretty cool. I feel like I’m standing right next to the band in a small room without carpeted floors.

The lyrics, too, are a bit more clear: the first line “Drop out of life with bong in hand” is easier to understand, as is the classic, “Lungsmen unearth the creed of Hasheeshian.”

Man. That’s some obscure poetic shit that Rimbaud, William Burroughs, Baudelaire, Rumi and Kerouac would find obtuse.

How can you not love that?

If nothing else, the reissue reiterates why it’s such a great record (if you truly let it in, stoned or not)– it just comes in and sweeps itself through your brain, it says to you we have all the time in the world, let’s use it thinking of far-away lands that before this record you found impossible to believe existed….

If you already have the old version of Dopesmoker? If you’re really into it, you’ll wanna check this out. Otherwise, stick with the old version. Tune in, turn on, burn out, daddy-o….

[Southern Lord records' Deluxe Reissue of Sleep's Dopesmoker is released internationally on May 8, 2012.]
High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis

High on Fire, De Vermis Mysteriis

There’s convergence, confluence, coincidence, coalescence… connection– hell, conjuration, this week… for one Matt Pike:

First, the announcement of the upcoming reissue of Dopesmoker, and today one De Vermis Mysteriis….

Here’s the review slurry, everything in one paragraph:

“Serums of Laio,” starts things off: bombast, staccato drum hits with riffs down in C and the faintest hint of a melody in the chorus, “Bloody Knuckles,” again with the tribal drums over a palm-muted, Sleep-on-amphetamines riff which becomes a “Dazed and Confused”-esque riff and then back to Mötorhead tunage… “Fertile Green” says fuck you, you’re not tribal enough to all the drums up to this point in its intro, before becoming Discharge-meets-Bad Religion in its furious downbeating riffage… “Madness of an Architect,” now with the tribal riff added to said drums to begin to succinctly suggest the dominant musical themes herein, baby… “Samsara” the Sabbathian instrumental… “Spiritual Rights” [and interestingly, not "rites"] is a prototypical headbanger, nothing more or less… “King of Days” sounds the Northern California version of Candlemass, and is easily the most downtrodden, funeral doomy number here… the title track roars out of the gate with infernal riffs, drums and, most obviously, vocals… “Romulus and Remus” has probably the best riff on here in its opening, all minor thirds, flatted fifths and pedal tones in C standard– for my money the best track on this one… “Warhorn” sounds like a Shrinebuilder outtake, but that’s not a dig, it’s just noticeably slower and with way more space between the riffs….

You now have all you need to know. Proceed, young padawan.

listen (on freaking NPR)