If you are at all familiar with doom metal you should no doubt be aware of who Bay Area legends Sleep are, and how big an impact they had/still have on the genre. And you're most likely aware of the post-Sleep projects High On Fire and Om. But you might not necessarily know that Sleep had its humble beginnings in the form of Asbestosdeath, a late 80's/early 90's sludge band that featured all members of Sleep (bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius, who both went on to form Om and guitarist Matt Pike, now the frontman of High On Fire) and guitarist Thomas Choi, who later formed ItisI, Operator Generator and Bay Area sludge lords Noothgrush. During its brief existence Asbestosdeath only recorded four songs which went to two separate 7 inches: Dejection, which was released by Profane Existence and the self-released Unclean. These songs have been out-of-print for sometime but Southern Lord has stepped in and re-released both 7"s on one compact disc so that we may hear the conception of the legacy Sleep created.
Pretty much right off the bat with the first track "Nail" you can hear how Asbestosdeath evolved into Sleep. It opens up with a clean, eerie melodic jam and kicks into very Sabbath-inspired heaviness a minute in, only quieting down a couple times before breaking into more sludge. "Scourge" follows almost the same pattern and much like many Sleep songs lacks any vocals. "Anguish" and "The Suffering" are more of a full-on doom/sludge assault, not unlike Eyehategod.
Basically if you subtracted about fifty percent of the Black Sabbath influence from Sleep's sound you would have Asbestosdeath. You can tell as time went on they probably started getting high more and wanted to write more intricate riffs and dynamic songs. Add those two factors to Asbestosdeath and you get Sleep. I also did manage to pick up hints of influence from some of the "weirder" Bay Area metal bands from Asbestosdeath's era such as Primus, M.I.R.V. and early Faith No More.
In and of itself, Asbestosdeath wasn't anything too spectacular. While the songs on Dejection, Unclean are decent enough sludge/doom fodder, it isn't anything I would get too excited about. But since this album has more nostalgic and historic value than anything, and I am a huge fan of just about everything the members have done since, I'd consider this a staple to any doom library.
7.0 / 10
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