I've seen so many times where artists who become extremely popular due to their debut album suffer from the "sophomore slump" - either because they used up what few good ideas they may have had on their debut, or they fell under the pressure of attempting to top it commercially. In that respect, thank goodness everyone ignored the Mule's first album!
Dose is Gov't Mule's best studio outing - and that's no small feat. Their follow-up, "Life Before Insanity" was only slightly inferior.
Dose kicks off with "Blind Man In The Dark", and you can instantly tell that they've pulled out all the stops and are growing artistically and experimentally (as bands should) - or at least showing more of their hand - in the studio. Michael Barbiero's production pushes Warren Hayne's guitar up front, but not at the expense of the rhythm section of Woody and Abts, who are given plenty of room to explore the possibilities, and test the boundaries, of their weapons of choice.
"Thorazine Shuffle" ("Stand by to stand by") is an impressive bass riff-driven rocker anchored by a complex but catchy time signature during the verses and paranoid lyrics throughout. Though Haynes unleashes some tasty guitar, this one belongs to Woody and Abts.
The Mule continues their instrumental theme of honoring North Carolina jazzmen ("Trane" paid tribute to John Coltrane on their debut) with "Thelonius Beck" - yes, for T.Monk and blues-rock/metal/fusion pioneer Jeff Beck, combining the styles of each for a helluva complex but fun ride.
On two cuts, "Game Face" and "Larger Than Life", the Mule explore their heavy rock influences further than before, albeit in a progressive way, with Haynes conjuring the tone and style of both Tony Iommi and "Crimson King"-era King Crimson.
The Mule shows more depth and variety than before with a slide-guitar/conga arrangement of Blind Willie Johnson's chilling Gospel-Blues, "John The Revelator", and the hauntingly beautiful "Raven Black Night" - dedicated to the late acoustic guitar virtuoso Michael Hedges.
Dose closes with "I Shall Return", quite possibly the Mule's most heartfelt song of hope and the ability to brush off life's trials and tribulations to come to grips with one's spiritual inner self.
The CD features impressive artwork, which is much more beautiful on the gatefold LP version they made available for a limited time.
The Mule rose above a possible "sophomore slump" by delivering an album that not only matched its predecessor's ambition, it surpassed it twofold.