Posts Tagged ‘Melvins’

New Heavy Sounds – 20th July 2018

Originally released independently in February, Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 sees Blacklab’s debut receive a vinyl release, wider distribution, and augmented by an additional track. It sounds like we’re arriving halfway through a song at the start of the album’s opener, ‘Black Moon’. It’s a slow, hefty riff that grinds out of the speakers at high volume. Yes, it’s loud and mastered even louder. Then the pace picks up the drums really get cracking and everything just throbs.

Yuko’s vocals are astonishing, switching between full-on gutsy hard rock, and witchy ethereal, and snarling deep and demonic. And they’re not afraid to send the needles into red, everything cracking with a fuzzy edge of overloading distortion. It’s this in-yer-face production that really makes Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0 the album it is. You don’t just listen to it: you feel it. You visualise the speaker cones on a massive rig vibrating, can almost feel the air being displaced.

‘Warm Death’ takes the face down and exploits the classic quiet / loud dynamic thing, and against a tidal wave of overdriven guitar the banshee howl vocals are nothing short of terrifying. Closer ‘Big Muff’ goes all the way for maximum downtuned sluge, with enough low-end to give rise to an uncomfortable sensation in the bowels. And it does so for ten whole minutes, in an audaciously excessive workout worthy of Melvins.

Coming on at times like Boris at their best, it’s hard to conceive that Blacklab are just two in number. Because this is some dense noise, gritty, driving and raw. There’s chug and grind, and there’s thunderous powerchords in abundance. In fact, there’s no let up – and no filler. And they could only ever have come from Japan: while we’ve seen a number of female-fronted stoner/doom/heavy bands emerging recently, Blacklab stand out as one of the fiercest, most intense and most-far out. They promise ‘Fuzz, fuzz, fuzz, doom, stoner, more fuzz,’ and they deliver it with the knobs all turned to eleven.

AA

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Ritual Productions – 21st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that self-professed occultist doom collective Drug Cult should unveil their debut long-player to coincide with midsummer’s day and the solstice.

They open with a nine-minute sludge-trudge that’s bursting with the trappings of psychedelia and old-school hard rock: ‘Serpent Therapy’ starts so slow, with so much distance between each chord that it sounds like an ending, a protracted grinding to a halt, rather than the start. Yes, this is slow, and this is heavy. The guitars are close to collapsing under their own weight, and threaten to bury Aasha Tozer’s reverb-drowned vocals in the process. It’s the soundtrack to a bad trip into the underworld, and while there’s nothing of such epic proportions to be found during the remainder of the album’s nine tracks, the darkness remains all-pervasive.

There’s a classic, vintage quality to the songs, but it’s all sludged up, twisted and messy, and what the songs lack in duration (the majority are below the four-minute mark) they more than compensate in density. The riffs lumber slow, low, and heavy, the bass grinds just as slow and even lower: the percussion doesn’t propel, but instead lands in thunderous ricochets while the cymbals wash in tidal waves. In fact, it’s like listening to an early Melvins 45 at 33, save for the vocals, which never sound anything less than borderline deranged.

The sense of volume is immense, speaker-shredding, earth-shattering. And just when it doesn’t seem possible to drive any deeper, grind any lower, ‘Bloodstone’ reaches a new low in low, the essence of doom-laden hard rock riffing distilled to its absolute. The form is still apparent: Drug Cult don’t take it beyond the limits as Sunn O))) do, but against contemporaries like Esben and the Witch and Big Brave, Drug Cult stand out for their concision and their eschewing of passages of levity: this is unforgiving, ultra-heavyweight from beginning to end. As such, it’s a truly megalithic work. Worship it.

AA

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3 November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor – Christopher Nosnibor

Primitive Race emerged through a collaborative release with Raymond Watts’ cult techno / industrial vehicle PIG in 2015, which was swiftly followed by an eponymous debut album. Conceived by Lords Of Acid manager / executive producer Chris Kniker, the band’s first iteration featured Graham Crabb (Pop Will Eat Itself), Erie Loch (LUXT, Blownload, Exageist), and Mark Thwaite (Peter Murphy, Tricky, Gary Numan), with a vast roll-call of guest contributors including Tommy Victor (Prong, Ministry, Danzig), Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Jackalope), Kourtney Klein (Combichrist, Nitzer Ebb), Mark “3KSK” Brooks (Warlock Pinchers, Foreskin 500, Night Club), Josh Bradford (RevCo, Stayte, Simple Shelter), and Andi Sex Gang. As such, they set out their stall as not so much a supergroup, but an industrial uber-collective, and Primitive Race captured that essence perfectly.

Soul Pretender marks a dramatic shift in every way. This is not an ‘industrial’ album. If anything, it’s a grunge album. That’s no criticism: it’s simply a statement of fact.

And while Primitive Race was by no means light on hooks or choruses, Soul Pretender is overtly commercial in comparison. Again, it’s no criticism, but simply a statement of fact.

It’s a common mistake made by critics to posit a negative critique based on what an album isn’t, without really taking into account the aims and objectives which made the album the album it is. So: ‘technoindustrial supergroup make an album that isn’t technoindustrial therefore it’s shit’ is wrong from the very outset.

