Live report : Sleep Sleep [Doom Metal] Sub Oslo
Friday, September 10, 2010 - Mohawk
, Austin, TexasView all concert info
Photographer : Darren Cowan
Arguably, no other band has paid homage to and reconfigured the sounds of Black Sabbath
successfully as Oakland, California’s Sleep. The group released albums of unrivaled stoner/doom metal in the 90s. "Volume 1" and 2, "Sleep’s Holy Mountain," "Jerusalem" and Jerusalem’s reconfiguration "Dopesmoker" (the original recording that London Records would not release) made a lasting impression on fans of cannabis inspired doom metal. The group’s split in 1998 seemed to expand the band’s legendary status. Twelve years later, here they are selling out a medium-sized club, Mohawk, in Austin—an unattainable feat during the time (1993) of their classic Earache release, "Sleep’s Holy Mountain."
The majority of fans lining the sidewalks along the venue probably had never seen Sleep. The time spent waiting to catch the Oakland act surely increased these patrons hunger to experience Sleep’s monster riffs in person. Guitarist Matt Pike forming High on Fire, one of the biggest bands in today’s metal scene, most likely brought some attention to his former band. Whatever the case, stoners came out in droves to support one of the best in the scene. Some of these fans couldn’t even wait to get inside before partaking in 420. The smell of stinky weed accosted my nostrils before I even found my place in line.
Matt Pike getting into the flow
Pike jamming with new drummer Jason Roader of Neurosis
Once getting to the door, the doorman directed us to the guest list at the side of the building. We took a flight up stairs to a patio with a bar that looked down upon the stage. We walked around a side patio to find the stairs that took us down to the pit area. There, we waited for opener, Sub Oslo from Denton, Texas to take the stage. Sub Oslo is not a metal band. They are an improvisational Dub (sub genre of Reggae) act. Sleep vocalist and bassist Al Cisneros may have played a role in the band’s opening, for they opened for another of Cisneros’ bands, Shrinebuilder, a few months back at Emo’s.
Even though Sub Oslo was not a metal band, their brand of trippy jam music fit well with Sleep’s spacey atmospheres. Sub Oslo incorporated a variety of instruments including an assortment of percussion, keyboards, synth, drums, guitar and bass. Two members on the left of the stage used sticks to hit their percussion or played smaller drums with their hands. The player on the right side of the stage switched between Moog keyboards, a Clavinet (keys sampler) and an interesting instrument know as the Melodica. The Melodica is a type of blowing instrument, containing keys and a tube. It sounded like a harmonica stuffed inside a flute. Sub Oslo played an entertaining mix of groovy bass lines, cosmic keys and up-tempo parts that reminds of Neurosis
at its slowest.
Immediately after finishing their set, the crowd pushed forward to get a better spot for Sleep. I stayed in this humid, sardine-can environment until I got the photos I needed, and then headed to a less crowded spot up stairs. Before starting their set, someone tapped me on the shoulder, motioning for me to move so he could get to the stage. This person turned out to be none other than Sleep guitar shredder, Matt Pike. His entrance to the stage invoked a tremendous roar from the crowd. The cheers became deafening when he stuck his first droning chords to set forth “Dopesmoker.”
Even though Sleep performed for nearly two hours, the group played a ten-minute rendition of the hour-plus “Dopesmoker.” From there, they treated the crowd to most if not all of Sleep’s Holy Mountain. Surrounded by vintage looking and sounding Orange amps, the group played classic material “Dragonaut,” “Holy Mountain,” “The Druid” and even a song from Volume 1. I didn’t get a copy of the set list and they didn’t announce titles, but I believe that song was “Numb.” These Orange amps created a HUGE, thick, and fucking loud sound that was much heavier than the album versions.
Pike jamming with new drummer Jason Roader of Neurosis
Pike energized the crowd, playing his guitar as if the gods of rock-n-roll possessed
him. His gravel-churning chords seemed as if he were channeling the sounds of these very gods. Cisneros charged the crowd’s battery through soft dynamics during solos parts. When drummer Jason Roader and Pike came into the mix, the audience stood starring up at a sonic mountain. The Neurosis
drummer was a suitable replacement for original drummer Chris Hakius who retired in 2008, although I would have preferred to witness Haikus’ hard-hitting stick style.
One of the highlights of the band’s set was a cover of Ozzy Osbourne
’s “Over the Mountains.” The power trio’s version was much different from any Ozzy cover any in attendance had ever heard. Sure, other doom bands such as Solitude Aeturnus have performed Ozzy in their own vision, but still stayed somewhat true to the original. Roader kicked it off with a barrage of drum rolls; similar in energy yet different in patterns from Tommy Aldridge’s solo from nearly thirty years ago. The rhythm started in an up-tempo fashion in step with Ozzy’s song, but then fell into a down tempo pace. Pike played Randy Rhoads’s solos in true Sleep style, playing both slower and faster than the fallen guitar god. Cisneros’ dream-like vocals were the most noticeable change. The audience seemed split in its approval of said song, but nobody could dispute the fact that Sleep put their own stamp on this timeless tune.
Twenty years have pasted since Sleep formed. Cisneros and Pike have put on some weight, most likely due to all the munchies they’ve grubbed after late-set pot smoking sessions with their other bands Om, Shrinebuilder and High on Fire. Still, they have that fire and pizzazz shown on the “Dragonaut” video filmed seventeen years prior. Due to the show selling out, one either had to contend with the fleshy sauna environment of the pit or not seeing the band on the balcony. This sold-out status didn’t stop two young long hairs from constantly banging their heads across the street. A kind staffer must have heard their story enough times because he eventually allowed the two to come into the show. Their diligence and devotion led to their seeing a historic show that I sure as hell couldn’t miss!