By Thomas Johnson, April 26 2018 —
On the one hand, in a branch of rock as prone to cliché as stoner metal, it might have been laying it on a little thick releasing your first studio album in 15 years on 4/20 (Technically Jerusalem, the first iteration of what would eventually become Dopesmoker, was released in 1999, though the band later disavowed it.) On the other hand, it’s perfect. Dopesmoker, a genre cornerstone, was released on April 20, 2003. It’s the gateway drug, the dip-your-toe-in for heavy metal’s lethargic cousin. Gritty guttural, and enormously heavy, it’s a B-movie epic. A 63-minute desert-rock marathon followed by a 12-minute denouement, it’s a lumbering death march rewarding persistence and determination by the minutes that trudge by. In that vein alone, The Sciences is more accessible than Dopesmoker. By no means are these 10-plus-minute titans approaching anything resembling comprise.
The Sciences is 22-minutes shorter than Dopesmoker — roughly a third the length of its mind-boggling title track — divided into four more songs. Frontman Al Cisneros remains as gruff as in Jerusalem, like his buzzing, droning voice was cryogenically preserved in liquid nitrogen, argon and THC. Some of this material has been floating around from live performances since the early aughts but the original material exhibits similarly atrophied lungs. They’re still master world-builders and their obsession with the immenseness of religion makes for some awe-inspiring scenes.
The Sciences follows the zonked voyage of The Marijuanaut as closely as one could after finding forever in the depths of bong water. The first three minutes drone, bubble, and tumble their way into the crunchy blues of “Marijuanaut’s Theme.” “Sonic Titan” and “Antarcticans Thawed,” span a combined 27 Herculean minutes before returning the stoned spaceman to his tour of the cosmos. The sheer heft of “Giza Butler” yanks the Marijuanaut from his drift, its gravity pulling him into a church state of green skies and pterodactyl’s, cavernous basilicas where deacons inhale the body and blood of the messiah, a doctrinal reverence for Bermuda Grass.
Sleep is its own antecedent. The Sciences is less intimidating but equally rewarding as Dopesmoker. The scale is still massive. It’s as unforgiving as the desert, as barren and ancient as space.