Some bands are about more than their musical output; they possess a legend to supplement their recorded history. Sleep is such a band. Their intriguing and convoluted back-story became the stuff of rock n roll folklore… and when a band of such musical mythology and influence comes to town I am making damn sure I front up.
The Rosemount is a good venue for a show such as this and it was pretty full for tonight’s show. Opening proceedings were a couple of local bands I was keen to check out.
‘Bayou’ were first up, and despite missing most of the opening song because the doors hadn’t opened when they started playing I was instantly impressed when I eventually staked out a position to watch. A very big sound that is self described as “southern sludge” they were great from the get-go. The highlights of this slick and thoroughly entertaining performance were – the singer – his voice was awesome and he used various effects and affectations with great results. He smothered the room with his impressive growling and screaming whilst playing an occasional cowbell or beat-stick-thingy. Meanwhile the guitarist slammed out some nice riffery and the drummer pounded the kit into submission. They kept my attention with some good variations in the guitar and bass sound, a few well placed samples and nice and sneaky tempo changes that I rarely saw coming but was happily swept into. A really good performance by a band with a promising future.
Next were highly touted lads ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and they were fucking amazing.
I loved this set. Their sound was swampy and swinging and full & filthy. Great players who put on a polished performance with a singer whose gruff delivery could peel paint from the walls and accompanied them perfectly. A huge & heaving sound with plenty of melody had the room’s full attention and got heads bobbing in time. I was extremely impressed with the sound and the standard of this band and will be making more of a point to break my hibernation and check them out in future.
Perth sure is blessed with some high quality local bands at the moment and it’s times like this I realize I should be out among them more. Awesome.
So after a quick set up and a short sound check Sleep actually started 10 minutes early. As I commented to the equally shocked fellow punter who was also caught unawares as we waited to buy some merch – which band ever starts early? An unheard of turn of events!
The next hour and a half was spent being pleasantly pummelled by the three members of Sleep. The power of their slow and repetitive sludgy goodness was truly something to behold. No extra-circular bullshit, barely a word spoken – just riff layered upon riff, power chord slammed upon power chord.
I can point to many heavier bands or more abrasive live performances but Sleep possesses a different kind of heaviness – a weightiness that feels like it as altered the pull of gravity in the room. No growling, no screaming, no crazy timings or down-down tuning , no gimmicky dark atheistic. Sleep put on set that was a study in tone, it heaved and surged and seemed to draw all the matter in the room back and forth with it. The crowd had little choice but to be pulled into the rip and happily swayed in time, bodies bobbing and heads banging.
The first 20 minutes or so consisted of Pyke testing the fortitude of the transfixed audience with a repetitive refrain of notes and wailing feedback. The tension grew in a kind of aural equivalent to Chinese water torture until the levy finally broke and something resembling a melody flooded the room. It was a confronting introduction, and it was awesome.
Sleep proceeded to slam us with a set so minimalist yet packed with texture that it was hard not to be drawn into their hypnotic wave. Building through grinding repetition before occasionally jolting the crowd out of their malaise with confronting stabs of feedback or Pyke’s wailing discordant fret gymnastics before returning to punishing us with his monolithic chugging. Never overdone or overblown he proved an amazing player, pulling out some awesome harmonics and leads and cutting a commanding figure as he occasionally stood and gazed out over the crowd with a fiery eyes and sweat drenched skin (he was of course shirtless as always) No histrionics from this mob, just a sound that filled every millimeter of the venue and threatened to burst forth from its walls.
Whilst the individual elements of the Sleep sound are hardly new (insert Black Sabbath comparison here) when it is done this well it hard not be taken in. And when it is played this loud it impossible not to be moved, the building certainly was, at times vibrating so hard I thought it may bounce my car keys out of my pocket.
The drums were chaotic yet precise, somehow bringing an order to what at times seemed to be a freestyle jam. The bass was a beefy backdrop for the guitar to bounce off. The rubbery basslines weaving around the powerful playing of the other two members. The vocals were purposely low in the mix live as they are on record, the lyrics and vocals are not the centrepiece of this band, they are simply a part of the devastatingly dense tapestry Sleep weave.
The highlights for me were much loved track – Dragnaut which got the whole room moving with its welcome melody and groove and the final track with its undulations and peaks and troughs proving the most complex arrangement of the evening. .
Sleep was so dense and heavy that they could seemingly penetrate your DNA and alter your very genetic matrix. They created a vortex of noise that sucked the oxygen out the room and filled it instead with pure rock ‘n’ roll fire. And like Kurt Russell I got immolated in the back draft. But like William Baldwin I actually walked away from the smouldering wreckage satisfied.