VERSUS: Dopethrone vs. Jerusalem

VERSUS: Dopethrone vs. Jerusalem

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, to see which one was the better record.

In this edition of Versus, we are gonna get trippy & fuzzy as we wander into a smoky haze of stoner metal. A genre spawned by the origins of Black Sabbath's third album Master of Reality, A sound heavy on fuzzy distorted guitar and bass, doomy slower tempo drums and wailing cleans and guttural growl vocals. One band, who with their third album, have had many fans and critics considering it a defining record in the genre. The other, a band that would release an album of one fifty plus minute long song that would be one of the most influential records in the genre. So grab some munchies, remember to breathe, and enjoy the ride in this matchup I'm calling "Masters of Another Reality".

In this corner, we have Electric Wizard with the band's third album Dopethrone, released in 2000. Vocalist Jus Oborn has stated that due to ongoing drug issues, along with personal problems, led to the album being a difficult record. A hybrid of Sabbath, with elements of Motörhead, the album would become the band's biggest album and would be considered one of the best albums in the stoner metal genre. What does Electric Wizard deliver on this acclaimed stoner masterpiece?

The album opens with "Vinum Sabbathi". With heavy, pounding bass by Tim Bagshaw, drummer Mark Greening adds a nice, groovy drum pattern beneath it. Jus Oborn's vocals are so soaked in reverb and buried in the mix, it creates an almost "rough demo" kind of mix with his vocals, fitting the downtrodden feel of the bass and guitars. A little over three minutes, it sets the stage for a dark and hazy record ahead with no sign of hope. "Funeralopolis" continues the uneasy and hopeless feel with the opening bass. The pace slows to a crawl in the opening, amidst the coughing buried in the mix along with bong hits. Underneath the bass and guitar, the music brings forward a funeral dirge-esque pace. Then, the song rises from the depths with a heavy, ringing and thundering bass and guitar combination. Soaked in reverb and fuzz as the drums pick up the pacing as well. Oborn's vocals are a little louder and more intelligible on the track, with a combination of singing and almost shouting vocal delivery as the bass thumps underneath him. Oborn begins to lose it vocally at the halfway mark, with more shouting and manic delivery in his singing as the riff begins to mutate and hang in the feedback with the song's tempo speeding up. The song hits all the marks of the stoner/doom metal genre. Bass heavy leads, distorted fuzz guitars and a nice, simple but bouncy drum section. It's almost Stoner Metal 101.

Next is the fifteen minute epic "Weird Tales". Opening with commanding bass and drums, the song instantly had me banging my head along with every snare hit and drum fill. A sonic journey of so may parts and layers throughout the track. With diverse pacing and driving bass by Bagshaw being the pulse of the song and the pace setter. Oborn's vocals are diverse and complex, with some moments he is almost clean singing, at times crooning. Before transforming into harsh shouting. Amplified by the mix of his vocals on the album. Greening has more to do on the song with more fills and loud cymbal strikes throughout it, making him more noticeable compared to the previous tracks. There is a nice atmospheric, almost guitar dueling/distortion effect, at the almost five minute mark I like a lot. Creating an ambience and an almost interlude interspersed between this whole stoner concerto. Such a progressive, entertaining and overall classic track from the band. On "Barbarian", the pummeling bass is toned down on the track in the opening. Vocals are boosted on the track as it seems the production is not as muddy on the song. I love the rhythm and groove of the riff. Oborn & Bagshaw are so good at creating a sludgy but catchy, ear-worm like riff and atmospheric effect with their guitars. It's almost hypnotic at some points. I can see the influence of drone music of artists like Sunn O))) and Earth could have taken with this album. With the band's wailing and grinding feedback wall of fuzz and distortion. Along with the simplicity of the music at some points, just letting the distortion hang in the miasma of the track.

