The Melvins - A Walk With Love & Death

by James Gerard Rating:9 Release Date:2017-07-07

With an endearing penchant for doing whatever the fuck they want, the Melvins have been cranking out records for over thirty years now.   And while they may be a couple of decades removed from their major-label heyday, the band’s switch to the indie-powerhouse Ipecac back at the turn of the century was the beginning of what would arguably become their most artistically prolific period.  And the one mainstay through it all, the one-of-a-kind Buzz (a.k.a. King Buzzo) Osbourne himself, has somehow managed to keep the ship steadily on a course for which only he seems to know the destination, despite numerous lineup changes and an ever changing musical landscape.

On the heels of the surprisingly well-executed Basses Loaded, the Melvins return with the aptly titled A Walk With Love & Death, a double-album that finds the band pairing a standard full-length (Death) full of soon-to-be classics with a film score (Love) for the Jesse Nieminen-directed short film by the same name.  While the Melvins have been no strangers to grandiose projects, A Walk With Love and Death finds the band brazenly marching into all kinds of new sonic territory.

Death, the ‘band’ portion of this package, is an appropriately fierce slab of vintage Melvins.  Tracks like the nearly seven-minute album opener “Black Heath” and the tripped-out “Sober-Delic” find the band in full on stoner-rock mode, while the chaotic “Euthanasia” and the blistering “What’s Wrong With You” tread more familiar sonic waters.  The pummeling “Flaming Creature” and appropriately titled “Cactus Party” carry the momentum right on through to the end, with the brief album closer “Cardboro Negro” perhaps serving as the album’s only low point.

As for the ‘score’ half of this package, Love is chock full of creepy, shudder-inducing moments of tension and drama.  For those familiar with Osbourne’s work with the Mike Patton project Fantomas, there are definitely some similarities here; especially in the way the band cleverly utilizes the otherwise restrictive ‘guitar-bass-drums’ ingredients in new and excitingly cinematic ways.  Love is best taken in as a whole, where titles like “Aim High”, “Chicken Butt” and “Park Head” serve more as strategic points of division in what is otherwise an otherworldly sonic-collage.

While it might be tempting to toss the score aside in favor of the proper album, both halves of this collection benefit from each other, with Love serving as a grotesque overture of sorts for one of the most focused collection of songs the Melvins have ever released.  A Walk With Love and Death is a challenging record in all the right ways; and for a band that has been around as long as the Melvins, albums like this are to be commended, as the band is clearly not interested in garnering new fans, but rather, seems hell bent on daring their audience to stick around and see what’s next.

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