Kniker makes no bones about the shift: Primitive Race was always intended to be a collaborative vehicle, and with former Faith No More singer Chuck Mosley on lead vocals and Melvins drummer Dale Crover on board, it was inevitable that Soul Pretender would have a different feel.

There’s a warped, Melvins / Mr Bungle vibe about the verse of the opener, ‘Row House, which is centred around a classic cyclical grunge riff that shift between chorus and overdrive on the guitar, and the 90s vice carries into the melodic ‘Cry Out,’ which is centred around three descending chords in the verse, erupting into a chorus that’s pure Nevermind Nirvana. And that’s no bad thing: it’s a great pop-influenced alt-rock tune with a belting chous.

The excessive guitar posturing on ‘Take It All’ is less impressive as a listening experience than on a technical level, but it’s soon blown away by the sneering ‘Bed Six’, with its chubby riffage and overall thrust.

The title track is perhaps the perfect summary of the album as a whole: uplifting four-chord chugs and a monster chorus are uplifting and exhilarating, and ‘Nothing to Behold’ works the classic grunge dynamic with a sinewy guitar and melodic hook. In fact, ‘classic’ is a key descriptor while assessing the compositional style of Soul Pretender: there isn’t a dud track on it, and the songrwiting is tight. There may not be any immediate standouts, but the consistency is impressive, and in that department, it’s a step up from its predecessor, which packed some crackers, but a handful of more middling tunes. Again, the change in methodology – a static lineup rather than infinite collaborators – is likely a factor here.

The album’s lack track, ‘Dancing on the Sun’, is a slow-burn beast, with hints of ‘Black Hole Sun’ trodden beneath the heft and swagger of Queens of the Stone Age. It’s precisely the track in which an album should end, nodding to the epic and marking an optimal change of pace. And it’s in reflecting on the overall structure and shape of Soul Pretender that it’s possible to reflect on what a great album it is, with its back-to-back riffery and explosive choruses. And did I mention force…

AAA

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Ipecac Recordings – 7th July 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Melvins’ 415th album since their formation in the Mezozoic era is a double: their first. As if the founding sludgelords, the masters of the megalithic, needed to take it to another level of epic indulgence. A Walk With Love and Death isn’t exactly a concept album, as much as an album of two halves. So says the press release. If anything, it’s actually two distinct albums released together: Death, a proper Melvins’ release and Love, the score to the Jesse Nieminen directed, self-produced short also titled A Walk With Love and Death.

But of course, it’s a Melvins album. Which means that, fundamentally, it sounds like a Melvins album. That’s no criticism: I want a Melvins album to sound like a Melvins album but then, would it ever sound like anything else?

They really make full use of the double-album format for this outing. It begins with a slow-building, expansive six and a half-minuter that has echoes of ‘Mine is No Disgrace’ from The Crybaby, but instead of erupting into a blistering wall of noise, keeps the focus tight on a proggy trip with a vaguely psychedelic hue.

‘Sober-delic’ follows, a mid-tempo trudge which also stretches beyond the six-minute mark and ‘Euthanasia’ is vintage Melvins, a hefty sludge trudge with heavily treated vocals. ‘What’s Wrong With You?’ is a warped psychedelic stoner rock tune with a twisted pop edge, propelled by a thumping bassline and wild guitars. The nine songs which make up the Death album don’t exactly offer up any surprises (which is arguably a surprise in itself given the band’s wildly varied output over the last 30 years), but do deliver a Melvins album that’s as solid as anything they’ve done. It brings the grind. It hammers with the riffs. It’s sludgy, grungy, yet packs some great pop moments. And what at times it lacks in terms of attack, it compensates in scale, with the prog leanings of ‘Flaming Creature’ partially submerged by the low-end churn that they’ve made their own.

Commencing with a vaguely experimental intro track, in which mellifluous piano notes drift through the sound of chatter, the Love set is a very different proposition. The fourteen tracks are shorter and stranger, leaning toward noisy ambience, and find Melvins revisiting the kind of territory explored on Prick and the playfully perverse ‘Cowboy’ single from the mid ‘90s.

When they do actually play tunes, it’s whacked out, trippy psychedelic pop or fucked -up jazz: ‘Give it to Me’ is a zany, mess of doodling Hammond organs and theramins duelling with thumping percussion that’s pure 60s garage. But mostly it’s weird shit like ‘Chicken Butt’ and ‘Halfway to Bakersfield’, and it’s all very much ‘what the fuck’?

It’s Melvins’ eternal capacity to confound which is an integral aspect of their enduring appeal. It would be so easy, and no doubt more career-savvy to work to their tried and tested formula and to put out an album of straight ahead sludge rock every two to three years, instead of going off on infinite tangents and releasing two albums a year. But the fact is, they’re actually very good at producing weird, far-out experimental shit, and the results of some of their collaborations have been as strong as unexpected. It’s their drive to create, and to endlessly push in so many different directions which keeps Melvins fresh, and above all, relevant.

