The first double album from everyone's favorite sludge sickos will take you on a proper, fucked up trip.
August 8, 2017 | by Jocelyn Hoppa
A Walk with Love and Death
Believe it or not, the Melvins have evolved over the last almost-30 years. King Buzzo now switches rather effortlessly from a standard black band t-shirt and black button-down to donning high-collared smocks with trippy imagery of eyes or a rainbow of donkeys. Elements of jazz fusion and roots rock have cropped up, such as the jazzy “Planet Destructo” on last year’s Basses Loaded and country cover of “Ramblin’ Man” on The Crybaby. Enduring fans kinda shrug — “Oh, yeah, he is doing that now” — and that’s basically it. The pace of their output has only gained speed over the last decade, and while the music grows sludgier and sludgier, they’ve grown more experimental, too. But with the Melvins, weird isn’t only expected, it’s a benchmark. And yet, their relationship to the greater fanbase will always be somewhat complicated. Even Buzzo himself stated the band loses 20% of its fans with each record they put out.
A Walk with Love and Death may be the band’s first double album, and the outcome is likely to be no different. The double disc still features nine slow, trudging doom songs about death matched here with 14 cacophony noise arrangements about love. Where the Death disc is direct-to-the-matter Melvins milieu, Love criss-crosses from extemporized ‘70s variety show songs, circus din, spaced-out soundscapes, bloops, bleeps, noise, non-noise, and various vocal samplings.
If the Melvins only put out the album’s worth of material here that is Death, there’d surely be complaints that it sounds a little watered down (via folks still holding out for the second coming of Houdini). Album opener “Black Heath” is more of a meditative jam and though good not exactly compelling either. But don’t cast off Death based on this first impression, because there is good stuff buried further down the line. “Euthanasia” slow-drives on wholly satisfying dank, oozing Sabbath riffs and “Flaming Creature” is the Melvins at their fast/slow best. The real standout track is “Christ Hammer” — this ain’t yer prototypical sludge, or grunge, but pure, kickass Melvins set on epic mode. Taken as a whole, even in the more undemanding moments, Death is a proper Melvins album.
As for Love, it’s a soundtrack to a film short directed by Jesse Nieminen (trailer below). Love kicks off with “Aim High” (don’t we all), and the listening pleasure that was Death devolves into a tripped-out, demented mess (perhaps a play on the concept that “love is a drug” — in this case, Love stayed up for days on high-powered LSD, meth and, why not, a tank of nitrous). Amongst all the hubbub, there are brief moments of actual music spliced in, and they’re a welcomed form of relief. Tracks like “Street Level St. Paul,” “Give It to Me,” and “Scooba” all make me wish I was in the room hanging out with a band having that much weird fun. The rest, however, makes me want to run away… fast. “Eat Yourself Out” is over the five-minute mark and it’s all hallucinatory noise (as are some relationships).
A Walk with Love and Death was obviously a huge undertaking, and is the most terrifying affair we’ve seen with the Melvins. That being said, much of what we relate to the band will stay a constant: vinyl completists will own multiple copies, mildly stoned and delightfully bewildered fans will stay mostly dedicated, and budding sludge enthusiasts will emerge from their basement holes only to hibernate again until the next one.
Watch the Trailer
Listen to "Christ Hammer"