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Better late than never - 90%

TrooperEd, July 5th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Third Man Records (Digipak)

Matt Pike said he was hoping to release both a new Sleep AND a new High On Fire album in the same year last year. Neither happened, and I was a very sad panda. Then on 4/20 (hardy har) Sleep unsuspectingly dropped this on the public and those of us not in the know had to wait quite a few months for this to even be buyable. Well, behind schedule or not, here's hoping Matt goes two for two, particularly with that 20th anniversary High On Fire tour about to happen as of this writing. Come on Matt! Go where no man has gone before!

When deciding how to describe The Sciences, I figured the simplest choice was to simply call it Holy Mountain II. Its song oriented, the songs all rule, so who cares if three of them are over 10 minutes? But then I started thinking that in context, perhaps the Sciences is not a combination of Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker, but a compromise. Trying to recapture the magic of an album length track twice in a lifetime would surely be suicide (the first one virtually was for Sleep), so this is a fair halfway point. If nothing else, I'm just happy I don't have to go digging for a copy of that Volume Two EP to get my grimy hands on a studio version of Sonic Titan (and double checking now that apparently isn't even on the official version), which has been well worth the wait.

Oh yes, Jason Roeder from Neurosis is here, as a result of Chris and Al never quite making up from their ugly divorce. I've heard a few people describe this album as being Sleep plus moments of High On Fire, Om, and Neurosis thrown in to spice things up. I was tempted to title this review 'High Om Neurosis?' at first, but I didn't because I don't hear any such moments in this album. No frantic thrashing of Devilution, Rumors of War or Snakes For The Divine; no tribal rolling tom sixteenth notes of Through Silver In Blood, Under The Surface or End of the Harvest; and well, I've never listened to any Om so I can't make any calls in that regard, but I will say that Al's singing is noticeably different this time around. If this is how he normally sounds on Om feel free to let me know. Holy Mountain's vocals were a pale imitation of Ozzy's ghastly vocals of the early Sabbath years, Dopesmoker's seemed more of monstrous bellow (this delivery returns for Antarcticans Thawed), but overall vocals of The Sciences go for a more baritone approach. At least this time around I know Matt isn't singing at all here. But if there are elements of Neurosis or High On Fire here, they are very, VERY subtle. Jason blends into the Sleep sound so well you wouldn't know it was someone other than Chris.

At the end of the day, that is the best possible net result. Anything Matt Pike wants to shred I'm totally down for, but I'm content that he had the restraint to solely deliver slow ideas. With my constant comparisons to Holy Mountain (it is the best song oriented example after all), I will say the one thing that is not here that is there are those lightning fast time changes that spiced up songs like The Druid and Dragonaut. Nonetheless, I don't consider that a flaw. If I do have any complaints, its that there aren't ENOUGH Sabbath references in the ingeniously titled Giza Butler. We get Sabbath Day, Iommic Pentacost and that's it. Once again Bill Ward is left out. Seriously, if there was ever a chance to make a Victory/Blood of the Kings type of song with as many song-titles stuffed in as possible, this would have been it! I consider it a missed opportunity. Regardless, the opening of said track is probably my favorite moment of the album, as it lulls you into a false sense of security thinking it's going to be a more relaxed jam throughout the track's duration(Jason even breaks out the brushes). Then without warning after the 2 minute mark, it returns to smashing doom business as usual. Gosh, it's almost as if you can bring in new ideas without sacrificing what made your band great in the first place (gives an extremely dirty leer in the direction of a certain Finnish Disney fanatic).

The Sciences is the best surprise of 2018 with not a single wasted second. Shit, it makes me happy that it's 1993 again in 2018, as opposed to insert whatever year of the 80s you think is my favorite. Even the intro track, usually an abhorred tradition, is a brilliant musical prelude via feedback. Hell it might be the best "feedback" track I've ever heard, which is not saying much, but hey, it's something. Do you like true metal? I thought so, go study The Sciences, and pick up your ScM in CBDeacons today!