The beards of the UK doom scene unanimously pointed at the 02 London Forum a few weeks ago. Sleep, the sonic titans of stoner/doom, had come to play one of their rare UK shows. Fans from distant corners of the United Kingdom emerged from their smoke-filled basements and filled the packed venue with wandering spliffs.
Conan were the support act chosen to fill the enormous shoes soon to be occupied by Sleep. The band made misery look easy as they pounded away at their instruments with sour faces, and wailed angrily into the distorted sea of shearing metallic chaos that they masterfully produce.
Bassist Chris Fielding hunched over his guitar and a large bottle of Ribena for the set, looking as if his shoulder blades had been dislocated. The band sounded like a clinically depressed hurricane, and the crowd loved it. Unfortunately for Conan however, they were going to need substantial insoles to walk in the shoes of Sleep.
Sleep sucked a roomful of ears out of an airlock and into an event horizon of riffs that haven’t aged a day since they were conceived. Pike’s guitar sounded like steel beams being melted by jet fuel as he detonated his Pignose. Cisneros looked like he had wandered out of the desert after 40 days and 40 nights. And Roeder turned his drum-set into a turbulent sea, parting the bass from the guitar and uniting the band’s sound into a resounding nebula of heaviness.
The band started with “Dragonaut” and went on to play a setlist that consisted purely of classics, and of course their newest offering: “The Clarity”. Each Sleep song is a classic in its own right, and anyone would have been able to tell if they could have seen the crowd hum, scream and savor each note that dropped from the hands of Cisneros, Pike and Roeder that night.
At one point, Cisneros’ bass tone was so heavy that throats and lips at the very back of the balcony vibrated in resonance. Al, head thrown back in some distant stoned ecstasy, would not have noticed if the entire room was empty as he plucked and pulled at his distinctive Rickenbacker.
Roeder managed to smash through the set despite a turbulent head-cold and Pike deployed many of his instantly recognizable disjointed solos throughout the set. The conclusion of the night could possibly be summed with one of Cisneros’ famous lyrics: “Iommic life complete”.
2. Holy Mountain
4. The Clarity
5. Sonic Titan
7. From Beyond
8. Cultivator/Improved Morris