George Orwell thought that Salvador Dali was a pussy. Unsurprisingly, Orwell’s staunch political fervor didn’t agree with the humorous and horrific surrealism of Dali’s work. The two differ the way a stoic and epicurean do – night and day, sun and moon. Mixing the essence of both Orwell’s thematic brilliance and Dali’s unorthodox artistic method, Sleep
composed something brutal but beautiful at once. I brought up those two men for the Dali piece adorning the cover of this album, and Sleep’s apocalyptic philosophy reminiscent of George Orwell. However, not only does Dali’s art occur on the record but within it, a hypnotic strangeness envelops all of the music, making this listening experience quite an engrossing trip. It’s heavy both musically and lyrically, a tale of impending doom in a befitting fashion. It sounds like the end of the road on Armageddon trail…an explosively loud and poorly produced venture through some soul’s drought of hope. The album tells stories of decay and disorder, complementing each poetic subject with pure evil in the form of violent riffs and other intimidating, ghastly instrumentation straight from some tormented spirit’s nightmare.
Sleep have built a stone wall of music around themselves and I could imagine the thickness of their sound at a live show, mostly because this album sounds as if it were laid down live in one take with a tape -recorder. The catastrophic mess of production only makes “Volume One” more dramatic than its depressing lyrics, and that is some feat. From the slow chugging of Stillborn
to the slow chugging of…all the other songs, a vivid fascination with doom-metal left a lasting mark in me after I first heard this nigh-masterpiece. Everything is so basic and spontaneous, like the entire record was conceived in a single jam session. This gives the record a keen sense of historic credibility, like a composition meant to spark many new ideas (which it probably did). Natural purity is few and far between in art; thankfully, Sleep’s sudden strike of brilliance doesn’t feel rushed, even though it was. “Volume One” is a bolt of lightning: brief and unpredictable but absolutely invigorating.
“Volume One” is very conclusive and offers only raw subjectivity in its foreshadowing lyricism. “Our children will die and the greed will continue/From the womb into pain and agony”. Charming, to say the least. Recalling Orwell’s depressive qualities these words leave no room for fools to ponder in, just the plainest example of corruption and death imaginable. If most people weren’t so conservative about dying I’d think with open arms they would welcome “Volume One’s” presence among the traditional funeral music consensus. Putting heavy emphasis on tone, the guitars are tuned lower than the depths of hell, allowing for grossly raunchy drumming and vocals teetering on the edge of demonic. Every squeaky guitar riff and grim bass hook, wave of electricity and hovering yell diminish all that is joyous, simultaneously scoring the Reaper’s next haunt.
No matter how many times you listen to Sleep’s “Volume One”, you’ll never discover all of its secrets. Musically it’s quite forgettable, but only to return for another slaughter the next spin around. Bordering on total insanity, Sleep’s perfectly captured possessed stupor is an audible force questioning society and killing it at the same time. The best song is Anguish,
an adjective that fits like a glove.