Sleep (band)

Last updated
Sleep at the Filmore Detroit, March 31, 2018.jpg
Sleep live in March 2018. Left to Right: Al Cisneros, Jason Roeder, and Matt Pike.
Background information
Origin San Jose, California, U.S.
Years active1990–1998, 2009–present
Labels London, Very Small, Earache, Southern Lord, Tee Pee, The Music Cartel, Third Man Records
Associated acts Om, High on Fire, Neurosis, Shrinebuilder, Asbestosdeath, The Sabians, Kalas
Members Al Cisneros
Matt Pike
Jason Roeder
Past members Chris Hakius
Justin Marler

Sleep is an American doom metal power trio from San Jose, California. The band earned critical and record label attention early in its career. Critic Eduardo Rivadavia describes them as "perhaps the ultimate stoner rock band" [1] and notes they exerted a strong influence on heavy metal in the 1990s. However, conflict with its record company contributed to Sleep's breakup by the end of the decade. The band reformed in 2009 and has played sporadic live dates internationally since. In 2018, Sleep released their comeback album, The Sciences , on Third Man Records, to critical acclaim. [2]

Doom metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "thicker" or "heavier" sound than other heavy metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath", "Children of the Grave", "Electric Funeral" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England, the United States and Sweden defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

Power trio

A power trio is a rock and roll band format having a lineup of electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, leaving out the second rhythm guitar or keyboard instrument that are used in other rock music bands that are quartets and quintets. Larger rock bands use one or more additional rhythm section to fill out the sound with chords and harmony parts.

San Jose, California City in California, United States

San Jose, officially the City of San José, is the economic, cultural and political center of Silicon Valley, and the largest city in Northern California. With an estimated 2017 population of 1,035,317, it is the third-most populous city in California and the tenth-most populous in United States. Located in the center of the Santa Clara Valley, on the southern shore of San Francisco Bay, San Jose covers an area of 179.97 square miles (466.1 km2). San Jose is the county seat of Santa Clara County, the most affluent county in California and one of the most affluent counties in the United States. San Jose is the most populous city in both the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area, which contain 7.7 million and 8.7 million people respectively.



Early years

Sleep evolved in the early 1990s from the band Asbestosdeath, which was established by vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros, drummer Chris Hakius, and guitarist Tom Choi. Asbestosdeath expanded to a quartet with the introduction of Matt Pike on guitar, and recorded two singles - "Dejection" for Profane Existence and the self-released "Unclean". Choi departed, and would later found Operator Generator, It Is I, Noothgrush, and Las Vegas' Black Jetts. Asbestosdeath recruited Justin Marler as replacement and the band adopted the new name, Sleep.

Asbestosdeath was an American doom metal band from San Jose, California, the precursor to the highly influential band Sleep.

Al Cisneros American punk metal singer and guitarist

Al Cisneros is an American musician from San Jose, California. He is the singer and bassist for the stoner metal band Sleep. He is also the singer and bassist in the rhythm heavy drone band OM. He was a member of Shrinebuilder and Asbestosdeath and has put out six releases as a solo artist.

Chris Hakius is an American rock drummer best known for his work in OM and Sleep.

Recording era

Their debut album Volume One was released in 1991. Frequently compared to bands like Saint Vitus, Sleep soon gained a devoted fanbase within the developing doom metal scene. Marler quit the band soon after to take up life as a monk, leaving the band as a power trio for the recording of their Volume Two EP, which was released officially by Off The Disk Records in 1991.

<i>Volume One</i> (Sleep album) 1991 studio album by Sleep

Volume One is the debut album by the American band Sleep. It was the only album recorded with original guitarist Justin Marler, before he became an Orthodox monk. Volume One showcases a darker sound and stronger doom metal influence than Sleep's later work. The image featured on the cover is taken from the Salvador Dalí painting "Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon".

Saint Vitus (band) American doom metal band

Saint Vitus is an American heavy metal band formed in Los Angeles in 1979. They are one of the first doom metal bands, alongside Pentagram, Witchfinder General, Trouble and Pagan Altar. Having released eight studio albums to date, Saint Vitus never achieved a popular breakthrough, but have exerted great influence on the development of doom metal, sludge metal, and stoner rock.

Monk religious occupation

A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

The band's next album was sent to the independent label, Earache, as a demo. Recorded at Razors Edge studios in San Francisco, with Billy Anderson as engineer, the tape showcased Sleep's love of all things retro, from the blatant Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer influences, to their fixation with 1970's-style tube amplification. The label immediately signed the band and released the tape exactly as it was received.

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Blue Cheer band

Blue Cheer was an American rock band that initially performed and recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was sporadically active until 2009. Based in San Francisco, Blue Cheer played in a psychedelic blues rock or acid rock style, and are also credited as being some of the earliest pioneers of heavy metal, with their cover of "Summertime Blues" sometimes cited as the first in the genre. They have also been noted as influential in the development of genres as disparate as punk rock, stoner rock, doom metal, experimental rock, and grunge.

Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992) is widely considered a seminal album in the evolution of stoner metal. The album's release was followed by a potentially lucrative offer from London Records, and Sleep signed with them. Around this time, Earache released its first Black Sabbath Tribute album, and Sleep contributed a cover of "Snowblind".

<i>Sleeps Holy Mountain</i> 1992 studio album by Sleep

Sleep's Holy Mountain is the second studio album by the American band Sleep. It was released in November 1992 in Europe, and March 1993 in the USA through Earache Records.

London Records record label headquartered in the United Kingdom

London Records is a British record label that marketed records in the United States, Canada, and Latin America from 1947 to 1979 before becoming semi-independent.

Under their new contract, Sleep began work on their third album, Dopesmoker , in 1995. Much to the dismay of executives at London Records, Dopesmoker was a single song, over an hour long. London Records declared the album unmarketable and refused to release it. They had it remixed, cut up into sections by David Sardy, which led to a deadlock with the band, Sleep being very unhappy with the result. Frustrated and generally unhappy with the situation, the members of Sleep decided to disband.

After Sleep

In 1998, Sleep released Jerusalem as an "official bootleg". One year later, Jerusalem was given an official legitimate release by The Music Cartel in the US and Rise Above Records in Europe.

Finally, in 2003 the original version of Dopesmoker was officially released by Tee Pee Records. It is generally considered the definitive version of the album. An excerpted version can be heard on Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers original soundtrack.

Matt Pike is also the frontman of the band High on Fire. Pike.jpg
Matt Pike is also the frontman of the band High on Fire.

Cisneros and Hakius later formed the doom metal band Om while Pike formed sludge metal band High on Fire.

In 2007 a CD compilation of both 7-inch releases of the pre-Sleep band Asbestosdeath was released on Southern Lord Records.

Reunion and The Sciences

In May 2009, Sleep reformed to perform two exclusive reunion sets in Britain as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival. In the shows the band performed for the first time an unheard song that had been written during the Dopesmoker recording sessions, which was titled "Antarcticans Thawed." [3]

After the band’s initial reunion performance, original drummer Chris Hakius decided to retire from music to raise a family, and he was replaced on drums by Jason Roeder of experimental metal band Neurosis. [4] The reconfigured lineup played the ATP New York 2010 music festival in Monticello, New York, where it performed Holy Mountain in its entirety. The band followed up this performance with a tour of the rest of the United States, playing headlining dates and festivals, through September.

From 2010 onward, Sleep performed similar sporadic festival and touring engagements when the member's otherwise busy touring schedules permitted. In late 2012, in conjunction with an upcoming appearance at Maryland Deathfest, the band stated that it considers Sleep to be a "full, reunited band." [5] In 2014 Al Cisneros announced in an interview that the band was working on a new record. [6] On July 21, 2014, a new song titled "The Clarity" was released via Adult Swim Singles. [7]

In November 2017 the band members posted a message in Morse code stating that they had almost finished recording material for a new album. [8] [9] On April 19, 2018, the band announced The Sciences , their first album in nearly 20 years, to be released the next day on Third Man Records. [10] The release of The Sciences was a surprise, being released the day after it was announced, and created a lot of excitement within their fanbase. The album's release date, April 20, 2018, was also Record Store Day weekend. Third Man Records released a limited edition split-colored vinyl with an alternate cover to be sold at a limited number of record stores in the US on the release date. [11] The album was met with critical acclaim. Pitchfork wrote in their review, "[The Sciences] makes everything that was originally great about Sleep even better." [12] Spin declared that the record gives "stoner-metal acolytes a bonafide miracle." [13]

On May 23, 2018, Sleep released a new song titled "Leagues Beneath" through Adult Swim Singles and Third Man Records.


Musically, Sleep's sound has been characterized as stoner rock built upon slow, down-tuned bass playing alongside similarly low guitar riffs. Repetition is frequently employed, working to create a "hypnotic state" supplemented by Al Cisneros' vocals.

Sleep has used cannabis-influenced imagery since the release of their second album, often delivered in a "quasi-religious" manner. [14] In an interview about the making of Dopesmoker, Matt Pike acknowledged that the band spent "a lot" of their label advance on cannabis, and "a lot of time."[ citation needed ] Pike also said that about $75,000 was spent on customized amplifiers so the album would have numerous tone layers. Matt Pike said the songwriting process for Dopesmoker was long, with the band "working on [the song] for like four years." [15] Al Cisneros stated that smoking cannabis was vital to the song's creative process: "I was really dependent on the space I got into when I was using it [...] The line, 'Drop out of life [with bong in hand],' was kind of a creed at that point." [16]

