Sleep - Volume One
Tupelo Records
Stoner/Doom Metal
9 songs (45:48)
Release year: 1991
Reviewed by Khelek
Archive review

Sleep is yet another band that should be known to all fans of doom and stoner metal, but has sometimes been overshadowed by other juggernauts of the early 90s like Cathedral and Solitude Aeturnus. Sleep was formed in the early 90s by Al Cisneros, Chris Hakius, and Tom Choi and Volume One came out soon afterwards, showing that the band had a lot of talent when it came to creating the dark, melancholy atmospheres the stoner/doom genre is known for. The music does tend to go in a somewhat darker direction that earlier acts, with the foreboding growls and shrieks of Cisneros emphasized by thick, suffocating guitar riffs. For this reason the album can be difficult to take in all at once, but makes for an enjoyable listen nonetheless.

The album begins with Stillborn, starting off with an intro of weird chants that precedes some very heavy and melodic riffs. Right from the start you can hear that the band has clearly been influenced by early doom pioneers such as Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath. But they also add their own spin to it, mainly in the form of ominous hostility and creepy gloom. And that's where the band's true talent lies. Taking established norms of doom and twisting them into a new creature. One thing that is imported straight from the 80s masters is the use of atmosphere. This album is all about the dark ambiance, similar to other bands that began around this time period, namely Cathedral. Numb catches my attention with a trippy sounding melody and then enormous riffs crash in, followed by the tortured vocals of Cisneros. It's a shorter song, but no less intense than the others. The bass work, especially in songs like Numb and Catatonic, remind me of Saint Vitus, yet have that retro 70s vibe as well. However, much of this is darker and more ominous than anything done by earlier bands. Where Saint Vitus used some tongue-in-cheek humor and upbeat melody, Sleep sound truly infuriated and depressed. The Wall Of Yawn is a pretty mellow song with a lot of heavy, melodic bass lines as well. There are also some mammoth guitar riffs however, and they don't sound very happy, but it's more of a passive, tortured anger. Then the song breaks back down to the slow, deliberate bass of Cisneros. The vocals here also remind me very much of Lee Dorian of Cathedral fame. Prey is a song with a bit more of an angry edge, definitely sounds like some of Saint Vitus's more hostile work. It's also a shorter song that just spits flames at you the whole time. Scourge rounds the album out with ominous riffs and screeching, overamplified and overdistorted guitars. This is a mainly instrumental track that shows off some of the band's faster work. This song actually keeps a beat going and I could definitely see people going crazy in a mosh pit to it. There is some interesting guitar work towards the end while clean bass takes over in between bars of menacing riffs.

This is certainly not Sleep's best work in my opinion, but for a debut it is excellent. Thus began the band’s short but very influential career, creating the modern constructs of stoner doom that are still heard today in some form or another. This album is a bit darker than the band’s later work, and at times I find it difficult to listen to this whole album straight through. It’s definitely something I have to be in the right mood for. The slow, heavy riffs and relentless bass are not as easy to just sit back and relax to, but once you get into it it's difficult not to remember the roiling atmosphere of Sleep.

Killing Songs :
Stillborn, Numb, Catatonic, The Wall Of Yawn
Khelek quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Sleep that we have reviewed:
Sleep - Dopesmoker reviewed by Koeppe and quoted CLASSIC
Sleep - Sleep's Holy Mountain reviewed by Khelek and quoted CLASSIC
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