tue 21/11/2017

CD: Melvins - A Walk With Love and Death | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Melvins - A Walk With Love and Death

CD: Melvins - A Walk With Love and Death

Doom, anger and grot from the still-abiding Seattle grindmasters

Effectively two albums

For over 30 years, Melvins have been flagbearers for a kind of foundational American underground rock. Monstrously psychedelic, heavy as lead, mischievous and angry, they are part of a lineage that connects to squarepeg counterculture forefathers like Beefheart and The Fugs, share swathes of DNA with heavy metal and particularly Black Sabbath, and are particularly impervious to outside cultural shifts. Though they were fleetingly affiliated by the media with grunge, thanks to founder Buzz Osborne's musical and personal relationship to Kurt Cobain, they were something else. And along with kindred spirits like Nomeansno, Dinosaur Jr and The Butthole Surfers, they keep on churning out the ornery noise to this day.

This release is effectively two albums. Death is a Melvins album proper, and churns and growls and rages like they always have. Sometimes it's eerily weird, as in the Tex-Mex atmospheres and final collapse into free-improv mind-melt of the album closer “Cardboa Negro”. Sometimes it's reasonably straightforward rock: “Flaming Creatures” sounds like how one wishes Metallica still did these days – and would sell a gazillion if they were to release it. But it's always gritty, grotty, full of crunch and weight and engaging on the most immediate of levels.

The second half, Love, meanwhile, is a soundtrack to director Jesse Nieminen's short film A Walk With Love and Death – but functions very well indeed as a grotesquely trippy record in its own right. Ambience, dialogue, synth textures, distant sounds of a rock band having a nervous breakdown are all woven expertly into a chillout soundtrack for an after-party in hell. It's formed of short sketches yet feels like a blurry narrative in its own right, and provides a great counterpoint to the steely focus of Death. For a band of guys well into their 50s to be still making music this head-twisting is a wonderful thing.

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