Dopersmokers mingled in the darkness at the ACL Moody Theater on Friday night, getting nice and toasty before what may be the most quintessential stoner metal band of all time hit the stage. In Sleep’s twenty-five year existence they have played selective gigs, so the opportunity to see them live is one to be savored. Taking a stage adorned only with stacks and stacks of amps, the members of Sleep didn’t say much before laying down a crushing wall of sound. The trio relentlessly plowed deep into thick, sludgy grooves that oozed together and were punctuated only by the droning, haunting vocals of bassist and singer Al Cisneros.
Sleep’s music is as heavy as it is slow and the lack of a mosh pit at the show reflected this. Instead, those in the crowd simply nodded their heads as if hypnotized by drummer Jason Roeder’s bombastic, cannon-fire playing. With a band like Sleep the only thing to really do is let the music take you over and focus on what comes across as one continuous composition. The music is abrasive yet strangely comforting in its ability to lock the listener into a trance-like state, stoned or not. The entertainment in seeing the band live comes mostly in watching the ever-impressive and perpetually shirtless Matt Pike. Compared to the speed and intensity of his other band High On Fire, playing in Sleep must be an exercise in restraint for the guitarist. But his talent in dancing around the groove and honing in on the simple nuances rather than manically shredding as many notes as possible is akin to a highly skilled jazz musician. All three members of the band worked in unison to build that sinister marching pulse that is the cornerstone of the stoner metal sound. They played songs from throughout their career, but what songs were played wasn’t so much important as how the set came together as a whole.
As quick as they emerged the band disappeared after thanking the appreciative crowd. No encore was needed or even demanded by the crowd, who appeared to be in the kind of stupor that only comes from having your face melted for close to two hours. It’s safe to say everyone who made it out on Friday night felt lucky to have witnessed one of the great metal acts of our time in one of their rare live performances.’
Photos by Arthur VanRooy.