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Ice cap miles thaw to freedom - 100%

rvsso, May 20th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, 2 12" vinyls, Third Man Records (Green vinyl)

What has not already been said about this album… a true landmark surprise release by one of the godfathers of the metal genre, and pioneers of the stoner subgenre that has spawned thousands of copycat bands. Sleep returns to crush inferiority into spacedust with a lineup that has become a supergroup at this point. All of the members’ respective bands forms a perfect equation for Sleep’s sound: a sacred, sabbathian, smoky adventure towards the beyond. Matt Pike is the unquestioned riff god of today, and he is the reason these songs transcend all the stereotypes of stoner doom, powering past monotony and slowness just for the sake of it into a nebula of creativity and variety while crushing all bone matter within a certain radius.

We are finally gifted the official releases of two tracks that have long been played live: “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticans Thawed” and they do not disappoint. The title of Om’s first album (bassist Al Cisneros’ other band) is titled “Variations on a Theme” and not only is it fitting for Om’s output, but it is also apt for the way Sleep perform songs, which is why they are able to execute long songs to perfection. This album is the perfect follow up to “Dopesmoker” as Sleep have been able to harness the same energy and songwriting prowess to deliver the goods on the long tracks. “Sonic Titan” is exactly as the name suggests, and when the smoke clears about five minutes in, all that’s left is the pure power of the bass guitar proving its might as the backbone of the cosmic voyage.

“Antarcticans Thawed” is the highlight of the album, both musically and lyrically. Sleep’s lyrics have never been deep or scholarly or mysterious, but here the imagery that is conveyed transports this song to another level. The second line “sets free Antarctic legions” gives you the sense that an ancient force possessed by riffs has been unleashed from the frozen wasteland, and will bring destruction previously unseen by mankind. Sleep’s use of the unknown in their themes, whether it is the frozen mountainous abyss of Antarctica or the mysterious realms of deep space, gives their music a unique otherworldly quality that seems both honest and foreboding, as if the members possess some sort of primordial knowledge. The vocals near the end of this track have this nasty grit that is extremely satisfying, giving off an aggressive vibe as the song comes to a close; its just magnificent.

Aside from the previously mentioned song, the best moment on the album comes in “Giza Butler”, which is aptly titled as the bass lines are out of this universe. The moment in question is the riff that simultaneously begins with the line “marijuana is his light and his salvation”, about 5:50 into the song. The entire track takes an aggressive turn while the vocals still maintain their meditative quality, and it is a supremely transcendent experience. The way that Sleep can seamlessly transition to these more aggressive qualities is what separates them from their too stoned peers, and this is credit to the members’ other bands rubbing off on their playing style. We all know what we’re getting with Sleep, who are a flawless studio band and one of the greatest live bands of our time, and any creation that bears their name is beyond worthy of undivided attention. An instant classic.

~ Originally written for ~