Review Summary: The first part of The Trilogy sees the Melvins temporarily returning to their roots and proving they can still make music heavier and more sludgy than almost anyone else.
The late nineties was a time of much change for the Melvins. In 1997 they were dropped from major label Atlantic Records after three albums. The reasons for this were simple; the grunge wave they had helped inspire was all but gone, and their music was just too inaccessible to appeal to anyone but their existing fans. This inaccessibility reached its peak on Atlantic with the release of 1996’s Stag
, which was made up of largely experimental material, making it a challenging listen. The bands first album since being dropped, 1997’s Honky
continued this fashion, only this time it was even more extreme, with very little of what most would call actual music.
For their next project, the Melvins released three albums, collectively known as The Trilogy
in 1999 and 2000 on Ipecac recordings. The first of these was called The Maggot
, and differed from the experimental direction the band had been heading. The sound of the album is in fact more similar to their early material such as Gluey Porch Treatments
, with tempos varying from extremely fast to extremely slow, whilst remaining crushingly heavy all the way through. In comparison to Stag
, the music on The Maggot
is relatively accessible. The band made up for this though, by awkwardly splitting every song on the CD version into two separate tracks, making it almost impossible to put on shuffle.
The album kicks off with Amazon
. It is an excellent opener with all instruments played at blistering speed, and King Buzzo’s vocals more similar to the high pitched squawks of the bands early days than the trademark growl for which he had become known in the early nineties. Buzzo’s guitar work is particularly impressive in this song, with some brilliant frantic riffs. The next song, AMAZON
is much slower, but no less engaging. Although it is highly repetitive, it never becomes dull, as the riff being repeated is one of the queasiest and most sludgy the band have ever written. As the song goes on, feedback comes into play, meaning the song becomes more and more intense as it goes on.
In most albums and songs, this feedback would be building up to an epic ending for the song. Here however, AMAZON
ends suddenly, before We All Love Judy
explodes into action. We All Love Judy
is a simple punk influenced metal song, which again is quite repetitive, with the same lyrics and riffs all the way through, but again never becomes dull because of the quality of what is being repeated. Like AMAZON
, We All Love Judy
ends without warning, making way for a low pitched droning noise which goes on for two minutes before exploding into the slow, sludgy riffs of Manky
, another song that displays the sheer heaviness of the album.
A cover of the Fleetwood Mac’s The Green Manelishi
provides a stop for breath before the band tear through The Horn Bearer
, another song played at extreme speed, and possibly the most aggressive on the album. This relatively short song is followed by an instrumental called Judy
, which is driven by an excellent rolling bass line, building in intensity as the song goes on. Judy is in fact one of the few times on the album when the bass can actually be heard clearly. This may be because bassist Kevin Rutmanis seems to be playing the same as King Buzzo on all the other songs, contributing to the heavy, sludgy sound.
The real purpose of Judy
however, appears to be as build up to epic closer, See How Pretty, See How Smart
. This song is similar in structure to other songs on the album in that it is repetitive and becomes more and more intense. Here however there is a climax, as the riffs become faster, the drums are hit harder and a high pitched scream begins over the noise. This serves as a fitting end to a truly monstrous album, by far the best of The Trilogy
, and one of the greatest the Melvins have ever released. What is particularly impressive is the way in which some of the slower, sludgy songs act as build up to other faster songs, making them even more effective in the context of the album. Examples of this are AMAZON
building up to We All Love Judy
, and Judy
building up to See How Pretty, See How Smart.
Although this journey back to their roots was only a temporary one for the Melvins, it proved that they are still capable of pushing the extremes, and making music heavier and more sludgy than almost anyone else.
We All Love Judy
See How Pretty, See How Smart