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Ipecac Recordings – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Some project ae just so wild and so awesome that they can’t fail. Crystal Fairy is one. The fact that it’s out on Ipecac should be a big clue. Essentially another Melvins offshoot, this project features King Buzzo and Dale Crover (Melvins and myriad mental offshoots), with Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes), Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta, At the Drive In). If you haven’t already encountered Le Butcherettes, our life is sadly lacking and you need to do something about it, immediately.

Le Butcherettes are one of the most ferociously angular, choppy, abrasive and truly awesome contemporary exemplars of the no-wave ethos, and Terri Gender Bender is a fearsome and fantastic front woman: the perfect foil to the sludge with a grin craziness of The Melvins. Omar Rodrguez-Lopez (Mars Volta, At the Drive In) is hardly a weak link here.

As the press release recounts, ‘The whole idea for Crystal Fairy began when The Melvins and Le Butcherettes toured together and The Melvins started doing the song “Rebel Girl” with Teri at the end of their set.’

The album erupts with a whack! Think! Chug-a-chug thundrball punk-tinged rock racket of Chiseler’. It crackles. It fizzes. But what’s perhaps unexpected is just how accessible it is, courtesy of its strong, melody-led chorus. It also has that early 80s vibe and the poke of a small-town pub gig or a demo tape recorded by an ultra-proficient provincial band who deserve a wide audience. That’s not a criticism of Crystal Fairy, but of the industry, at least as it was.

Rock cliché is never far away on this album: ‘Necklace of Divorce’ wheels in AC/CDisms and Led Zeppelinisms galore, but there’s a savviness to the delivery that hints at a certain knowingness, a play on the clichés being stirred in and churned around in the mix. The result is alchemy, and an album brimming with choppy tunes that explode with full-throttle drive, and build the dynamics with passages of tension-building stealth. Grunge classic? Yeah, and so much more

‘Moth Tongue’ simply sounds like Terri Gender Bender fronting The Melvins playing one of their poppier tracks. As such, it’s ace, and ‘Bent Teeth’ is simply scorching. As is the album as a whole: raucous rambunctious, it combined churning, gritty riffs with wild-eyed histrionic vocals. As much as I’m a sucker for a meaty guitar, I’m even more one to be pulled in by a vocal delivery that borders on the psychotic, and Terri’s go that absolutely nailed. But then, as the title track attests, the foursome can also nail a full-throttle post-punk pop tune: think Blondie, think PJ Harvey, delivered with energy and guts and raw sex. Belting as the backing is, Terri makes it: she sounds dangerous, intense, precarious. While the basslines tear through your guts, she tears through your very soul.

Crystal Fairy is the supergroup every supergroup should aspire to: the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll awesome, they’ve got the full works going on here.

 

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Quisling Records – 1st April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

And so the story goes that originally formed by two frustrated drummers, Godzilla Black was the brainchild of two frustrated drummers who came together to release their eponymous debut in 2010. They evidently did something right, catching as they did the attention of Ginger Wildheart, which led to frontman John Cormack contributing vocals to Ginger’s Mutation project alongside members of Napalm Death, Cardiacs and The Fall, which was later released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Records.

As you may reasonably expect from an ever-mutating project with a crazy wealth of crazy references, there’s a lot going on here. The album’s first track, ‘The Wizard of Ooze’ brings together elements of Kong’s skewed post-Shellac racket and the bombastic bravado and melodies of Faith No More. Sling in some bold brass and it’s one hell of a strange stew, but that’s exactly what Godzilla Black do – they melt multitudinous improbable bits and pieces together to forge something that’s weird, wonderful and rocks like a motherfucker.

The breezy vocal melodies of ‘Take Me To the Countryside’ may carry a psychedelic edge and hints of The Monkees in the verses, but they’re driven by a barrage of beefy guitars and a warped take on the overall production worthy of The Melvins. And we’re still only two tracks in.

‘First Class Flesh’ is just under two minutes of musical mania, the screaming abdabs finally defined sonically, and then there’s ‘Spaghetti’ which is a slice of wild desert blues, Sergio Leone and Queen of the Stone Age stranded together, in fucked up on peyote and hallucinating mirages of who the fuck knows what.

Most bands would have shot their load for ideas long before now, but the rockabilly math-rock frenzy of ‘Polydactyl’ and the crazed, full-throttle attack of ‘The Other White Meat’ (which even manages to reference The Blues Brothers in the midst of a bonkers explosion of raucous brass) more than abundantly show Godzilla Black are a band who are constantly on the brink of rupturing themselves lest they don’t give vent to their creative fermentations. In the hands of lesser artists, such an explosion of divergent musical bits and pieces would be a horrible mess, but they hold it together, and even the shorter tracks – there are a fair few that run between two and three minutes, and a couple are even more brief – sound fully formed, and even focused despite their everything all at once stylings.

It may take a few listens through to really get a proper handle on, but Press the Flesh is a classic example of what you might call ‘warped genius’. Restless, relentless and audacious as fuck, there really is never a dull moment.

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