Groundbreakers: Sleep – Holy Mountain

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In 1992, California’s Sleep built a bridge connecting the past and the future of metal music.

*Cough*

This is a joint venture in which two South American dudes will explain how the dudes from Sleep paved the way to many other dudes. You’ll be reading Dagon in blue and Link in green.

Sleep’s Holy Mountain is the record we wanted to share with you to review and discuss, because it’s a perfect example to understand the stoner style and the ethos behind it. Bring the herbs, crank old Black Sabbath/Saint Vitus/Pentagram 200 % volume and join us through the magic of this landscape.

The question that might be going through your head right now is: why not Dopesmoker? True, there is a unique vibe surrounding that album, the kind of mystique that only an hour long song can create. True, it could arguably be Sleep’s best album. Groundbreakers is, however, a feature on albums who influenced the shape of heavy music after their release, and Holy Mountain is perhaps one of the most influential albums in stoner metal, second only to Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality. But before we tell you what makes this record so important, let’s delve into the songs that made it great.

“Dragonaut”, the album opener, is a barrage of dope riffing. Constructed with solid, bluesy riffs and a rolling bass line, the jam is a full trip to the sky. The dynamic of this song alerts the listener, it tells to the ears: “take my hand, I will drive you to the clouds above”; you hear the soft sections, the crunchy bass tone and the perfect mix of the aggressive chugging vs. the sweaty melodic solos of Mr. Matt Pike. Meanwhile you’re flying in your dragon, the Chris Hakius’ drumming paints you the mountains. You see the earth below your hanging feet and the echoing vocals of Pike are the whispering wind.

Following this song, “The Druid” brings once again the cult of the nature with a more rough edge. The screaming and the punchy directness makes a great contrast with the previous song; meanwhile the short lyrics express the contrary: an evil entity of the woods sleeping in meditation. The powerful bass with some Sabbath-ian vibes coils around the strings like a serpent, impressive demonstration of how the bass must be played in this style. And this is the greatest feature of this album: while other stoner bands tend to maintain a monotone drooling static sound palette, Sleep’s Holy Mountain is about the meticulous song-crafting art.

“Evil Gipsy – Solomon’s Theme” is a song I consider to be Sleep’s answer to Sabbath’s “Into The Void”. It’s a 7 minute long riff-fest, complete with a groovy jam segment right in the middle that’s impossible for me not to shake my tail to. Before you start getting too familiar and too comfortable, the trio moves back to beating you up with a riff that sounds like the ground is moving beneath you.

The short instrumental piece “Some Grass” opens to the next track, “Aquarius”, which is a groovy fest for the senses. The echoing vocals returns once more with the sedated rhythm. In the middle of song there’s a break, which you will be buried in a desert, it’s dry, it’s a descent to the sand.

Then, we enter the awaited “Holy Mountain”. This piece is mysterious, you left behind the fun, the flying high attitude; you’re now inside the territory of the arcane. One more time, the chugging riffs syncs with the rhythm, awaiting in the shadows for the doped, repeating verse:

Look onto the rays of the new stoner sun rising

Sonic Titan rides out on clouds of new horizon

Until then, you are inside the mystic domains, and more clean guitar section resonates in the divine chambers. The sound resonates through the open sky and once again, the full band explodes with the Sabbath crucifix making the monumental song reach its final seconds.

I feel like this is the perfect moment to step in and justify our choice. Drugs and music have a long and storied relationship, and metal is no different. It is rumored that the term stoner metal arose in 1997 because of a Roadrunner Records compilation entitled Burn One Up! Music for StonersWhile several of the featured bands were quick to dismiss this tag, Sleep embraced it even before its inception.

Think about the lyrics Link just quoted. Now, take a second to look at the album cover very closely. Amidst the crazy lines that form several drawings – all related to the lyrics – you can peep the leafs surrounding the band’s logo. For final evidence, just read Al Cisnero’s letter about Sleep’s demo tape:

The adoption of Cannabis as an aesthetic choice, lyrical theme and musical motif, which would be taken even further in Dopesmoker, was a turning point in heavy music history. It paved the way for an extremely large number of bands with varying degrees of quality and success. WeedeaterWeedpeckerBongzillaBongripperElectric WizardDopethroneGreenleaf, just off the top of my head, all owe a great debt to Sleep’s second LP.

