The Best Albums of 2018, #3

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3. Sleep, The Sciences (Third Man)

It was admittedly cute seeing Sleep reunite after a long dormancy, and their headlining performance at Roadburn 2012 was the stuff of legend. Seriously, that show in Holland was one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended. But it was a good novelty, a seemingly quick diversion from the projects of brain trust Matt Pike and Al Cisneros, who were plenty occupied with High on Fire and Om respectively. As the years have gone by those “reunion” shows have kept on going, to the point where I kept wondering what the point was, and whether the public still wanted to hear rehashes of seminal works Holy Mountain and Dopesmoker. It got to the point where I personally would have greatly rather have seen Pike concentrate his time on the great High on Fire, instead of milking the nostalgia thing with Sleep. That all changed on April 20, 2018, fittingly enough, when Sleep surprised everyone on the metal world by releasing their first album in 20 years on Jack White’s Third Man label. What I heard that day sounded impressive, but the more I listened to it, the more it started to sink in that this is unquestionably the band’s finest work, ever. A bold statement, I know, especially considering how metal fans cling to the past like an old security blanket from their infancy, but the more I hear it, which has been a lot this year, the more I am convinced it is true. There’s not much to the Sleep sound: the primary influences are the first three Black Sabbath albums, and they revel in it. You can hear just how well the chemistry works between Pike, Cisneros, and drummer Jason Roeder on the instant classic “Marijuanaut’s Theme”: these boys can swing, and swing hard. Conversely, the discipline on display on “Sonic Titan” is a marvel, the song sounding like the evil bastard offspring of Sabbath’s “Hand of Doom”. “Antarcticans Thawed” is a 15-minute master class in doom dynamics, while “Giza Butler” is loaded with so many weed and Sabbath-inspired puns that you can’t help but smile. The tone of the record is as comfortably enveloping nd heavy as you’d expect a doom record to be, but Pike’s guitar tone has just enough savagery and bite to perfectly offset Cisneros’s musical and mellow basslines. Doom doesn’t get much better than this, and The Sciences is a record that I went back to time and time again throughout 2018. I expect to be listening to it even more as the years go by.