Review Summary: Welcome to Bullhead.
Fruit baskets are delicious, nutritious, and full of crushing riffs. It is no wonder that Melvins chose the fruit basket to represent their magnum opus Bullhead. The year was 1991, and the metal scene was in full swing. False metal bands were beginning to emerge, everybody was racing for their share of the market. Melvins however didn’t forget their roots and took a chance on a path much less traveled by progressively approaching the style Black Sabbath established so many years ago. That is not to say Melvins are merely a bunch of old farts covering their favourite classics, rather these old farts were innovating the metal scene with crushing riffs, odd rhythms and delivering hard jams.
Bullhead is an astounding piece because it strives to achieve so many different criteria all in one go, yet manages to not only stay cohesive but deliver all of their endeavours in a single dose. The crisp and rough metallic edge brandished by many fellow metal pioneers is present but with a bit of twist. The tuning is quite low and thick. Although not too loud in the mix, the riffs manage to be so crushing and downright memorable that they grab your attention and immediately immerse you into their whacky world. Although very heavy, the scope of this album is anything but gloomy or slow rather the sludgy riffs are presented in the fashion of a hard rock jam session.
The songwriting is nothing short of excellent, Melvins are completely aware of the mess they are making. There is a natural flow and cohesiveness between the slow burning, the absolute skull crushing, and jamming- but it is done in a way that is so very calculated. Although the riffs are great, the album just wouldn’t have anywhere near the presentation level it contains without the creative and precise drumming of Dale Crover. Making sure to stray off the beaten path, Dale steers away from simply abusing the cymbals- intricate fills and odd patterns are commonplace on Bullhead and are a major highlight of the album. Dale gets a lot of time to shine but it never comprises the overall experience or takes away from the other instruments if anything, the zany structure only helps to complement the overall song structure they aim for.
Far from anything conventional: Bullhead always manages to be a zany album. It can honestly be said that every member of the band has quirky traits to deliver to the album. Rhythms can brought to unexpected places, even though played tightly and delivered purposefully the overall sound can be really surprising and attention grabbing adding excitement and replay value. Of course you can’t mention quirkiness without talking about vocalist King Buzzo. His vocal delivery is both powerful and maniacal. His strained shouts are nothing short of unsettling and hostile and as a result compliment both the crushing aggressiveness as well as darting sharpness of the instrumentation.
Bullhead is an amazing album that should not be overlooked, it contains an immersive dark atmosphere that is not only entirely unique but technically satisfying and fun.