Melvins

A Walk with Love & Death

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Given the Melvins' long history, and their devotion to the tar-pit heaviness of '70s hard rock (in particular Black Sabbath), it seems odd that they've waited so long to deliver one of the standard benchmarks of a veteran rock band -- the thematically ambitious two-disc set. Billed as the first double album in the Melvins' three-plus-decade history, 2017's A Walk with Love & Death isn't so much an album long enough to require two discs as it is two albums that have been presented in one package, each with a very distinct aural personality. The first nine tracks of this package have been given the subtitle Death, and they sound very much like the Melvins, with plenty of crunchy downbeat guitar figures from King Buzzo, sharp and muscular drumming from Dale Crover, and thick, powerful basslines from Steven McDonald (who has adjusted well to full-time status after his part-time role with the band on 2016's Basses Loaded). "Black Heath" and "Sober-delic" are subtle by Melvins standards (with cleaner tones taking the place of the traditional fuzz), and "Christ Hammer" and "What's Wrong with You" suggest McDonald has brought a bit of Redd Kross' pop sensibility to these sessions. But "Euthanasia," "Cactus Party," and "Flaming Creature" leave no doubt that this band still has a firm command of all things heavy, and ultimately this is immediately recognizable as the Melvins. That is not at all the case with the 14 tracks under the subheading Love, which were created for an experimental film directed by Jesse Nieminen. Though the track "Give It to Me" features some rudimentary bashing from the group, the remainder of Love consists of non-melodic noise soundscapes, with random noodling combined with found sounds, unidentified ranting, sound effects, and electronic distortion. Without having seen the film, it's impossible to say how these pieces work in their original intended context, but on their own, they have a playfully sinister energy but remain effective for only so long, and as a complement for the Death half of the album, they wear out their welcome long before the last track is over. There's a very good Melvins album leading off A Walk with Love & Death, but the rest of it is only going to agree with a tiny numbers of fans, though it could make an effective musical backdrop for your next Halloween spook house.

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