Lustmord / Melvins

Pigs of the Roman Empire

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This time out, the Melvins have tapped noise and mood specialist Lustmord, and his presence is felt right from the beginning. Drawing a death's-head card from Lustmord solo efforts like 2000's Purifying Fire, Pigs of the Roman Empire begins with the creepy, crawly "III." Ambient bumps in the night punctuate the severe bottom end as a hissing waver builds with horribly steady precision -- it's like being caught in a bear trap as the machete-wielding maniac trudges closer and closer. The eventual "Bloated Pope" is much more the Melvins', er, speed. Though it's grounded in whip-smart rhythmic clarity and includes a soupy fog breakdown, it's still a choking, stuttering gigantor headed by a classicist King Buzzo vocal ("Insect from the crawling Mother!") and squalid wails of electric guitar. (Tool's Adam Jones is again part of the proceedings for Pigs.) The title track is a straight duet of Melvins' slime and Lustmord spook. It begins as an exercise in the latter's penchant for moody gloom. The fearsome, buttressed trickling space he builds suggests train stations surrendered to neglect, and knights in black satin. But that early passage gradually gives ground to a deliberate, tonal guitar solo, which is then swallowed by more dead starship moaning. This interplay continues throughout the track's latter half -- since it pushes past the twenty-minute mark, there's plenty of time to match the distortion sludge to cavernous spatial howling. Still, as arresting as Lustmord's soundscapes are, Pigs of the Roman Empire could've been louder. While the pounding stoner psychoses of "Pink Bat" and "Safety Third" are strong and great, their energy is sucked mightily into collapsed Lustmordian stars like "Idolatrous Apostate," or the untitled hidden track. The solution is probably to look at Pigs as an exploratory effort along the lines of Sunn 0))), whose own path led from churning metal freakery to haunting middle-earth alchemy. Either that, or the Melvins have given us a batch of field recordings made on the River Styx's wharf.

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