Their record The Sciences makes multiple allusions to Black Sabbath, whose sound heavily inspired Sleep. Tony Iommi is referenced in the lyrics of "Marijuanaut's Theme", [17] and the song "Giza Butler" is a play on the city Giza and the name of Black Sabbath's bassist, Geezer Butler. [14] Also in "Giza Butler", references are made to several things in Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune , including the gom jabbar (referred to as the "bong jabbar") and Muad'Dib (as "Muad'Doob"). [18]


Current lineup

Former members


Sleep (band)


"The Suffering" on Very Small WorldNon-album track1991Very Small Records
Volume One Album1991Tupelo Recording Company
Volume Two EP1992Off The Disk Records
Sleep's Holy Mountain Album1992 Earache Records
"Snowblind" (originally by Black Sabbath) on Masters of MiseryNon-album track1992 Earache Records
DragonautMusic video1993 Earache Records
Dopesmoker Album1999 The Music Cartel; 2003, Tee Pee Records; 2012, Southern Lord Records
"Dopesmoker" (abridged version) on Music from Broken Flowers Non-album track2005 Decca Records
"The Clarity" on Adult Swim Singles Program 2014 Single2014 Williams Street Records
The Sciences Album2018 Third Man Records
"Leagues Beneath" on Adult Swim Singles Program 2017Single2018 Williams Street Records/Third Man Records

The band's third album Dopesmoker was previously released as Jerusalem in 1999 by The Music Cartel. Unauthorized by the band, Sleep discredits the validity of its quality and release.

Related Research Articles

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East.

<i>Black Sabbath</i> (album) 1970 studio album by Black Sabbath

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Om is an American heavy metal band from San Francisco, California. Formed as a duo in 2003 by the rhythm section of the band Sleep, OM is currently a trio.

"Black Sabbath" is a song by the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, written in 1969 and released on their self titled debut album. In 1970, it was released as a four-track 12-inch single, with "The Wizard" also on the A-side and "Evil Woman" and "Sleeping Village" on B-side, on the Philips Records label Vertigo.

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Matt Pike American musician

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Justin Marler is an American musician and author. He is known for being a founding member of the seminal stoner metal band Sleep, and for leaving a burgeoning career in music to become a monk in an Eastern Orthodox monastery.

Stoner rock, also known as stoner metal or stoner doom, is a rock music fusion genre that combines elements of heavy metal and/or doom metal with psychedelic rock and acid rock. The name references cannabis consumption. The term desert rock is often used interchangeably with the term "stoner rock" to describe this genre; however, not all stoner rock bands would fall under the descriptor of "desert rock". Stoner rock is typically slow-to-mid tempo and features a heavily distorted, groove-laden bass-heavy sound, melodic vocals, and "retro" production. The genre emerged during the early 1990s and was pioneered foremost by Monster Magnet and the California bands Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Sleep.

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<i>Jerusalem</i> and <i>Dopesmoker</i> 1999 studio album by Sleep

Jerusalem and Dopesmoker are the third and fourth albums by the American heavy metal band Sleep. The albums were released in 1999 and 2003 respectively. The music for these albums was written during a four-year period when the group was working on a single song that was around an hour in length. Sleep had signed with London Records, which financed the album. When recording had finished, London Records was unhappy with the finished product and refused to release it. The album was later released in various forms by different record labels. All versions of the album received very positive reception from music critics, who described it as a high-water mark in both the stoner metal and doom metal genres.

The Clarity song performed by Sleep

"The Clarity" is a single by the American rock band Sleep. The song was released digitally for free on July 21, 2014 through the cable network Adult Swim's 2014 weekly singles series. The release of "The Clarity" also marks the first release of newly recorded material in almost 20 years. The writing sessions for what would become Jerusalem and Dopesmoker began around 1995, despite being released in 1999 and 2003 respectively. Later, re-released on February 10, 2017 via Southern Lord Records as a 12" vinyl pressing and recut by Adam Gonsalves.

<i>The Sciences</i> (album) 2018 studio album by Sleep

The Sciences is the fourth studio album by American doom metal band Sleep. The album was released with little warning on April 20, 2018 through Third Man Records. It was the band's first full-length album since Dopesmoker (2003) on which the song "Sonic Titan" appeared as a live bonus track.

Leagues Beneath

"Leagues Beneath" is a single by the American stoner rock band Sleep. The song was released for free digitally on May 23, 2018 through Adult Swim's 2017 singles series, marking Sleep's second entry following 2014's "The Clarity". "Leagues Beneath" was released a month after the band's 2018 return album, The Sciences, which marked Sleep's first full-length studio release in twenty years. Later in 2018, "Leagues Beneath" was released on etched vinyl through Third Man Records.


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  2. "The Sciences by Sleep". Metacritic . Retrieved April 24, 2018.
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  15. Bennett, 2009. p.294
  16. Bennett, 2009. p.295
  17. Sodomsky, Sam. "Sleep – 'Marijuanaut's Theme'". Pitchfork . Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  18. The Sciences (vinyl liner notes). Sleep. Third Man Records. 2018. TMR 547.CS1 maint: others (link)