The Melvins’ story over the past quarter century reads like the acid-fried fiction of Ken Kesey or the theater of the absurd of Kurt Vonnegut. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne in the early ‘80s, The Melvins started out playing Jimi Hendrix and Cream covers, moved to Hardcore Punk then tried their hand at Slowcore, their love of Black Flag coming out more like Black Sabbath.
The Melvins were an enormous influence on the Seattle scene, especially on Kurt Cobain. When Nirvana broke wide, a good many fans (and Atlantic Records) checked out the band based on Cobain’s fervent recommendation. And regardless of label affiliation, whether corporate giant or basement-run indie, The Melvins’ approach has typically been the same: a disdain for conventionality and slabs of monolithic guitar mayhem with a physical presence as palpable and imposing as the obelisk in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Certainly no one could accuse The Melvins of subtlety, but on their latest, The Bride Screamed Murder, Osborne and the current iteration of the band (bassist Jared Warren, new drummer Coady Willis and original drummer Dale Crover) opt for an interesting experimentalism. The opening track, “The Water Glass,” veers between The Melvins’ standard Hardcore-meets-Sludge-Metal and a Marine drill instruction workout, while its follow-up, “Evil New War God,” adheres to a similar path, with Osborne’s doomy riffs holding an odd back and forth conversation with his drummers’ thunderous fills toward the song’s climax. With “Pig House,” Osborne crafts a credible hybrid of Rush and Andrew W.K. and “I’ll Finish You Off” comes off like a Doom Sludge one act play conceived by Alice Cooper and Les Claypool in a Metal tribute to Frank Zappa.
In fact, much of the second half of The Bride Screamed Murder plays out in a similar fashion as the band’s blistering riffmongering gives way to oddly structured interludes or little sonic asides, almost a Stoner Metal approximation of Jazz (particularly their menacing take on The Who’s “My Generation”), making this one of The Melvins’ more weirdly accessible albums.