Okay, let me rephrase right off the bat — Sleep don’t need to put out an album at all. Sleep don’t need to do anything. With Al Cisneros in Om, Matt Pike in High on Fire and Jason Roeder in Neurosis, it’s not like the dudes in Sleep are lagging either on output or asskickery. However, “I think Sleep should put out a new record in an attempt to capture a special moment in the creative lives of its three members” hardly makes for a catchy headline. So here we are.
I’ve got a couple different levels of argument in favor of a new Sleep album, which would be their first since the epic Dopesmoker finally saw the light of day officially in 2003. At the most basic level is the nerdy, “OMG more riffs”-type impulse — the side of me that wants to hear new Sleep just because it would be new stuff from the band who put out Sleep’s Holy Mountain 20 years ago. I’m not about to invalidate that response. Fanboyism is what it is.
More than that, however, I think when you take a look at the response to the periodic shows Sleep have played over the last two-plus years (I first saw them in Brooklyn, Sept. 2010), their continued interest in performing live, their continued influence in the sphere of stoner metal, heavy psych, etc., and — because yes, this matters — the fact that there’s more of an audience for Sleep now than there ever was before, a new studio album is a logical next step. Most of all, creatively.
Take a look at this year’s releases from Om, High on Fire and Neurosis. All three bands had a records out in 2012, and all three were incredibly different. Cisneros explored lush melodies and a wider psychedelic expanse than ever before on Advaitic Songs (review here), while Pike issued High on Fire‘s most aggressive offering to date in De Vermis Mysteriis (review here), and in Neurosis, Roeder provided creative rhythms to ground some of the pioneering Bay Area outfit’s most complex material on Honor Found in Decay (review here). Each was a triumph completely on its own terms.
And that’s why I say now is the time for new Sleep. I’m not thinking that you put Cisneros, Pike and Roeder in a jam space and out comes “From Beyond Pt. 2.” Especially since it would be their first outing with Roeder on drums, I’d hope that a new Sleep record — while obviously steeped in Iommic tradition — sounded like nothing they’ve ever done before. If I wanted to hear what Sleep sounded as they were in their original incarnation, I’d put on one of the old albums. I want to hear what Sleep can put together sound-wise today. I want to hear Sleep with Roeder‘s drum fills, or some of the warmth of tone that Cisneros has developed in Om, or with the kind of solo that Pike wouldn’t have dared attempt at the time but has been decapitating audiences with ever since.
They’ve got their blueprint to work from in terms of riffs, tones and overall approach, but with as distinct as the three personalities have proven to be over the course of this year — and especially with how well the trio works on stage at this point; their set at Roadburn 2012 was hands down one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen — it just seems like there’s an opportunity now to stand up to the challenge of bringing together something that captures the different sides of each member’s personality while also remains uniquely Sleep‘s own, adding to the breadth of their ever-expanding influence.
It seems like a ludicrous idea, right? Well, Black Sabbath have a new record in the works. Saint Vitus put out an album this year. Hell, even the dudes from Kyuss have something going at this point. So why not Sleep? I never thought I’d get to see the band live, and it’s been a couple times now. We live in a universe of infinite possibilities, and though it’s hardly the likeliest announcement to come down the PR wire, would you really have thought they’d get back together for shows in the first place? It’s been over two years now.
So yeah, they don’t need to release an album in 2013 — or ever, for that matter — but if they did, they’d be coming together at just the time when they each seemed to be most on their own path. Whatever that might result in, whether it’s another Dopesmoker or something completely different, it seems like a worthwhile endeavor no matter how you want to look at it.
Tags: California, Gods, Oakland, Sleep, stoner rock