MELVINS — A Walk With Love & Death (review)

MELVINS — A Walk With Love & Death album cover Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Metal Music Archives Reviewers' Challenge December 2017

There are two things you can be certain of when it comes to a Melvins album. The first is that there will be big, fat, warm, fuzzy grooves within. The second is, it’s gonna be a bit fuckin’ weird too. “A Walk With Love and Death” delivers just that. In fact, this is a double album, with the “Love” disc being the soundtrack to Jesse Nieminen’s short film, “A Walk with Love & Death”, just to confuse things a little more. The “Death” disc is a more conventional Melvins album. Well, as conventional as The Melvins ever get, that is.

So… Let’s start with “Death”. “Black Heath” kicks off the album, suitably laid back, with a cool bass line, snappy drums, and a little distortion on the vocals, like a whacked out C.O.C. It is pleasant, and unchallenging, a nice way to start an album, and a nice way to lure you into a false sense of security. “Sober-delic” continues in a similar vein, like King Buzzo and the gang were particularly blissed out when they recorded this. However, the vocals are cleaner and a bit more menacing, and finally someone steps on an effects pedal, and there’s some proper amplified guitars. The pace is still pedestrian, but the song hints at heavier things to come. A dirty echoing solo pulls it all together nicely. Yep, this is sounding like The Melvins.

Third track “Eunthanasia” removes any doubt. It kicks straight in with the famous fuzzy guitar, the understated, yet powerful riffs, and the oblique lyrics. It is still a Mogadon shuffle of a song, but a screaming, discordant lead guitar scythes through it, and destroys any pretence of this being a song to nod out to.

“What’s Wrong With You?” sounds like what a long lost mutant Beatles demo might have sounded like if The Beatles had formed in Seattle in 1986. “Edgar The Elephant” and “Flaming Creature” are both reasonably typical tweaked out stoner tracks, while “Christ Hammer” has a hard edged, Clutch-esque sound with a lush psychedelic chorus as counter-point. The big, fat groove of “Cardboa Negro” ties up all the loose ends, and eventually winds down like a wind-up toy coming to the end of the kinetic energy being released from its spring.

It’s all good mind-bending, warped fun. It’s a THC trip for the non-stoner, or a picture of a hallucination for a mind firmly rooted in reality, and like any really good album, leaves you wanting more.

However, that’s as far as fuzzy grooves go. It’s time for “Love”, which has more of an ambient/incidental/experimental feel. Yes, it’s still weird, like only The Melvins can do weird, but it’s mood music, and after “Death”, the change of mood is not so much jarring as dissatisfying. It’s all well and good, and very creative and clever, but is probably better suited for a separate listening at a different time.

Anyway, how do you describe a movie soundtrack? Well, basically, this paints pictures in your mind. There’s minor confusion (“Aim High”), unsettling menace (“Queen Powder Party”), and tension building to terror (“Street Level St Paul”). Indistinct ghost in the machine voices run through the soundtrack, on the edge of conscious understanding, but remaining subliminal gibberish. “Give It To Me” pops up like a lysergic acid diethylamide version of The Monkees. “Eat Yourself Out” is a less-horrific-Throbbing-Gristle exercise in loops and noise, perhaps leaning toward something like Bastard Noise. “Scooba” is a fucked-up beatnik interlude, with a freaky jazz bassline- hey cats, bring on the reefer, the beret, and the upright double bass!

Large parts of the soundtrack eschew the more traditional instruments, instead throwing in theremin and synths, along with what is described as “assorted noise”, so fuck only knows how those sounds were made. Guitar, bass, and drums occasionally poke through, but often buried under layers of soundscape, or as incidental distortion.

The whole effect of “Love” is disturbing and compelling at the same time, but perhaps most importantly, creates a strong desire to see what the fuck is actually going on and what visuals match these sounds. It is by no means an easy listen, and not necessarily rewarding either. For most listeners, it will not get near as many repeat spins as “Death”. It is probably a good thing “Love” was attached to “Death”, because for all of The Melvin’s past exercises in weirdness and off the wall oddity, “Love” may just have been too much to handle as a stand-alone album.

So there you go. If you thought you had The Melvins nailed down, you may as well have been trying to nail a plate of spaghetti Bolognese to the wall.
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Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I really liked the actual Melvins album. I couldn't stomach the movie soundtrack though.
Nightfly wrote:
more than 2 years ago
For some reason I don't think I've ever listened to a Melvins album right through - heard bits here and there and liked them but that's about it. I must get around to checking them out properly. Good review!
UMUR wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Ha ha as eclectic as always. I love the Melvins.

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