Review Summary: Dual drummers, obscure humour, a sludgy Who cover. In other words, pretty much anything you could hope for in a Melvins album.
A quick browse through any list of ‘Most Influencial Artists’ is likely to contain more than a few familiar names, no matter what the source. In terms of metal, chances are you’ll see the likes of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Metallica at – or near to – the top, with perhaps only the odd surprise inclusion. But while these artists are undoubtedly hugely influencial, and deserve the massive recognition they recieve, their inclusion on such lists often overlooks smaller, less popular artists, who have arguably been just as important in shaping modern heavy music. Bands such as Venom, Botch and Napalm Death exemplify these types of unsung heroes, and Seattle legends the Melvins are very much a part of this group.
The Washington bands’ claim to fame has long been their role in the creation of grunge – through one time roadie Kurt Cobain – but even before that they had made a huge contribution to genres such as doom and drone, not to mention the fact that they practically invented sludge as we know it. Remarkably, all of this was achieved within their first ten years, when they operated as a trio. Equally as improbable is the fact that their regular output has remained relatively consistent well into a third decade, despite countless altering musical directions and an ever changing line-up.
However, the ever revolving door in and out of the band seems, for now at least, to be on hold following the merging with Big Business in 2006. This has left the band – now a four-piece – in the unusual position of possessing two drummers, adding an extra element to their already delightfully unorthodox sound. The first record since the merge, 2006’s (A) Senile Animal
was met with applause from both critics and fans, the same of which can be said for follow-up Nude With Boots
, although for this reviewer at least that album was an inferior beast. Efficient as ever, this predecessor comes less than two years after that previous studio outing, and is sure to prove yet another fan-pleasing affair.
More energetic, heavy and innovative than its predecessor, The Bride Screamed Murder
sees the quartet come up with a pretty solid balance between straight forward rock 'n' roll and the crazy experimentation that has characterised their entire career. Excellent opener The Water Glass
is a prime example of this, opening with two minutes of enthralling sludgy riffing before a seamless transition into a chant dominated second half, which proves as unexpected as it is catchy. This early highlight also showcases the bands dual-drum attack, with the unorthodox beats and inventive fills instantly outshining those on Nude With Boots
, where this distinguished feature was wasted, somewhat.
Thankfully, this excellent opening isn’t a false dawn, as the rest of the record generally sustains the same high standard. Standard (relatively speaking) rockers such as Evil New War God
and Electric Flower
fare well, fitting in nicely among the more experimental numbers. The band’s obscure sense of humour is also effectively showcased here, particularly on the sludgy cover of Who classic, My Generation
, which is dragged out for nearly eight minutes to surprisingly impressive effect. However, the strongest moment here is also probably the most straightforward. At just over three minutes, Inhumanity And Death
is the shortest song on the record, but packs a lot into it’s running time. A perfect exhibition of Melvins at their best, the song is a riff-fest throughout, with iconic axeman King Buzzo showing exactly why he’s considered such a cult-hero in some quarters.
Although not every track on The Bride Screamed Murder
is quite so engaging as these highlights, the record as a whole is very solid, arguably the best they have produced in their current incarnation. Of course it isn’t as groundbreaking as the likes of Gluey Porch Treatments
were in the eighties, but importantly the quality is still largely there, and it will ensure that the band remain an inspiration to both current and future artists. The Melvins have made a career out of producing innovative, often challenging music, with little in the way of widespread recognition and fanfare, yet their output on the whole has remained of a good standard, and still promises much for the future. If this doesn’t qualify them as unsung heroes, then what does?
Inhumanity And Death
The Water Glass
Evil New War God