Review Summary: Expect the unexpected: A Senile Animal replaces Stoner Witch as "the Melvins album most apt to please the normal metalhead".
OK, the strange (which means typical Melvins) news first: Idiosyncratic Seattle doom rockers The Melvins have included idiosyncratic Seattle doom rockers and obvious Melvins worshippers Big Business
into their lineup. Now before you read on, you must know that Big Business are a bass/drums duo. Well, Buzz'n'Dale recruiting a new bassist isn't exactly a new thing. But a NEW DRUMMER? They didn't fire Dale, did they? Don't worry, they haven't. Instead they built a huge 2-person drumkit for both the almighty Dale Crover and the either not exactly light-handed Coady Willis to use.... at the same time!
So what can The Melvins do with a 3-piece rhythm group? I actually expected them to do some far-out *** a la Hostile Ambient Takeover. Turns out it's the exact opposite. In fact, it's something they haven't since (or before) their 1994 release Stoner Witch: A normal, straight-up heavy metal album. No weird experimentation, not alot of rhythm shifts or unusual time signatures, no freeform song structures, which means A Senile Animal is probably going to please even normal Metallica or Iron Maiden fans, who were turned off by the Melvos' use of extended noise sections and the like before.
One thing you'll immediately notice from track two on, if you knew the Melvins before, is that the vocal melodies have never before been so.... melodious on their heavier songs. It probably comes from new bassist Jared Warren singing background vocals or something, but on tracks like A Vast Filthy Prison or Civilized Worm you get some catchy, even hummable stuff. The Hawk sounds slightly like King Crimson, You've Never Been Right sounds like The Wipers and A History Of Bad Men recycles the Night Goat bassline, turns it into a guitar riff and makes a decent, if unremarkable hard rock song out of it (think Metallica, circa Load).
As I already mentioned, most of the songs on here are kept in a straight 4/4 beat (with the exception of Blood Witch). It's not as slow as most of their other stuff too, so you'll be able to bang your head to it easily. And what about the two drummers? Well, it sounds pretty damn great! Check out the rumbling beats on faster songs like Rat Faced and the crazy "dual solos" on Civilized Worm.
Despite all that, I still gave A Senile Animal only a 3.5 cos I think that the best thing about The Melvins is their idiosyncratic approach to heaviness, which is almost completely lacking here, despite their unusual lineup change/expansion. They're good in doing what no one expects I guess, but I was a little disappointed. This album might be great (if not their greatest) for more casual listeners, people who want to get into The Melvins and normal metalheads, but not for me. For me, it's a good metal album, nothing more.