Posts Tagged ‘Melvins’

Southern Lord – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Twenty years is a long time. But that’s how long it’s been since Iceburn last graced us with new material. The shifting collective, primarily operative between 1990 and 2001 reconvened in 2007, with this current lineup again at the core.

As the band’s bio summarises, ‘The band’s initial output slowly evolved from hardcore and metal to free improvisation and noise. The 10 year arc saw the band following their own path and becoming more and more obscure as they got deeper into unknown musical worlds. By 2000 the cycle seemed complete and Iceburn did their final tour in Europe 2001. In 2007 this early core crew reunited to play a local anniversary show focused on the earliest material. Every few years since they would get together for another ‘reunion’ until that word became more of a joke, it was clear the band was back, getting together every week, and working on new material.’

And here it is: two truly megalithic tracks, each spanning the best part of twenty minutes, and packing them densely with some hard-hitting, churning, trudging, sludgy riffs.

This is some heavy, doomy, din: the riffs are Sabbath as filtered via Melvins, and let’s face it – Sabbath may have invented heavy metal, but it was Melvins who reinvented it with that gnarly, stoner twist and all the sludge.

It’s about halfway through the eighteen-minute ‘Healing the Ouroburous’ that things take a bit of a crazy turn. The lead riffing steps up to next-level flamboyant and I’m starting to think ‘this is maybe a bit much’. It’s not just that it’s technical, it’s just a bit fretwanky, even a bit Thin Lizzy, like ‘Whisky in the Jar’ jammed for fifteen minutes at a gig with three local support bands for a minor-league headliner – but then they pull it back and we’re returned to slow, lumbering territory. If there’s a brief burst where it sounds a bit Alice In Chains, it’s forgivable, because within the obvious genre framework, Iceburn bring in so much to expand the limits of convention, and it’s refreshing, especially from a band with so much history. It would have been so easy for them to just turn out a brace of droning riff beasts where not a lot happens, and no doubt they would have been lauded for their return to form and their place in the underground canon, but… well bollocks to that. Then there are the vocal – shifting between a low growl and some quite melodic moments, but all kept low in the mix.

‘Dahlia Rides the Firebird’ is another absolute bloody behemoth, a collision of Earth and Melvins, and a real slow-burner that takes suspense to a point near the limit. It takes three minutes before it even begins to take form, and then lumbers like some giant Cretaceous riff-lizard – one with big, swinging riff knackers at that. Yes, this has some swagger, and it builds, and it builds… The monster crunching riff that crashes in to punch hard in the last five minutes more than justifies the wait. When it lands, it’s absolutely fucking colossal.

Asclepius is a statement, and one which informs us that Iceburn are forward-facing and aren’t looking to recreate the past or retread old ground just to please people. And that in itself should please enough people, because this is so, so solid.

AAA

a1401051411_10

Ipecac Recordings – 26th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been seven years since the last Tomahawk album, but the noise-rock supergroup are marking their twentieth anniversary in style with the crash-landing of album number five in the form of Tonic Immobility.

For those who needs reminding, the lineup – guitarist Duane Denison [the Jesus Lizard, Unsemble, etc.], vocalist Mike Patton [Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, etc.], drummer John Stanier [Helmet, Battles, etc.], and bassist Trevor “field mouse” Dunn [Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, etc.] really is a who’s who of that US 90s / 00s melting pot of alternative that was truly alternative.

Of course, Mike Patton is the biggest name, because, well, Faith No More reached a level of being truly massive. But even at their peak, Patton was always dabbling in weird shit, with the far-out oddball whacky rock of Mr Bungle, and myriad other projects that were as non-commercial as you could get.

That commitment to music of interest rather than mass appeal has driven Ipecac since its foundation, and Patton is, for many, a true hero as not only a champion of all things weird and wonderful – and often harsh and noisy – but also as one of the most eclectic and wide-ranging artists in contemporary rock, and alongside JG Thirlwell, perhaps one of the few living artists worthy of the term ‘genius’.

