Stoner/doom metal legends Sleep have been outputting surprising amounts of content following their 20 year hiatus. The metal Gods themselves blessed us with a new surprise LP on 4/20 just over a month ago, and now they’re already back with a new non-album single “Leagues Beneath”.
Sleep is one of those almost undeservingly prolific bands that has somehow managed to maintain a spot in the public eye over all these years. While the band is famous for their flawless genre-defining stoner/doom metal classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain, the release is arguably their only easily-graspable work from their early career period. Their first LP Volume One is a Sleep fan heaven, but to untrained ears the record seems to be a hit or a miss among metal circles. The group also has the legendary hour-long single-track release Dopesmoker, which will undoubtedly remain within the subgenre’s most important releases of all time.
In analyzation of their pre-reunion discography, one might question their legendary status within the metal world. If you think about it, they really only have one standard LP release that is easily accessible to all that came out 26 years ago, as Volume One is considered a rough stepping stone for the group and Dopesmoker is a leviathan of its own and a challenging listen. Sleep and general stoner/doom fans flock to this band for obvious reasons, but the band’s Godly status is peculiar in its own right as they broke up and hadn’t released any new material until 2014 while somehow still maintaining popularity within the public eye. Perhaps the general mystical fog that surrounds the band’s music and history makes them a gem within the music world and is the reasoning behind their widespread appeal.
As mentioned above, Sleep eventually reunited and released the well-received single “The Clarity” in 2014. The group followed to drop their fourth LP release The Sciences after a surprise announcement on the wonderfully chosen date of 4/20 earlier this year. While these two modern releases surely satisfied Sleep fans’ appetites for the coming future, the group decided to drop a brand new song on May 23rd through the Adult Swim yearly singles program, whereby a new song from a different artist is released on a weekly basis for the whole year.
The 16-minute track is more reminiscent of Dopesmoker’s slower wandering vibe than their more upbeat material such as “The Clarity” or shorter songs on Sleep’s Holy Mountain. “Leagues Beneath” starts off with a long intro section consisting of a prolonged, simple guitar riff accented with a seemingly-floating choreography of drumming which prominently features drummer Jason Roeder’s signature cymbal-riding. The song follows to pickup, featuring a very standard Sleep-sounding riff, which definitively gets the listener settled into the journey.
The song in its entirety features scattered yet efficient vocal sections. This quality has maintained consistent with Sleep’s post-reunion material as the group approaches their music using a more instrumentation-based sound that uses lyrics as a secondary factor.
With that being said, the tone on this song is incredible. One of the undoubtedly key ingredients for Sleep’s success recipe is their uncanny ability to create the perfect guitar tone for their records time and time again. “Leagues Beneath” is no different, delivering a thick and luscious guitar sound that makes the trio sound a lot bigger than what their combined mere-human capabilities have to offer.
The standout point of the track in my opinion lies behind the odd and soothing solo sections presented by guitarist Matt Pike. The faster-paced, more scale-oriented solos offered during the song’s middle point and again during its conclusion truly solidify my love for this release. The sound he produces is truly indescribable, especially for someone like myself who is not very familiar with the guitar realm. I will however affirm that the instrumentational approach is unique and is a sound I haven’t heard before through my years of exploring the electric guitar-based world of music.
The tune’s vocals, while used sparingly, are also one of the track’s highlights. Al Cisneros’ voice seemingly echoes through the track, propelled in accordance with the guitar melodies. Although cliché, I’d describe his vocal sound to be that of one attempting to break through a thick layer of smoke, ultimately getting trapped within the clouds that disperse throughout the room as they flow through your speakers.
The track itself is phenomenal, and although I will admit, upon my first listen I was weary of the song’s potential as it seemed fairly slow and monotonous at times. However, through thorough listening over the past few days, the song has settled and I would say it rivals any comparable Sleep release thus far. The release leaves a lot of promise for the group’s future, as they have demonstrated their ability to produce material that is as consistently good as their overwhelmingly well-received historical outputs.