Follow the smoke toward the riff-filled land now! Ask me how!

I get a little too highbrow sometimes.  Let me fix that.

I've never encountered anything quite like Sleep's 2003 album Dopesmoker.  It's the heaviest heavy-metal record I know.  It makes the heaviest Black Sabbath song sound like "Hey Ya."  It is heavy metal made heavier and heavier until it sinks into its own event horizon, a hole of infinite density that, for some reason, is also green.  

Dopesmoker is the product of steely-eyed dedication to an ideal.  You may not share this ideal.  You may not see its point.  You may think that the notion of weed-priests crossing the desert with bales of herb tied to the backs of their beasts so that we can all drop out and lose ourselves in the eternal riff is not a worthy subject of an epic.  You even might think that an hour-long song about grabbing your bong and dropping out might be a little...dumb.  

Well, to rebut this argument on the proper level, it's not dumb.  You're the one who's dumb.

Three hairy guys from San Jose spent endless hours in a shack in Mendocino County perfecting this song, which David Rees, a critic for the New York Times who probably wasn't even high while listening to it, described as "like a Mark Rothko painting hitting you over the head with a bag of hammers."  Their record label hated it so much that for years it was only available on bootlegged tapes, passed around by Sleep fans like stoner samizdat.

I started listening to this song because it was hard to believe it existed.  I didn't expect to fall in love with it.  I permanently burned out my own weed receptors long before I could even imagine a day would come where I could have it delivered to my apartment by going to a web site.  But I really like this.  (I don't have to huff glue to listen to the Ramones, either.)  I like walking around town with my headphones on being hit over the head again and again by this song's towering, monstrous riff while all the people around me go about their ordinary lives.

Here's Sleep in 2014, performing a version of Dopesmoker that's been so radically shortened that the drummer starts playing after only four minutes.  As a visual experience, well, I've seen more dynamic ASMR videos.  You do get a sense of just how committed to this idea the musicians are, though.  And the sound is good.


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