US stoner metal giants Sleep played a rare show at London’s Forum on Wednesday to a sold out crowd as their only UK date of 2016, with the mighty Conan as support in a stellar lineup promising to be a very heavy night.
Liverpool’s Conan seem to be one of the hardest working bands in the scene and have built up a big following in the last few years since their debut Monnos dropped in 2012. Coming off the back of their third album Revengeance the venue was already packed out for their set. Conan’s self styled “caveman battle doom” is a simple one, shrieking war cry vocals over the slow and heavy doomy fuzz booming out of the impressive array of Matamps with barbaric energy to the pounding drums. Fan favourite Foehammer is as always the highlight of their set, with the galloping drums and furious vocals getting the crowd headbanging, and following it up with Gravity Chasm starting fast and slowing down to a fearsome droning wail of guitars and bass in another fantastic performance. Revengeance, while a good album, is however their weakest to date and the songs aired from that album don’t quite have the same level of impact and it’s easy to zone out a little in some of the more slow and repetitive droney sections that don’t quite have the same impact as Gravity Chasm. The band still put a lot of energy into their performance as usual and are still a great watch, a rejigging of the setlist would’ve made it almost perfect.
When Sleep take to the stage they’re met with a great reception and rightly so as their set was brilliant. Opening with two tracks from the legendary Holy Mountain in Draugonaut and the title track their performance is fantastic, a shirtless Matt Pike obviously having fun playing the instantly recognisable riffs at one of the loudest gig volumes I’ve ever known through their massive wall of amps – but the vocals aren’t drowned out by the ear-splitting fuzz, Al Cisneros sounding perfect with his trademark stoner drawl. There’s no talking to the crowd and they just let the the music speak, or roar for itself. The whiff of green fills the venue instantly and pungently when they play the legendary Dopesmoker, playing the first twenty minutes of the monolith ode to the herb with a tone heavy enough to shake the mountains themselves and vocals like a powerful bellow at it’s peak, the reception from the crowd is fantastic, and the guitar solo has a tone that’s sharp and heavy enough to cut through the mountains themselves in a song that’s almost the definition of stoner metal. Their “new” track The Clarity released back in 2014 gets an airing in a piece of Iommian brilliance, and with any luck there will be more from them at some point as their song writing quality didn’t diminish in the years that Sleep were split up. The highlight of the night however was Aquarian the groovy stoner doom classic that’s just brilliant riff after riff with absolutely killer vocals, defying anyone in the venue to keep their head still.
It’a a triumphant performance from Sleep, playing classic songs at unbelievable volume, and constantly maintaining a perfect headbangable stoner groove for nigh on two hours, having a lot of fun doing it to an awed crowd. An awesome night with a good performance form Conan also, and hopefully they’ll be back soon.