By Bill Adams
Oh, what a strange race Buzz Osborne and The Melvins have run. Since first appearing on the popular radar as “the band Nirvana looked up to” and grinding out a peculiar, Concentrated strain of grunge that actually teetered on the line between “grunge” and “sewage” to spontaneously evolving into a metal band around 1999, listeners have never exactly known what they can expect next, but know enough to walk into each successive record with eyebrows already raised. 2008’s Nude With Boots found the band finally hammering the finishing touches into their toxic stew of grind-grunge and Eighties metal with loose sprinklings of Sabbath-y stoner rock interspersed so anyone familiar with the band’s previous working procedures knew to expect something completely different on whatever might come next, but no one could have possibly guessed that it would sound like The Bride Screamed Murder.
From the very beginning of the metallic but vocally driven and syncopated opening track, “The Water Glass,” things get very weird for The Melvins and listeners that thought they had the band pigeonholed. Listeners will be completely confused and wonder what the hell they’re hearing as drummer Dale Crover winds up an imposing military march over which Osborne (joined by drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren) to issue gang call-and-response vocals that sound a lot like Drill Sergeant commands or a varsity football team trying to psyche itself up for a big game. Coming from The Melvins, such collegiate posturing will be disorienting to listeners, but it will also keep them hypnotized; on the list of things that any fan would have expected of The Melvins, “The Water Glass” would never appear. The going doesn’t get any more normal as the tinkling bells of “Evil New War God” sound and are then dropped into guitar figures reminiscent of Tom Morello’s work with Rage Against The Machine and some synths imply an undeniably gothic angle.
What the hell is the band doing here?
Pig House” is the pay-off that makes The Melvins’ desired goal with The Bride Screamed Murder clear; on this album, the band has taken every classic rock moment they can think of – from “Stonehenge” style drumming to very Rush-ish prog rock theatrics to their own permutation of Queen’s Greek chorus vocals to the attenuated displays that only grunge was able to make anthemic – and combined them all into a surprisingly seamless amalgam. Even more surprising is that it actually works! On The Bride Screamed Murder, not only do The Melvins illustrate that they have the chops (both vocal and instrumental) to pull off an enormous production like this, but they also prove they can do it without losing one ounce of themselves to the process. At every turn through songs including “Electric Flower,” “Hospital Up” and “Inhumanity And Death,” listeners will be shocked that the band is able to pull these dramatic shifts off but, not only that, pull them off and still sound like The Melvins. Osborne, for example, has never been known for his singing but he performs melodies assumed to be well beyond his ability incredibly well here; in the same vein, Crover’s drums have never been as consistent OR adventurous as they are here. Finally, Warren issues a set of lines in songs like the cover of “My Generation” and “Pig House” that actually propel the proceedings forward rather than just holding them down. All of these elements qualify as the stuff that listeners couldn’t have expected of this band. Who would have thought that, after almost thirty years plumbing the sub-basement of every sound they’ve attempted, The Melvins would be capable of making a record of even close to the quality that The Bride Screamed Murder flaunts? That this band is able to knock listeners for a loop as they do here isn’t just a commendable effort, it is a marvellous achievement. Bravo.
Review courtesy of groundcontrolmag.com