Sleep live review – London Forum

Stoner doom legends Sleep liberate North London, live at the Forum. Read our review here.

Photo of the band Sleep, live at London Forum

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By all accounts, Sleep’s comeback gig at 2009’s All Tomorrows Parties festival reduced audience members to tears. If that seems like an overreaction on the part of hipsters who paid them no mind the first time around, tonight proves that it was a perfectly reasonable response, that no matter how deep your history goes with the band, seeing them live will always feel like a homecoming, like a fundamental resonance has been restored.

Now recognised as the rippling ground zero for the 90s wave of stoner doom, Sleep’s status has reached such mass that the Forum is rammed even by the time CONAN [7] come onstage, and a sea of heads starts swaying as if caught in the doled-out blast wave. Neither as lysergic nor tuned into the same kind of universal frequency as their more cosmically minded peers – despite the trippy visuals on nearby screens – the Liverpudlians still carry a city-levelling weight. The scorched heave of Throne Of Fire is the sound of doom’s muscles being clenched, altering consciousness if only by means of asphyxiation.

If Conan’s calling card is claustrophobia, SLEEP [10] are the sound of a whole new universe being built. When the opening, embryonic riff of Dragonaut reverberates around the room, like a tentacle making its first tentative foray out of a primordial soup, it’s as though a collective mental dam has just burst, everyone flooded with an ecstatic relief you’d normally reserve for benign alien encounters. These are riffs so elementally familiar they feel as though they’ve been written from your very DNA, the loping, squelching groove purposely mining both your brain for endorphins and the Sabbathian murk for all the drug-fuelled enlightenment it can possibly get. Frontman Matt Pike and Al Cisneros look just as beguiled and beholden to the sound as the rest of us as Holy Mountain revs up its mystic engine and tumbles through all manner of dimensions while Pike recites a stream of visions amid fuzzed up, solar-system-nudging riffs. The epic Dopesmoker’s tantric pulse births wafting leads, mantric vocals and a constellation of raised fists and banged heads, while new song The Clarity proves that Sleep’s reality distortion field remains a constant. Countless bands can transcribe Sabbath riffs, but it takes a rare capacity for intoxication to still make them a source of such boundless revelation. This was a shaking of the foundations.

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.