If ever there was a group obsessed with obsessions, Sleep Chamber is it. This Boston outfit (basically the warlockish John ZeWizz aided by constantly shifting personnel) makes ritualistic industrial music that works on both a shock imagery level and on a more intellectual erotic/occult plateau. ZeWizz is mind-bogglingly prolific, having independently unleashed (in the US, Germany, Austria and Italy) over ten albums, several EPs and 45s, almost 20 cassette-only releases (only some of which are listed here) and a batch of long-form videos (many of which correspond to the records) in under a decade.
The heavy S&M content and explicit graphics (Submit to Desire‘s negative-exposure lesbian scene cover is a classic) have gotten Sleep Chamber banned and/or ignored — which is a shame. Not all that chaotic, the group’s unique sound is more trancelike: ZeWizz’s ultra-deadpan declarations, minimal electronic pulse-beats, eerie basslines, sparse synth/violin/guitar and occasional samples all serve to induce a heightened mood (sexual or otherwise). The main body of Sleep Chamber’s work divides into “song”-oriented albums and dense, mostly instrumental works (Satanic Sanction, Sexmagick Ritual) reminiscent of Nurse with Wound and Current 93.
Released amid a steady stream of cassettes that began in 1982 and continued unabated through 1985, the eponymous 1984 vinyl album is primitive and distant. Submit to Desire is the band’s most notorious (and intriguing) record so far, containing the anthemic “Fetish” and “Oral Maze,” a tribute to cunnilingus. Spellbondage is very similar and almost as good (the prizes being the unnerving “Kiss the Whip” and another erotic epic, “Odoratus Sexualis”), while the four-song Babylon EP contains the exhilarating synth-pump of “Babes ov Babylon.”
Two years in the making, Sleep, or Forever Hold Your Piece beefs up the drum machine and guitar overlays, giving Sleep Chamber a more accessible sound, comparable to Skinny Puppy. A cover of Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out of Me” fits smoothly into the record’s aesthetic; “A Synthetic Woman” is a remake of a track from Speak in Tongues; “A Better Way” rides on a sample from Led Zep’s “Immigrant Song.” Nine short fragments, called “Verbum Sapienti,” fill in the grooves between each track.
The early Speak in Tongues tape is quite different from the vinyl EP of the same name. Sharp Spikes & Spurs, recorded live in Boston in 1989 (and much longer in its cassette/video form), finds Sleep Chamber exuding songs from the previous albums and the then-unfinished Sleep. Sins ov Obsession is a compilation of odds and ends, including a remix of the band’s smart cover of “Warm Leatherette” and three outtakes: two instrumentals and a naughty ditty, “The Mistress.” Sacred and Surreal combines three tracks (and an outtake) from Sleep Chamber with a Submit outtake and two 1983 instrumentals. In a gimmick copied from Throbbing Gristle, Best ov the Rest is a limited edition set of twelve otherwise unreleased live tapes packaged in a suitcase.