And so, being Tomahawk, it’s a weird and varied album that’s visceral and noisy, but also so heavily dynamic as to leave you dazed. Opener ‘SHHH’ is exemplary: it begins quietly, gently, before erupting into a blast of mayhem… and going quiet again. It’s like if Björk had done ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ while… I dunno, working with Tomahawk. Because while The Jesus Lizard and helmet were integral to defining the underground sound of the 90s, there really is no other act that sounds quite like this, and it’s all about the collaboration and cross-contamination, of course.

There’s an intense, gritty heft to the album as a whole, but there’s variety: ‘Valentine Shine’ is a full-on grunge-riff rager, while ‘Predators and Scavengers’ pursues a more math-rock line of attack. ‘Doomsday Fatigue’ meanwhile, is a slow, slinky, twisted blues drawl that’s more Jesus Lizard until it goes all smooth soulful pop, and the FNM influence is perhaps more apparent. The thing is, you never know what you’re going to get next:

If ‘Business Casual’ feels a shade dated, it still hits the mark both sonically and in terms of lyrical relevance, showing that there’s always something to be had here. ‘I’ve never looked as cool as you’, Patton croons on the low-slung ‘Tattoo Zero’, another song that’s divided dynamically between verse and chorus.

Tonic Immobility has everything going on, and even the brief rap-rock passages work because they’re all part of a huge hybrid cocktail of whatever: ‘Howlie’ goes post/math rock melodic and marks yet another departure before it goes all-out heavy, and ‘Eureka’ is a droney ambient interlude, and ‘Recoil’ actually goes a shade dub reggae for a while and at times it does feel a shade bewildering, and even a bit ‘wtf’, but you can’t criticise Tomahawk for a lack of focus or identity – because that’s their identity right there. ‘Sidewinder’ is a genuinely touching piano-led tune – until the noodling math-rock and distorted vocal howl kick in, and there are also some absolutely brutal riffs on offer here, and make no mistake, Tonic Immobility packs a punch.

It’s a crazy album for crazy times, and a complex, mathy, loud album for a time where the best escape is down a rabbit hole of musical weirdness. Tonic Immobility is that rabbit hole. Dig it deep.

AA

a1175396463_10

Ipecac Recordings – 26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Another Melvins album? But of course! As the press release outlines, Working With God is the second release from their 1983 iteration featuring Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and original drummer Mike Dillard and it follows the trio’s previous release, the 2013 album, Tres Cabrones. The sheer volume of Melvins releases, particularly with the trawling of the archives that’s been ongoing for some years now, paired with the infinite permutations of the various lineups means that the chronology has become increasingly muddy. But it seems the 1983 lineup is also the 2013 and 2021 lineup, at least on occasion. I think. Please, don’t correct me if I’m wrong. I can live with the confusion and factual inaccuracy. The point is, we have Another new Melvins album.

Working With God is a bit of a mixed bag, but then of course it is: it’s a Melvins album meaning it’s half serious, half twisted humour that’s likely to only make sense if you’re in the band.

Buzzo, of course, bigs it up spectacularly, coming on a shade Trumpian in declaring that ‘Working With God is a damn good record. It’s the album bands like Green Day and Metallica wish they could put out if they only had the guts. Foo Fighters maybe but probably not. Once again, no guts…’

He’s probably right, of course, but this does sound like a lot of ego as she calls out big-name bands. At least he’s punching upwards. As for the album, it’s hard to know exactly what to make of it at times. It sounds like Melvins, of course. Because whatever the lineup, Melvins always sound like Melvins. It’s got hefty drums, driving bass, and monstrous, overdriven guitars.

But on Working With God, it’s Melvins sounding better as the album progresses: ‘I Fuck Around’ is a pretty straight cover of The Beach Boys’ ‘I Get Around’ with the lyrics not-so-subtly changed, and it’s an underwhelming starter, and middling at best. They finally power into explosive riff mode on third track, ‘Bouncing Rick’, which is full-throttle and high-octane and sounds like early 90s Butthole Surfers – a good thing, and no mistake.

