I’m not even sure how to start this article on Sleep’s Holy Mountain. I’ve never listened to anything like that before. It’s completely unique, some say it’s the heaviest piece of music they ever listened to. I think I would agree with that, but it obviously depends on what you consider ‘heavy’. However, should you have things like slow, sludgy and fuzzed out guitar riffs in mind, well, then I guess we are conceptually on the same page – acknowledging that the definition of this term is obviously much broader than that and also fairly subjective.
The first time I heard a Sleep tune – I think it was Dragonaut – I really had no idea what I was about to encounter when I subsequently ordered their debut album ‘Holy Mountain’ (I will admit I am actually not certain on the album title – it might be correctly called ‘Sleep’s Holy Mountain’, but anyway…). Even though I had a pretty good image of what the 10 tracks would probably sound like, I had no idea that the whole album is at first listen a monster doomy riff-fest put together by three guys whose approach to music is not necessarily new, but definitely unique because as I said, I don’t think the world had ever heard anything like this before. And man, it’s good, very good.
I think Sleep is generally categorized in the Doom/Stoner-Rock genre and I guess I can see why. Even though I find it might not do them just, because there is actually much more depth and sophistication at work here. To be clear, I am not an expert on this particular sub-genre nor is it my intent to generalize or to suggest that Stoner-Rock is ‘shallow’ by any means. But to me ‘Holy Mountain’ has much more to offer than what you might hear the first time listening to it. While the heavy riff structure is certainly predominant throughout the album, guitarist Matt Pike plays some very decent solo lead guitar tracks that were added as overdubs onto a number of tracks. It gets pretty wild at times and if there’s one thing I might have to critique here, then it’s the fact that occasionally things turn into this undifferentiated massive sound wave which swallows the individual components. On the other hand, I guess that’s the whole point of the album.
About two minutes into the first song (‘Dragonaut’) there is this brutal interlude/riff: you have to listen to it to understand what I mean, but that one alone is worth buying the album. It’s just a couple of power chord slides, but holy cow, that just blows the roof off. With that being said, all other tracks are no disappointment either. The whole record is fun, power, and loaded with uncompromised drive. The little bluegrass tune (‘Some Grass’) in between gives the listener a chance to aid the bleeding ears, but that break only lasts about a minute and then it’s back to business as usual, which means tuned down bass and guitars, with a brutal amount of fuzz, steady drumming and psychedelic lyrics.
To be clear here: you don’t have to be smoking pot to enjoy Sleep’s Holy Mountain. I personally don’t consume any drugs, including grass and alcohol. Yet, I’m still having a hell of a time listening to this piece. I can only highly recommend it, it exceeded my expectations on many levels and in a thoroughly positive sense.
To learn more about, Matt Pike (guitar), Chris Haikus (drums) and Al Cisneros (bass) here are a few links: