Dopesmoker: The Stoner Metal Masterpiece


By Aiden Cook, Reporter

In the late 90’s at the height of the stoner metal scene, the band Sleep would quietly and unofficially release their magnum opus, ‘Dopesmoker’. The main reason this album stands out from most commercial releases is because of its insane length. The album consists of only two songs, one of them being 63 minutes long. 

The first time I listened to Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker’, I was concerned, amazed and taken back by its sheer magnitude of sound. The album takes its time to develop ideas and lets you get comfortable with your sonic surroundings. While this process of letting ideas take time to develop is one of the stand-out characteristics of stoner metal, Dopesmoker takes it to an entirely new level. 

The title-song runs for 63 minutes, taking plenty of time to repeat the heavy, distorted main riff that pushes the listener back with its sheer magnitude. It takes so long to develop that we don’t even hear vocals till the eight minute mark.

Even though the ensemble is limited to three instruments and a vocalist, they utilize each part to its greatest potential. The drums and bass work together beautifully to bring body and support to the guitar’s heavy chords while the vocals shout their powerful lyrics across the landscape. 

After releasing their hit record ‘Sleep’s Holy Mountain’ in 1992, Sleep would spend four years writing their next album. During this time they would become heavily involved with drugs such as marijuana, which would greatly influence their writing. 

“I was really dependent on the space I got into when I was using it,” said bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros. “Some of the lyrics are about that…The line, ‘Drop out of life [with bong in hand],’ was kind of a creed at that point.”

“I was really dependent on the space I got into when I was using it,” -Al Cisneros

However, the song doesn’t stop there with its religious drug-influenced lyrics. Throughout the 63 minutes, the lyrics tell the tale of a religious caravan of marijuana-smoking “weedians” traveling through the ancient desert of Israel towards Jerusalem.

Their label at the time, London Records, wasn’t as enthusiastic about their groundbreaking ideas. After seeing the record finished, the label had no idea what to do with it, considering the album “unreleasable” in its current state. 

Eventually, the album’s non-release combined with personal tension among the bandmates would lead to the dissolution of Sleep in 1997, with the album still unreleased. 

Throughout the years, the album would be legally and illegally distributed under two different names, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Dopesmoker’. While each version is different, Sleep considers the 2012 re-issue to be the closest to their original vision. 

As the late 90’s passed and the stoner metal scene slowly faded in popularity, Dopesmoker still sits as a landmark album for the genre. Its creativity, length, and lyrics will always be remembered as some of the finest in stoner metal history.