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Sleep is an American stoner doom band from San Jose, California. Active during the 1990s, Sleep earned critical and record label attention early in its career. Critic Eduardo Rivadavia describes them as "perhaps the ultimate stoner rock band" and notes they exerted a strong influence on heavy metal in the 1990s. However, conflict with its record company contributed to Sleep's breakup by the end of the decade. The band reformed in 2009, and has played sporadic live dates internationally since.
Sleep evolved in the early 1990s from the band Asbestosdeath, which was established by vocalist/bassist Al Cisneros, drummer Chris Hakius, and guitarist Tom Choi. Asbestosdeath expanded to a quartet with the introduction of Matt Pike on guitar, and recorded two singles - "Dejection" for Profane Existence and the self released "Unclean". Choi departed, and would later found Operator Generator, It Is I, Noothgrush, and Las Vegas' Black Jetts. Asbestosdeath recruited Justin Marler as replacement and the band adopted the new name, Sleep.
Their debut album Volume One was released in 1991. Frequently compared to bands like Saint Vitus, Sleep soon gained a devoted fanbase within the developing doom metal scene. Marler quit the band soon after to take up life as a monk, leaving the band as a power trio for the recording of their Volume Two EP, which was released officially by Off The Disk Records in 1991.
The band's next album was sent to the independent label, Earache, as a demo. Recorded at Razors Edge studios in San Francisco, with Billy Anderson as engineer, the tape showcased Sleep's love of all things retro, from the blatant Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer influences, to their fixation with 1970's-style tube amplification. The label immediately signed the band and released the tape exactly as it was received.
Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992) is widely considered a seminal album in the evolution of stoner metal. The album's release was followed by a potentially lucrative offer from London Records, and Sleep signed with them. Around this time, Earache released its first Black Sabbath Tribute album, and Sleep contributed a cover of "Snowblind".
Under their new contract, they began work on their third album, Dopesmoker, in 1995. Much to the dismay of executives at London records, Dopesmoker was a single song more than one hour long. London Records declared the album unmarketable and refused to release it. Sleep returned to the studio and then submitted their second attempt at the new album. They had retitled it Jerusalem, re-written some of the lyrics and trimmed it down to a "lean" 52 minutes, but it was essentially the same as Dopesmoker. London Records again refused to release it. Frustrated and generally unhappy with the situation, the members of Sleep decided to disband.
In 1998, Sleep released Jerusalem posthumously as an "official bootleg". One year later, Jerusalem was given an official legitimate release by The Music Cartel in the US and Rise Above Records in Europe.
Finally, in 2003 the original version of Dopesmoker was officially released by Tee Pee Records. It is generally considered the definitive version of the album. An excerpted version can be heard on Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers original soundtrack.
Cisneros and Hakius later formed the experimental rock band Om while Pike formed heavy metal band High on Fire.
In 2007 a CD compilation of both 7-inch releases of the pre-Sleep band Asbestosdeath was released on Southern Lord Records.
In May 2009, Sleep reformed to perform two exclusive reunion sets in Britain as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival. In the shows the band performed for the first time an unheard song that had been written during the "Dopesmoker' recording sessions, which was titled "Antarcticans Thawed."
After the band's initial reunion performance, original drummer Chris Hakius decided to retire from music to raise a family, and he was replaced on drums by Jason Roeder of experimental metal band Neurosis. The reconfigured lineup played the ATP New York 2010 music festival in Monticello, New York, where it performed Holy Mountain in its entirety. The band followed up this performance with a tour of the rest of the United States, playing headlining dates and festivals, through September.
From 2010 onward, Sleep performed similar sporadic festival and touring engagements when the member's otherwise busy touring schedules permitted. In late 2012, in conjunction with an upcoming appearance at Maryland Deathfest, the band stated that it considers Sleep to be a "full, reunited band." In 2014 Al Cisneros announced in an interview that the band was working on a new record. On July 21, 2014, a new song titled "The Clarity" by Sleep was released via Adult Swim Singles.
Al Cisneros - bass guitar, vocals (1990-1998, 2009-present),
Matt Pike - guitar (1990-1998, 2009-present),
Jason Roeder - drums (2010-present),
Chris Hakius - drums (1990-1998, 2009),
Justin Marler - guitar (1990-1991)