Just when you thought the album/track Dopesmoker by Sleep was as overt as “Stoner Rock” got, along comes the Welsh band Dope Smoker – that seminal track/album was surely, well, a guiding light – and here’s their fifth album; the title now as blatant as can be, and if you’re somehow tripped up – or tripping out – on all that there’s the album cover too. Blatant.
But this is no mere novelty. Dope Smoker are a three-piece that fit into the sludge-metal/stoner-rock category, sure. And as the songs bubble along on bass-lines Geezer might have dreamed up already and long ago the vocals, burned and blunted down into the tunes, sound like Sabbath too, and when it doesn’t sound quite like Ozzy it sounds like Tripping Daisy, or Alice In Chains or any of those grunge-era guys that were channelling Sabbath too.
The songs are about weed, about legalising weed, about smoking weed…
But there’s something about this that works. I mean obviously that works for stoners – of course. But I don’t think you need to be a couch-locked, pizza-ordering, DVD-watching dullard in search of a new soundtrack.
Dope Smoker’s brand of dulled down metal sounds like truncated Crack The Skye–era Mastodon on Assassin, like some meeting of the minds between Alice in Chains and Swervedriver and even when the vocal gets a little bit too Corgan-esque toward the end of Streets of Rage it’s still okay.
Hollow feels like a throwback to Bleach, without the urgency in Kurt’s vocal, and eventually, another stunted-Ozzy effort, but the way the bass-line coils itself around the tune is so reminiscent of that first wave of Melvins/Sabbath-infused grunge.
The political songs (Legalise It) still have short, sharp guitar solos and crunching big riffs – the title repeated over and over as mantra more than as any serious statement. What I mean is it’s not offputting, the selling point of this sound is not in the actual lyrics it’s in the pulverising drums, bass and guitar.
Much like Bleach it gets bigger, bolder, darker toward the end – October and Natas are great drone-as-melody pieces and the closer, Manitoba, has this all wrapped up inside 40 minutes. By then it’s time to press repeat, for you know that’s exactly what this band will be doing when it next smokes up somewhere in the general vicinity of a studio. Good gear though. I like it. Pleasantly surprised by the pungent whiff…but then ain’t that just the way…