They’re in standard territory on the super-sludgy Sabbath-inspired riffcentric racket of ‘Caddy Daddy’ which is undeniably classic Melvins, and it’s by no means the only one. ‘The Great Good Place’ brings the guitars in heavy and ‘Hot Fish’ is low, slow, and deep, a squall of noise making a sonic mess all over the grinding, sludgy riff – but with vocals harmonies on the hook that lift it several pegs. ‘Hund’ is another churner, but delivered at pace, melding thrash with sludge, and calling to mind the material from the ‘Houdini’ and ‘Stoner Witch’ era, it really is Melvins distilled into a three-minute roiiff-laden package.

The off-kilter, comedic ‘Brian the Horse-Faced Goon’ is shit, but is equally classic Melvins – because if any band are masters of the mockery, of the pisstake, of the throwaway cut, it’s Melvins, and anyone who’s heard the ‘Cowboy’ single will attest. The corny Status Quo pub-rock glam stomp of ‘Fuck You’ only further reminds is that Melvins really aren’t a band to be taken seriously all the time.

To give any meaningful critique of a Melvins album is nigh on impossible. It’s impossible to measure it by any standards other than by those of other Melvins album, and the fact is that they don’t really care to be judged y anything but their latest output, even if said output is historical, and while the lineups have changes more often than I’ve changed by underwear, Melvins’ ethos hasn’t changes one iota.

So what’s to say? Working With God is a Melvins album. If you dig Melvins, you’ll like at least half it. If you don’t dig Melvins, you may still like about half of it. Who knows? Embrace the weird and embrace the riffery and see what you make of it.

AA

a0809219475_10

28th August 2020

James Wells

If a band can’t sell itself up, what hope have they for anyone else? So fair play to Horrible Youth, who pitch themselves as ‘an Icelandic five-piece sludge and grunge band that sprang to life in Oslo in 2016 and quietly recorded their stunning debut, Wounds Bleed.’

And you know what? It is stunning. ‘Monkeys’, the album first track is a low-tempo grunger that blends Nirvana and Metallica and ultimately comes on like Melvins – and if you’re going to for sludge and grunge, Melvins is the band against which any other is going to be judged.

The songs on Wounds Bleed are concise (the majority being under four minutes) and built around simple repetitive riffs cranked out with a big, overdriven guitar, and favouring the mid to lower ends of the EQ spectrum for a dense, murky sound. Only the cymbals crash through the

Single cut ‘Blissful Tropes’ brings a psych twist to the lumbering riffery, and it’s got hooks and weight in equal measure (it’s hardly a pop tune, but there’s a sinewy lead guitar behind the shouting), making it a standout on what is, undeniably, a really solid album.

It sure as hell ain’t soft or gentle, and doesn’t do the cliché ‘mellow’ track at the end of side one or anything, instead slinging riff after riff, with the rawness of Tad at their best. ‘Serve the Plague’ hits a particularly hefty, low-slung, goth-doom groove, and the tempo picking up around halfway through to thrash out a full-throttle attack.

Combining density and intensity, and packing a megalithic dose of angst, Wounds Bleed distils the sound of 1994 and turns the volume up to eleven, and the result is something special.

AA

AA

a2274728220_10

Loyal Blood Records – 22nd May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nothing says metal like calling your band Barren Womb. And nothing says DIY like making that metal / noise-rock hybrid racket like being a duo. Norwegian noisemongers Timo and Tony have been hard at it for nine years, and Lizard Lounge is their latest effort: it’s pitched as being for fans of Quicksand, Melvins, Clutch, Refused, and Big Business, and the work of a band who capture ‘their raw and unpolished live energy in studio recordings’.

‘Raw and unpolished’ perhaps does them a disservice, with implications of amateurism and a certain shambolicism. Lizard Lounge is cranked up, the production direct, unfiltered, but they’re tight and everything is perfectly balanced. They know what they’re doing, and they fucking nail it here.

