Posts Tagged ‘Melvins’

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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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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