Things you could do in less time than that which drags past, ponderously as an elephant on quaaludes, on the title track of metal act Sleep's new album, Dopesmoker:
1. Orate at a presidential inaugural. George Washington's address at the beginning of his second term was only six minutes long.
2. Win Texas independence. In 1836, Sam Houston's Texans routed Santa Anna's Mexican army in 18 minutes.
3. Fight and win a whole war. In 1896 the British fleet took over Zanzibar 38 minutes after declaring war.
4. Fly from Houston to Dallas, Austin, San Antonio or New Orleans.
5. Drive to Beaumont, if you live on the east side and have a fast car.
6. Listen to all of both the U.S. editions of Rubber Soul and Revolver.
That's right, folks, Dopesmoker clocks in at 63 minutes and 31 seconds. Lyrically, the marathon metal slab is said to concern -- and neither myself nor even Tenacious D could make this up -- the travails of the "Weedian people" as they search for the Shangri-La where the bud is always kind and the cops are always cool, but you can't understand the words and at any rate no one starts singing until after eight minutes in. Someone was diligent enough to post their take on the lyrics, of which the following sample will have to suffice: "Desert legion smoke covenant is complete / Herb bails retied onto backs of beasts / Stoner caravan emerge from sandsea / Earthling inserts to chalice the green cutchie / Groundation soul find trust upon smoking hose / Assemble creedsmen rises prayerfilled smoke Golgotha."
The drums don't kick in until about the third minute, the first guitar solo comes tearing through at about the 20-minute mark. There are several false endings at approximate ten-minute intervals starting at the half-hour mark. They shamelessly rip off "Iron Man" at the 49-minute mark and again a few minutes later.
I know all this because after about three tries I successfully made my way all the way through it. At first I was amused by the band's cumbersome riffs -- if you ever thought Black Sabbath circa Master of Reality was too crisp and dainty, Dopesmoker is for you. If you thought Blue Cheer guilty of excess finesse, you'll love this band. If you would enjoy "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" that much more if it were only a little longer, step right up. If you name your bongs, you'll dig this.
Unfortunately I am not one of these people. I stopped being amused by Dopesmoker about a half-hour in, and not knowing how long the song would go on, I steeled myself to ride the sucker out for the duration. Unfortunately, like Rasputin, you could pour poison down its neck, shoot it full of .45-caliber slugs, stick a butcher knife or two in it and toss it in an icy river, but the goddamned thing just would not die.
The first false ending (19 minutes) was kinda cute -- as the guitar sounded like it was gonna reverb the Weedians off to their promised land of perpetual buzz, the drummer hit a snappy roll and Sleep lumbered forth back into the same old riffage. This happened again. And again. And again and again and again. Each time I would rejoice, much as the Weedians had done on their arrival after so long in the wasteland, but each time my hopes were crushed.
Dopesmoker slogged on and on. Somewhere, perhaps nearby, time was passing by too swiftly for a pair of young lovers. A hummingbird made progress on its winter journey south to Mexico. Somewhere in the universe, a new star was born. Somewhere folks were drinking coffee and smoking big cigars.
But not me. The song was scorching the innermost depths of my psyche, eroding my very essence.
I was gritting my teeth. Sweat was pouring off my brow and filling my palms. I developed a facial tic. My heart was palpitating. I felt like Lee Van Cleef trying to stare down Clint Eastwood in some dusty street, like King Theoden watching the Uruk-Hai hordes smash the gates of Helmsdeep's inner sanctum. I thought -- nay, knew -- I was gonna die, but goddamn it, no song kills me and lives. We would go down together.
Well, obviously I survived. But only just. Rumor has it that Sleep singer Al Cisneros has since had a nervous breakdown and won't play music anymore. One listen to Dopesmoker and this writer almost swore never to listen to music ever again.
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