Sleep - Sleep's Holy Mountain
Earache Records
Stoner Metal with Doom influences
9 songs (52:14)
Release year: 1992
Earache Records
Reviewed by Khelek

I don't think anyone can deny - or overstate for that matter - Sleep's importance in the development of stoner metal in the early 90s. Along with bands like Kyuss and Monster Magnet they influenced many excellent acts that formed later (Spiritual Beggars, Fu Manchu, Down, Clutch, etc.). On their very first album Sleep showed that they could create immense atmospheres using doom metal style riffs along with a touch of the psychedelic. However, while Volume One proved that the band had talent, they were mainly still in the realm of doom. It wasn't until Holy Mountain that they really began experimenting with a catchier, more upbeat style, incorporating a lot of blues elements as well as groove-laden basslines and catchy guitar leads. This is my favorite of Sleep's discography; an epic album that any fan of the stoner or doom genre should definitely be familiar with.

To start with, the album art by Robert Klem is pretty wild; a detailed psychedelic mural that fits the album perfectly in my opinion. I really like when the cover art matches the music so well. The album itself begins with the groovy and upbeat Dragonaut, quite a change from the previous album that was more consumed in darkness. This is one key difference between this and their first album. Many lighter songs that let you just sit back and relax to catchy basslines and fuzzy guitars. The vocals sound somewhat distorted, which I don't find particularly appealing, but it's not a problem either. The Druid is up next, starting with a pretty simple, downtuned guitar riff that chugs its way forward until it is interrupted by quicker bass notes that lead into an instrumental section that is just great. The epic Evil Gypsy / Solomon's Theme shows just how much talent the band have, creating a flowing soundscape that just pulls you in and keeps the complex distorted guitar coming from all sides, backed up by quick, groovy basswork and deep vocals of mainman Al Cisneros. Some Grass throws in an interesting instrumental with infectious southern guitar vibes and bluegrass licks that provide a calm intermission from mountainous guitar riffs and shows the softer side of axe man Matt Pike. Aquarian gets things moving again with some catchy riffs and the deep vocals of Cisneros, which remind me a lot of Cathedral's Lee Dorrian here. The moaning guitars define this song as well, crushing you with slow melodies as walls of drum and bass fall over everything. Definitely one of my favorites from the album. The title track is a repetitive set of over-distorted guitar riffs, but it definitely fits into the overall atmosphere of this album, one of calm and a touch of negativity and depression. An extremely heavy track that is mostly instrumental except for a couple verses at the beginning and end. The sheer amount of crushing atmosphere is worth a mention along with the insanely distorted guitars that harkens back to the band's doom-inspired first album, dragging you through sludge for awhile. The tempo picks up once more with Inside The Sun, a very catchy track that opens with the thundering drums of Chris Hakius and incorporates some faster Black Sabbath inspired riffs. This is an excellent lead into the epic From Beyond, another long track that just engulfs the listener in a doomy atmosphere of crawling bass and huge, rolling riffs.

If you want to really be able to appreciate this music, you've gotta be willing to sit back and just listen to it because that's simply what it's meant for - stoners who are sitting around spaced out and listening to music at a loud volume level. Not that there isn't plenty for any music fan to be able to appreciate; complex guitar work, melancholy atmospheres that unfold into vast soundscapes as you listen, but I digress. I remember discovering Sleep at one point early in my metal listening career, reading about how they were an amazing doom/stoner metal band, which I of course immediately equated to sounding like Black Sabbath. While the influence is there, they take it in a very different direction and I soon became bored after listening to The Druid a few times and went in search of something more instantly gratifying. I couldn't have been more wrong, and listening to this album all the way through (many times) shows just how wrong I was. For me it's definitely music that demands the right setting and mood, but when I can just relax and listen to a heavy album, well, there's not much better out there.

Killing Songs :
All, personal favs are Dragonaut, Evil Gypsy/Solomon's Theme, Aquarian
Khelek quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Sleep that we have reviewed:
Sleep - The Sciences reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Sleep - Dopesmoker reviewed by Koeppe and quoted CLASSIC
Sleep - Volume One reviewed by Khelek and quoted 86 / 100
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