Bringing the intense blast of 80s hardcore but with a twist of humour (as titles like ‘Crop Circle Jerk’ and ‘Karma as a Tour Manager’ indicate), and elements of mania that so indeed call to mind Melvins and also contemporaries Cinema Cinema, they burst out of the traps at a hundred miles an hour with ‘Cemetery Slopestye’, a sub-two-minute punk roar that sounds like a full band.

‘Hairy Palms’ brings a loose swaggering groove and grunge pop flavour that combines Pulled Apart by Horses with DZ Deathrays, and this pretty much encapsulates the playful edge that brings light to the hefty riffery that defines their sound.

The aforementioned ‘Crop Circle Jerk’ is jaunty, almost indie, in its funk-tinged style, but its delivery is more like Melvins or JG Thirlwell covering Tom Waits, while ‘Molten Pig’ brings the sweaty, grungy heft of Tad: it’s dirty, dingy, the cyclical overdriven riff simple but effective and played hard and fast, while the vocals grunt and snarl, and it certainly captures the essence of that late 80s / early 90 Sub Pop sound. ‘Nerve Salad’ continues along the same vein. It’s not pretty, but it’s got a vital energy.

Likewise, ‘Be Kind, Have Fun, And Try Not to Die’, which is the poppiest song on here by a mile. Fuck me, I might even call it ‘anthemic’, but it’s anthemic in the way bands like, say, hawk Eyes’ do anthemic, and melds Kerrang! Radio with full metal edge that borders on a mid-90s Ministry kind of grind, and closer ‘Hydroponic Youth’ carries that Filth Pig vibe to the close.

It’s no criticism to say that for all the lyrical intents and purposes, this is an album you just allow to pummel you. The sentiments are articulated through the medium of sound more than the words themselves, the delivery of which conveys more power in context. Lizard Lounge is wild and loud and absolutely hits the spot.

AA

a3511453681_10

Ipecac Recordings –15th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because Melvins’ staggeringly prolific output clearly isn’t enough to keep singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne occupied, he’s gone and put out a second solo album, following on from 2014’s This Machine Kills. This time working with the equally prolific frequent collaborator and some-time Melvin Trevor Dunn, Buzzo offers up nine primarily acoustic songs.

The first thing to point out is that it doesn’t sound remotely like Mevins. There are some stoner / psychedelic twists spun in, but the overall vibe is one of brooding folk. Buzzo’s trademark full-lunged vocal I more often than not replaced by a hushed, breathy drawl. It’s pretty cool and works well in context. Solemn strings swoop and soar and cast long, lugubrious shadows over soft-strummed guitar: ‘Housing, Luxury’, Energy’ has the guitar feel of one of Nirvana’s acoustic songs, but tears into a heft chorus that growls and lurches hard.

There are some moments where the simplicity is stunning in itself: sometimes, when stripping things right, right back, there is time and space to bask in tones and the way notes resonate. There is a rare beauty in the way acoustic notes hang in the air, the details of how a harder or softer pick or strum varies the intonation. And we get this often on Gift Of Sacrifice: the sparse instrumentation is magnificent, notably on the rolling ‘Delayed Clarity’, but across the album a whole it’s a feature. ‘Science in Modern America’ finds Osborn growl-crooning over a cyclical chord sequence. It’s kinda sci-fi, it’s kinda dystopian and suddenly kinda now. Elsewhere, and in contrast, ‘Mock She’ is some kind of drunk country, and the depths and layers of Gift Of Sacrifice continue to reveal themselves, meaning that what may superficially appear ordinary is, in fact, pretty warped.

So, yes, this being Buzzo, things do weird out in places – many places, if truth be told – like on the brief interlude that is ‘Junkie Jesus’, and the frantic warped string frenzy that is the outro, ‘Acoustic Junkie’. Then there’s the fact that the portentous strum of ‘Bird Animal’, to all intents and purposes a psychedelic acoustic motoric minus percussion, dissolves into fluttering R2D2 bleeps a minute or so before the end. Like the way ‘Mock She’ descends into frenzied free jazz for 30 seconds in the middle, while fractured distortion obliterates the vocals in the final verses. You envisage Buzzo sitting in the studio with the producer, leaning over and twiddling knobs here there and everywhere, and everyone present shouting ‘just leave everything alone!’ But of course, then it wouldn’t have that unique twist that transforms some solid songs into works of warped genius. And that’s precisely what this is.