"I, The Witchfinder" opens with a wailing distortion wall of fuzz, guitar bends and reverb. With a rising and gurgling bass underneath it, the drums join in with almost caveman/tribal like drum strikes until the drums create the rhythm of the track. The funeral doom-like dirge of the track really builds a feeling of dread and sorrow as feedback hangs in the ether. As the drums and guitar lead the listener on this eleven minute track as Oborn's vocals kick in around the 3 minute mark. With peaks and valleys, the song cascades from unhinged vocals by Oborn and sped up pacing, before descending into a wailing and ominous tone of ringing bass and amp feedback. After the short instrumental interlude "The Hills Have Eyes", we get the track "We Hate You". Bagshaw's booming bass rings heavy and hard on the track as the drums just get overshadowed by the unrelenting bass and ringing guitar by Oborn. His vocals return to being buried in the mix, hiding and showcasing his sorrowful and angry vocals throughout. I do like the atmospheric guitar solo around the two minute mark, forming a nice musical transition between the verses. I am surprisingly getting Melvins vibes with the track, and I'm not sure why, but the song has a nice stoner/sludge like tone and seems to be less atmospheric and more straightforward then the rest of the album. The album closes with the title track. A twenty minute crescendo to this stoner metal classic. Grinding and fuzz-heavy guitar opens with a pounding kick and tom drum combo as the bass pushes itself forward as this grand finale begins. Oborn's vocals sway and groove with the cadence of the bass as the bass is just ringing in my speakers throughout the song. A strong and grand closer to a classic that peaks above the haze as one of stoner metal's best albums.

in the opposite corner, we have stoner metal legends Sleep with the band's third album Jerusalem. Consisting of one fifty two minute song, the song would be the band's magnum opus. A sonic journey of distortion, progressive metal style tempo and pacing, and a release that was unheard of at the time of release. Showing the band pushing the genre musically into new uncharted directions and evolution. Releasing what many have claimed as the best stoner metal album/track of all time. Do these sleeping giants have enough to defeat their opponents with this behemoth of an album?

*Clarification: Though the song is meant to be played as one solid piece, the album was broken into parts per the label, so that will be the copy I am reviewing for this Versus. Also, I would not feel comfortable posting the entire uncut fifty five minute song on the site. Potentially getting into copyright problems, plus it would be a boring review to give you time codes."

Opening is "Jerusalem, Part 1". With a rising and droning guitar by Matt Pike, instantly reminding me of Sunn O))) in it's guitar tone and playing style. Minimalistic and distortion hanging, it fills the space of the mix. The guitar gets doubled and amplified, really reverbing the playing and adding to the distortion wall and reverb effect. Bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius rise from the depths and join Pike's wall of distortion and the track begins to form a rhythm instead of ambience. A slow burn of a track, with the riff being repetitive, but having a melancholic and heavy groove to it. With Pike's guitar leading more of a charge, compared to their opponent's bass heavy charge. Vocals finally kick in at the seven and a half-minute mark of this nine minute opener. With Cisneros' deep wails echoing through the heavy bass and guitar in the production. "Jerusalem, Part 2" starts with simple guitar strums, soaked in reverb and distortion into a nice string bend. Hakius' drums hit higher in the mix. With cymbal strikes cutting hard and harsh through the wall of guitar and bass. Pike showcases a nice guitar solo around the minute and a half mark, especially with the guitar layering. Creating a cool, 70's sounding dueling effect in his playing and the production of this section of the piece. Letting Pike really plays guitar god for soloing for a good minute and a half, before being cut off by bass and vocals by Cisneros. The song returns to the droning heavy sound after the short addition of vocals, forming a trance like effect that would probably hit like a ton of bricks if you were high. Cisneros does come back vocally around the six minute mark one last time, but his vocals are short again. I kind of wish it was just an entire instrumental piece, but I don't know if his vocals are added to help keep time or break the sections of the piece up.

