Sleep - The Sciences (Review)

Martin_Canine
SLEEP
The Sciences
★★★1/2☆

The Sciences is classified as doom metal and stoner rock. While I am not an expert where exactly the border with metal is located in roco, it’s clear to hear where the “doom” and “stoner” parts come from. The release date on April 20th itself is just one of the several marijuana references found on the record, next to a title like “Marijuanaut's Theme” and lyrics like “The rifftree is risen - the bong is to live in / An ounce a day, lightens the way / Salutations to the cultivators”. But the influence that cannabis had on the creative process of the music can be heard whenever a solo kicks in. It’s these moments where the drugs unfold their strongest effects: psychedelic, galactic and distorted guitar playing add a strong spheric tone to the music. On its own, it sounds like a magical, colorful experience. But this is where the “doom” comes to use: mighty and powerful guitar riffs, deep and grim, form the body over which the trippy sound is then performed. Now, it changes the color scheme to gloomy black space which dominates the entire musical scenery. Now, the experimental solos don’t come off as hippie-esque, instead they give the experience a somewhat disturbing and nightmarish sound.

The record unfolds this massive panorama of sinister impressions on 6 songs, three of which last over 10 minutes, two of which are entirely instrumental, but all of which don’t have their main focus on the singing - despite the songs’ length, most song contain much less words than your average 3 minute rock song. In that sense, The Sciences plays much like a score to a movie, and an epic and pretty gritty one on top. The cover artwork, which shows an astronaut whose hose that attaches him to his spaceship has been cut by a passing meteorite, making him unable to return, actually gives an accurate impression of the sound that’s to be expected, containing both the macabre premise and the space theme.

The Sciences is an album to be listened to as a whole, it’s a dark overall experience rather than a collection of songs. It’s also very homogenous, feeling much like different segments of a suite. The opener and title track consists entirely of 3 minutes of noise created by guitars, with little to no indication of melody and rhythm, and although nothing that follows afterwards is quite as avant garde, the frightening and abstract sound sets the tone for what’s to come. In its final moments it transits into the next song, and the true dark magic of the album starts when the percussion and rhythmic guitar kick in, and play clearly distinctive riffs and beats. The tempo constantly stays fairly slow, savoring the the huge, gripping atmosphere to the last bit.

But this is where the album’s biggest flaw begins: although it immediately gets to the listener and fascinates at the very first moment, it kind of wears off halfway through the record. The problem is that the songs don’t offer much variety, both compared to each other and throughout their own duration. It’s not just once that the intro music doesn’t change for a whole 4 minutes, and as mind blowing as the musical direction may be, the often monotonous composition creates certain lengths that wouldn’t have been necessary and could have easily been avoided. If you take into consideration to what extent the songs develop, a 14 minute track could have as well lasted six minutes shorter, and would in the end turn out much more dynamic. There are long segments in which the main riff is repeated for minutes before it moves on to the next part of the song. In that time, they could have just layered another solo over it to add some more tension and make it more chilling.

In its current form, The Sciences is a good album that could have been really great if it cut down on a few parts, lengthened others and added a bit more variation. It’s impressive that the band is able to create such an ambience mainly with guitars and percussion, but they could have built on that a bit better and make it more thought out - after all, it’s been 15 years since their last album.

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