AA

127646

Cruel Nature Records – 9th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature clearly aren’t going for a major cash-in with this release, a 12-years-after-the-fact album containing the final recordings of a band who, while building a cult national following during their existence between 2002 and 2008, were predominantly a local phenomenon in their stomping grounds around Gateshead. Which means you may be forgiven for not being entirely au fait with Marzuraan and their work, of if you haven’t been o the edge of your seat and dripping with anticipation for this limited-to-75-copes cassette compendium.

For those not up to speed (and I’ll include myself here), the potted history of Marzuraan is that they started out as the duo of Pete Burn (guitar) and Lee Stokoe (Culver) (bass) before evolving into a full band with the introduction of Rob Woodcock (drums) and Stu Ellen (voice). ‘Taking their cue from bands such as Melvins; Black Flag; Harvey Milk; Earth; Godflesh and Loop, they soon cemented themselves as a pivotal band in the North East’s burgeoning Drone-rock / Trudge-core scene. Revered locally with a strong cult following nationally, they released 3 studio albums, appeared on countless compilations and split records influencing bands such as Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, before disbanding in 2008’. The title, therefore, is on point and self-aware to the max. But t’s never too late, right?

The recordings here – apart from two tracks which featured on an obscure compilation and split 7” back in the day – represent their final cuts, dating back to 2005 and 2006, and they’ve lain neglected in the proverbial vaults ever since.

But if anything, the timing couldn’t be better: what goes around comes around, and heavy music is very much enjoying a renaissance right now, and the north-east scene is also thriving thanks to various acts associated with microlabels represented by Cruel nature and Panurus Recordings.

It’s the seven-minute ‘Morphine Waterfall’ from the Mare Nero compilation that introduces the release, and it’s a dislocated, angular dirge of a tune that plods and trudges disconsolately through barren territory that alludes to early Swans and 90s Touch and Go, along with peer obscuritants like Oil Seed Rape and Zoopsia: it’s grunge distilled and chilled to sub-zero and as it builds toward the end, the guitars become increasingly discordant, while the snarling, rapping vocal becomes increasingly desperate.

It’s Tar and Girls Against Boys that come to mind through the low-end murk of the chunky riff grind of ‘Golden Roman’, and everything is there for a killer tune but the recording, despite having been remastered last year prior to release. It’s as muddy as hell. It doesn’t actually detract, for what I’s worth, and in many ways is integral to the gritty, lo-fi charm.

It very much sets the level: ‘Muckbucket’ and ‘Blowin’ Cool Breeze’ are built around thumping, repetitive riffs, but the guitars are trebly and skew off at divergent angles.

The final track, ‘Moneybox’, which previously featured on a record split with SINK is a doomy trudge that pushes the influence of early Melvins to the fore as it crawls in a sea of howling feedback and a 23bpm percussive trudge that’s paired with a gut-quiveringly downtuned bass. It’s ace. If you can cope with infinite suspense between drum beats and the striking of a single chord, that is.

Ten Years Too Late shows that Marzuraan were both a band of their time, and a band ahead of their time, sounding utterly contemporary now. Maybe it’s time for a reunion…

AA

bandcamp

Svart Records – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The Portland two-piece described as purveyors of ‘noisy metal’ haven’t wasted time on naming their third album, which lands five years on from 2014’s Here in the Deadlights, and have instead focused on the contents and rendering it as maximalist as possible. There are a fair few duos around at the moment who manage to conjure a full-band sound. It’s impressive, but how do they do it? Big amps and lots of pedals is the usual answer, but with these guys, there’s got to be something more. I mean, the sound is huge. In fact, no, it’s way bigger than huge. Alchemy. It’s gotta be.