Furthermore, you can also hear glimpses of the band members’ future projects in each song. The droning element present in the title track and in “From Beyond” would be explored in depth by Dopesmoker and by Om, the band formed by Sleep’s rhythm section. The boisterous opening of “Inside the Sun” and the chugging in “Evil Gypsy – Solomons Theme” all hint at what High On Fire would bring to the table.  I’ll let Link wrap up the song by song breakdown.

By the time you’re in the track “From Beyond”, you’re lost. The ominous melody presents to you the doom itself. In a spiral, the drumming adds colors to the brooding scene of the vibrating guitars. The decadent, almost biblical scene, is portrayed by the vocals and sinister mood. This is stoner doom painting it’s best picture. 

In the end, “Nain’s Baptism” serves as a closure for these initiation rites. After you enter the Holy Mountain, you’re not the same. You are baptized in fuzz.


Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.

Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic
Fear Factory Demanufacture
Voivod – Killing Technology
Today is the DayTemple of the Morning Star
Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
Acid Bath – When the Kite String Pops
Ministry – The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste
Vulcano – Bloody Vengeance

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  • Rho Stone
  • Max

    Second! Aldrining it up.

  • KJM

    ^_^

  • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

    How to smoke weed at work and not get caught.

    http://i.giphy.com/wk8zg4WEL6FFK.gif

    • KJM

      Oh, that’ll work.

    • Howard Dean

      You can do the same thing with Krokodil and PCP.

      • I always have my syringes ready in my desk.

        • Howard Dean

          Good man, Link. Keep some surgical grade rubber tubing in there, too, for tying off.

      • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

        If you are looking for a new Goregrind album cover, just google image search “Krokodil”.

        • Howard Dean

          Shit is brutal. I remember seeing pictures of people with bones completely exposed because their skin rotted away. Amazing that they can continue to love with a tibia or part of their skull exposed. Gross shit.

        • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

          The Slipknot side project? If not, youtube ‘krokodil leg sawed off’.

      • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

        But where would you put the dead flesh? Seeing this one of someone high on krokodil, I don’t think they’d be functional.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd5HJLx-BpI

        • Disgustache

          Why is it always Russia with the fucked up shit?

        • OldMetalHead

          I think I’ve seen people that messed up just being drunk.

          • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

            Not me! What kind of drunks were you around?

          • OldMetalHead

            Something like this:
            https://youtu.be/7a7l7IHXZwk

          • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

            LMAO!

          • Lacertilian

            can’t tell if he’s putting it on

    • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

      We just smoked in the back alley where I worked. #lifeasachef

  • Void Dweller

    Good album, good doom.

  • The W.

    Good work, gents. I was pretty blown away the first time I heard this album.

    • Dagon

      Same for me. I found Sleep through YouTube several years ago, on the related videos to a Kyuss song. “Dragonaut” was the first Sleep song I’ve heard and I never looked back.

  • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

    Just going to drop this off.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncGoPcgLZSk

    • Howard Dean

      The uglier, older brother to Sleep. Good shit, great compilation. I love the track “Nail.”

      • Dagon

        Sleep + 2 other guys

        • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

          Too many cooks.

          • Dagon

            I had to read it thrice

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Whoa! Remember when I said HoF’s newest had a more stoner-feel? Well apparently Dragonaut’s original name is Voyage to the Sunless Years AND HoF’s new has a song called The Sunless Years, coincidence?

  • KJM

    OT: Monolord has restocked vinyl and CDs after being out for a while!
    http://ridingeasyrecords.com/product/monolord-vaenir/

  • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander
    • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

      but its wafer thin…

  • IronLawnmower

    Sounds like I need to grab the FDR remaster of this and break out the pipe when I get home. This sounds like some consciousness expanding shit.

  • KJM

    HoF in Boston on August 17th!

    • The W.

      Have you seen them live?

      • KJM

        Not yet.

        • The W.

          They put on a fantastic show. I’m sure you’ll love it.

          • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

            Is Pike still hitting the bottle hard?

          • The W.

            I don’t think so. Pretty sure he’s sober. He was not sober when i saw them. Pike was convinced he knew me from somewhere.

          • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

            Well, you looked damned familiar guy! I believe Master Pike mistook you for a gentleman who supplied us with herbal medicine in Phoenix once… of a certain fungal variety… but no, twas not you… (or was it, huehuehue…)


            …no, it wasn’t.

          • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

          • Void Dweller

            Hammered as shit when I saw them in 2001 or 2002.

          • The W.

            Yah, they were just sort of milling at the bar at the venue. I said hi, and Pike tried to convince me he knew me.

          • Void Dweller

            Wow.

  • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

    I bought this back in ’97 and hated it. I thought it was a total Black Sabbath knockoff. Fast froward to 2006 when I heard it again, and I still think it’s fucking essential. My best friend was like “how the fuck can you hate this?!?!” at the time. A few bowls livened up that mood quick!

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v220/geistimsturm/IMAG0021.jpg

    • Dagon

      The Brasil shirt is what elevates this to the next level.

      Gotta rep the HUE crowd.

      • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

        Lol, yep! I love Brazilian culture in general, mostly because of Angra. :-p

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    Yessss…mmmmhhh… this pleases the nipple…

    • Lacertilian

      It’s your time in the sun sweaty one.

  • Big fan of early Saint Vitus since Hallow’s Victim.

    I’ve still never heard this album. Fuck me?

  • Void Dweller
    • This is shit.

      • Trees ‘n Shit is Kvlt O)))

        Uh-oh, did Decibel love it (I’m a couple of months behind)?

        But yeah, this kinda sucks.

        • Void Dweller

          It’s Bobby’s vocals. They sound like they’ve been demoed.

          • Trees ‘n Shit is Kvlt O)))

            Pretty much. If someone played it for me without telling me who it was, I never would have guessed it was Pentagram.

          • Void Dweller

            Well, besides Victor’s tone, yes.

        • Decibel blows. Axl Rosenberg is more professional than half their writers and reviewers.

          • Void Dweller

            Iron Fist is where it’s at.

            Edit: Though it’s pricey as shit.

          • I’ve never actually read that mag. I just found their website and honestly feel like I’ve been missing out on something good as phuck.

          • Le Tapir The Based

            I’m 87% sure that shit isn’t that pricey. If it is, I need to start selling my poops.

          • Void Dweller

            Well, last time I saw it was $10.00ish an issue.

          • Le Tapir The Based

            God damn! If only I could sell my poops with that price. I’d be the richest tapir there is.

      • Void Dweller

        Then why did you upvote JAG? But I can see that because Bobby’s vocals are rough and the production doesn’t sound very even. Makes me a little worried for the rest of the album.

        • I’m just being a trolling-ass douchebag. It’s aaight.

          • Void Dweller

            I feel ya.

        • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

          It has to be at least better then the artwork.

          • Void Dweller

            Good call.

    • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

      Rock n’ roll!

    • OldMetalHead

      Sounds pretty 60’s psychedelic.

  • Nice work gentleman, I really enjoyed the collabative approach on this one.

    • Lacertilian

      One more South American on here could have been dangerous.
      Say if they got @rho_stone:disqus on board we may have mistaken them for a gang of @linkleonhart:disqus ‘s evil malandros

  • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander
    • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

      Don’t worry. It crushes.

    • Dagon

      This is fucking awesome, man.

      • Lisbeth (Tyree) Salander

        It’s pretty damn ferocious sounding. That bass guitar sounds so sick too.

      • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

        They are another reason why Brazil is the best country on Earth for metal!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUV1Ls_pMH4

        • Dagon

          I wouldn’t go this far, but Krisiun >>>>>>>

          • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

            I’d go so far as to say Krisiun, Angra, Hibria, Tierramystica, Andre Mato’s solo stuff, and Sarcofago are Brazil’s all time best bands. I know I missed Sepultura, but they’ve sucked since ‘Roots’.

    • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines

      Look at my top five I posted a couple of days ago. Krisiun is my favorite death metal band, and has been for a while.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Great review dudes! I think I’ve actually listened to this one more times sober than high, even though I do love to partake. With a good set of headphones and Tetris or Ores (or your choice of simple yet ferociously addictive game) to get stuck into, the bass alone is like a drug.

  • Stockhausen

    The dichotomy between Sleep’s music and the puking/krokodil/exposed rotting innards talk makes me giggle.

  • “This is a joint venture . . .”

    *giggles*

  • Buttcheeks Full Of Sardines
  • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

    OM

  • As much doom and stoner as I’ve listened to, I’ve never listened to Sleep, despite owning three of their albums. Also, why is it, more than any other genre, that doom and stoner metal just screams to be played a deafening volumes? I’m going to break my house with this shit.