|©1999 The Music Cartel
In a lot of ways, Jerusalem makes zero sense. Having secured a six figure deal with London Records (evidently anxious to court the band's large underground following the UK) Sleep promptly recorded this 52 minute "single" (by way of six randomly divided tracks) into an anti-commercial sludge through groove-metal purity and glazed over pot-worship. To which London Recs responded, in so many words: "No way in hell we're releasing this...see ya!". What do you get when you take one messy divorce from Earache Reocrds, one resentful major label, one shelved, botched concept album and X-number of bootlegs of aforementioned botch? The answer: no more Sleep!
Then again, maybe it makes perfect sense. Jerusalem is one unforgiving ride through an experimental smoke-filled hell. One must commend the band for walking the plank and asserting such an over-the-top artistic statement in the face of their potential future as rock stars. But unlike say, Cathedral's The Forest of Equilibrium, Jerusalem doesn't simply lurch around the room and collapse in the corner. Rather than ice-cold doom metal, Sleep's sound is integral to the stoner/doom metal ethos. It compares well with Bongzilla, for obvious conceptual reasons, but more importantly, both bands can lock into some killer blusy grooves, which gives the music a powerful forward impetus. Originally entitled Dopesmoker, the guys retooled the thematics (good move) into what can only be described as a prayer: a Biblically influenced weed-hymnal, supposedly inspired by one of the band member's fascination with the connections between Christianity and marijuana. It is nonetheless a pretty interesting read, if only for wacky neologisms like "marijunaut" and "hasheeshian". Delivering the sermon, vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros abandons his perfect circa 1971 Ozzy-drawl for something resembling an incantation/wiccan/Druidic ritual holler-chant, in which every line of lyric is phrased. Weird.
Of course, the appeal is limited: for groove metal fans of Cavity, Grief, Corrupted and Bongzilla, only. Moreover, exactly how many groove metal fans are willing to wade through 52 minutes of hell? Nay, euphoria? Yeah, it's so damn heavy the band collapsed beneath the strain of shouldering it. A single tempo, a one-hour long groove, and a deep, rich, plundering guitar tone that sounds unearthed from the depths of the Fertile Crescent. Questions, anyone?
Christian hemprock. And why not? Drop out of life with bong in hand and follow the smoke to the riff filled land.
Review by Lee Steadham
Review date: 06/2000