The album’s five songs are all at least seven minutes long, and are, without exception, hefty as hell riffmongous monsters, the noisy metal style being very much of the sludgy stoner persuasion, with Melvins being the most obvious and appropriate touchstone. But they’re no half-arsed style appropriators: there’s a lot going on here, and there’s a slew of other elements in the mix. Punk and psychedelia may sound like an awkward combination, but they pull them together effortlessly, along with a dose of really gritty thrash.

‘Caveman Waltz’ doesn’t sound like it’s actually in waltz-time, but steps up from a lumbering knuckledragger of a riff to doubling the tempo halfway through and thrashing out an uptempo throb with spiralling lead fretwork weaving a sonic mesh over the thumping percussion as the vocals go full-throated holler mode.

And they’ve got tricks galore up their (wizard’s) sleeves. The twelve-minute ‘Funeral of the Sun’ melds black metal and prog to create an expansive piece that rages and snarls but also features moments of rich atmosphere and strong melody.

Closer ‘V’ drives in hard with the most overtly thrash riff, but the vocals go all psych and the lead line is mathy and then… my head’ spinning with all of it after just a minute and a half. Nine minutes in and it’s all over.

You’ll likely often read that metal is running out of ideas, and that doomy / stoner / sludge has become a predictable parody of itself. And it’s not entirely untrue. But then an act like Wizard Rifle will present themselves and completely smash all preconceptions with a blend of killer riffs and wild innovation. Here, Wizard Rifle prove that there’s still a lot of ground to be explored through permutation and hybridity, delivering an album that’s solidly rooted in familiar territories, but at the same time explores new ground and doesn’t sound quite like anything else. At least, nothing I’ve yet heard.

AA

Wizard Rifle – Wizard Rifle

As we eagerly await the 31st May release of their debut LP Honey, Lungbutter have shared another advance track from the album. “Intrinsic” is a foreboding, slow burn, finding a doomy three-note pattern of guitar crud and slow, caustic vocal lines to build thick tension, before careening towards explosive release punctuated by vocalist Ky Brooks’ most impassioned and full-throated shouts. It’s a tightly-wound, thrilling complement to previously-released Honey track “Flat White”.

Montréal trio Lungbutter serves up an exhilarating and relentless barrage of astringent noise-punk, at times refracted variously through sludge rock and slowcore. Kaity Zozula’s tri-amped guitar squall occupies a huge tonal space from low-end bass to paint-peeling treble, redolent of blown-out Melvins/Flipper fuzz and indebted to the frenetic dissonance of Keiji Haino or Merzbow. Song structures coalesce around guitar riffs of shifting tempos and the backbone of Joni Sadler’s muscular, deliberate drums, while Ky Brooks’ wry phenomenological sing-speak vocals – at once mantric and declarative – deconstruct one brilliant lyrical theme after another, dancing along the knife-edge of dispassionate acerbic examination and wide-eyed cathartic revelation.

Listen to ‘Intrinsic’ here:

AA

Lungbutter - Intrinsic

Uneasy listening trio Under have unveiled their new video for latest single ‘Malcontent’.

When asked on the theme behind the song, the band stated: “Andy (Preece – drums, vocals) came up with this suitably grinding, droning riff while bored out of his mind waiting outside a changing room. As we arranged the overall tine, adding Mayo’s signature noise and our usual uneasy rhythmic approach, we tried to accentuate that feeling of anxious horror and discomfort as much as we could. To reflect this feeling I wrote the lyrics to invoke that sickly desperation apparent in anybody hungry for power.

Their new album, Stop Being Naïve, is available now from APF Records.

Under are a trio from Stockport, Greater Manchester. Formed in 2016. Though rooted in the blueprints of Sludge and Doom Metal, their sound is harder to pin down with elements of Prog, Noise and Avant Garde creeping in. Under play with jagged, slow, off kilter riffs that tease the listener into a false sense of security with dark and abstract lyricism evoking a trippy and sinister unease. The trio cite the likes of Swans, Mr. Bungle, The Melvins and Radiohead as prime influences.

Watch the video for ‘Malcontent’ here:

AA

Under Oct 2018