Sound — 9
Aside from The Beach Boys' "Smile" or The Beatles' "Carnival of Light," this album consisting of one 63 minute long song might be one of music's most mythical creations. According to legend Sleep blew their entire advance from their record label on marijuana. They spent over $10,000 on amps and wasted much of their studio time stoned and finally created a song so long it had to be recorded in three parts on reel-to-reel tape. When they finally turned it into their label their label refused to release it, claiming it unmarketable. Created over a period of about 4 years and finally released after the band had broken up, this record was originally released as "Jerusalem" in 1999, but this was a rough mix released without the bands input and altered by the record company to try and make it more marketable, in 2003 it saw release as "Dopesmoker" in original form, then in 2012 Southern Lord Records, the label started by the guys from Sunn O))), reissued it on CD, 180 gram vinyl and even cassette with new cover art that captured the theme of the album much better than the original artwork and added a new live track as a bonus. The sound is a drone type of doom metal with chords sustaining for long periods of time and creating a rhythmic pulse, the best way to describe it would almost be like the waves in an ocean. This continues for about 2:30 minutes until the drums come in with a busy sound that contrasts the guitar work. For such a slow song there is quite alot going on in it. In between Al Cisneros' chant like lyrics are long instrumental sections with occasional trill filled solos from Matt Pike, over top of Chris Hakius' constant drumming, save for toward the end of the song where after a guitar solo it calms to a slow clean arpeggiated riff, the beginning of side C of the Southern Lord vinyl, about 40 minutes into the song. The only other songs on this version are one live track, two on the vinyl version, the audio quality of these is a little too bass heavy, but they are decent tracks that display the bands jam heavy live performance. My only complaint about this album is the production/recording of these live tracks.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics are minimal as this is a mostly instrumental song, but the few lyrics it does contain describe a cannabis smoking caravan's trek through the middle eastern Holy Land with lyrics such as "Drop out of life with bong in hand," "Weed Priests" and "Follow the smoke toward the riff" leaving little to the imagination. Al Cisneros delivers a chant like vocal delivery that stretches out the words and complements the instrumentation well. Al Cisneros has always had a vocal style somewhere between Ozzy Osbourne and Wino from Saint Vitus, in other words the typical Doom/Stoner/Sludge metal vocal sound. But his vocals on Dopesmoker are very different from those on "Sleep's Holy Mountain."
Overall Impression — 10
Comparing this to Sleep's other work is difficult because it is so very different from "Sleep's Holy Mountain," and "Volume One" and "Two." The main thing I would compare this to is that it's kind of a frontrunner to what the band Sunn O))) does, which is probably why those guys had it reissued on their label. My only real complaint is the mix/production on the live track(s) which sounds like it was recorded on phone, it's listenable but I've heard better sound quality on YouTube bootlegs. The bass kind of takes over that song. If it were stolen I would definitely buy it again, I own this on both CD and vinyl and if either of them were stolen I would definitely have them replaced. There really isn't anything quite like this album and it's probably one of the heaviest things ever recorded.