"Jerusalem, Part 3" begins with a similar opening to "Part 2". Simple strumming with layered distortion. Hakius gets little drum fills in the opening of the track as the vocals kick in. Cisneros continues to deliver his bellowing vocals through the feedback wall, almost in a chanting delivery that is emphasized by the music underneath him. I can see the influence and direction the band Om took from this song. With the chanting vocals, and simplicity of the music and ambience it builds. I love the song's almost symphonic structuring, of peaks and valleys throughout each of the parts of the song. Building up and easing down the listener throughout the chuggy, doomy parts to calming them with breaks of strumming and feedback. The pace opens a little faster on the guitar with the opening of "Jerusalem, Part 4". Hakius gets a nice drum build along with the guitars, before Cisneros' bass joins in for the start of this passage. Cisneros' yell of the word Golgotha over the ringing bass and guitar just hits me every time with goosebumps. His vocals are more common on this track compared to the rest of the sections so far. With him singing more lyrics instead of just one or two words extended out. Pike again gets to solo at the three and half minute mark, channeling Iommi in its bluesy, doomy style solo, but soaked in effects. We get more trippy and effect heavy sounds at the six minute mark, as the whole band drops out for the effects to really shine, giving the listener a reprieve from the punishingly heavy bass and guitars. Hakius' drums begin to show up with a simple drum pattern, buried underneath the effects of the track. Almost fading in and out as Cisneros' bass does the same thing as well. Then the heaviness comes roaring back right before the eight minute mark for the remainder of the section's runtime.

"Jerusalem, Part 5" starts off just like the other openers. I'm starting to think it is the chance for the listener to ground themselves before we go onto the next movement. The drums give me a nice groove and slow headbang feel in the play style. Pike's guitar rings prominently, with Cisneros' bass not far behind. I love the ringing bass through Pike's guitar solo. Showing a strong rhythm section between Cisneros & Hakius, while Pike delivers an emotional, low-and-slow guitar solo with the rhythm section behind him. Definitely a shorter track compared to the other songs on the album, and channels that Sabbath-like bluesy, downtrodden and dark tone in the sound of the guitars. The album's closer and final piece is "Jerusalem, Part 6". The drums start the piece off mid-tempo and driving, while guitars and bass ring in the atmosphere. Cisneros's chanting vocals, corresponding with the ringing guitars and bass, gives off a religious sermon as I picture him leading his flock on a grand stage of sonic discovery. The amplitude of the song gets louder and heavier at the halfway mark, pushing the band to go for the gusto in the album's grand closer. A heavy and intense journey if you made it through the entire one piece runtime, and a true audio adventure in the genre.

After coming down from my high, which album stands on top of the stoner mountain as the better album? For me, this was a tough challenge to do and hard to judge. Like how do you judge a normal album compared to a single, almost hour long track? After listening to both of these albums, I would declare Sleep's Jerusalem as the winner of this matchup. It was an intense and progressive journey that pushed the genre and heavy metal. Dopethrone was a good solid stoner metal record, but I think with Sleep leaning more towards progressive elements in their record, I think Electric Wizard's songs were almost way too similar or rather repetitive or not different enough to distinguish the songs from each other except for song lengths. I still love the record and the legendary album cover is iconic and is in my top 5 for best stoner metal albums of all time. But Sleep is higher up on that top 5, and the winner of this matchup.  

The band would follow-up Dopethrone two years later with the band's most experimental record Let Us Prey. On tour promoting the album, tension between the band grew, with Greening & Bagshaw leaving the band. The band would face countless lineup changes following Let Us Prey, with Greening returning to the band on the band's eighth album Time To Die. Electric Wizard's most recent album was 2017's Wizard Bloody Wizard. No news of a new album has been announced at the time of this writing.

Following label issues with London Records on the release and marketability of Jerusalem, Sleep would disband following the ordeal. Cisneros & Hakius would go on to form the ambient/doom metal band Om, while Pike would go on to form the sludge/stoner metal band High On Fire. After the band reunited in 2008 with new drummer Jason Roeder, the band released The Sciences in 2018. The band's first new album in almost fifteen years. The band is currently on hiatus as Pike is currently promoting High On Fire's new album Cometh The Storm. There is no news at the time of this writing of any new music in the works for Sleep.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Dopethrone vs. Jerusalem - Online Poll - StrawPoll
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Dopethrone, Jerusalem…

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