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Sleep: Dopesmoker [re-issue album review]

In the early-’90s metal drought, a strange strain developed through the cracks in the pavement, as downtuned strings, sluggish tempos, and vintage amplification led to the blossoming of stoner rock. A large number of bands cashed in on the genre’s fruition with erudite riffage and rad tuneage, but such a cash-in eluded the stump-dragging trogs of Sleep, whose clunky riff-mastery and weed obsession made them the stupidest-sounding smart stoner-metal band around. Before imploding in ’96, they delivered this “fuck you” of an album song cycle — legend has it that it arrived at London Records as a DAT tape in a porcelain skull bong in a police helmet. London passed, and the world was deprived of the band’s masterwork for years — and what a shame, for Dopesmoker, an hour-long uninterrupted chug saga, is one of rock’s great concept albums. The lyrics, obsessed with pot and religious pilgrimage, are both sublime and ridonk; one ’90s bootleg version had a crucified pot leaf on its cover. “Drop out of life with bong in hand/And follow the smoke to the riff-filled land” were the opening lines to one of rock’s greatest musical journeys. My advice: take this, the album’s third legit release (which, by the way, sounds so balls you can practically hear the dank nugs), pop it in, turn out all the lights, face Mecca, and bow down…..