Melvins - Bullhead
Sludge Metal
8 songs (35 Mins)
Release year: 1991
Reviewed by Dee
Archive review

The Melvins are a rather notorious band, but I'll recap for you; they were one of the first groups to take the slow post-punk style and pulverise it into sludge metal, forcing every element of their sound to be as laborious and crushing as possible. They also inadvertantly influenced grunge, but we can hardly hold that against them. King Buzzo, the guitarist and vocalist for the Melvins is possibly better known for a) his eccentric afro and b) playing guitar with the avant-garde group, Fantômas. The band has also featured Joe Preston, a man more influential in drone circles who went on to found Earth and Thrones, along with the stoner doom band High on Fire. Despite multiple line up changes, the band is still going strong.

On to this particular release, then. I've picked Bullhead as I find it to be their most consistent, straightforward effort; on many of their CDs they choose to meander in sound experiments or to inject humour, and there is none of that in evidence here. This is the best place to focus on their principal element: heaviness.

The first and crucial track, "Boris," opens with a simple yet nerve-dulling riff, played at a snail's pace. A heavily distorted, chromatic snail, at that. Dale Crover's drumming enters before too long, and each of his patterns is like a puzzle in itself; never consistent but always precise, always moving around the kit rather than being reliant upon the hi-hat. Sometimes a different beat in a section is emphasised, which helps to vary the oft-repeated riffs. At times it seems that the guitar is holding the rhythm while the drums are daydreaming, or possibly performing a well-synchronized soundcheck. Regardless, it works.

It's not until Buzzo's voice emerges from the sludge that you really understand the full picture; double-tracked meowing, wavering yelps attempting to express nonsensical, agrammatical lyrics that seem shrouded in menacing intent. Above all, the vocals are sung to sound like they are struggling to be heard over the music even though they are clearly audible, and this is an effect which bestows a soupy heaviness upon what would otherwise be a fairly empty track, devoid of a middle portion.

"Boris" continues for around seven minutes and then drops away, allowing the riff to return in a muted form, over which Buzzo performs a twisted growl an octave lower than earlier, wrestling with his voice box to complete the song, grinding his teeth and slowly spitting out his fragmented message. The song stops suddenly as if he'd finally run out of stamina and you wouldn't blame him if he had; try to get out of your chair once you've finished listening to this track.

The other songs proceed in much the same way; some bring slight bursts of speed but they are inevitably shorter, mere interludes compared to the behemoths that lurk on this CD. Interestingly, none of the songs last an inordinate amount of time as they simply don't need to, putting stoner doom bands who rely on half-hour tracks to shame. The last track, "Cow," ends with a labyrinth of a drum solo, during which it is impossible to turn off your stereo.

This CD would sit well in a stoner, sludge or drone aficionado's collection but honestly, it's probably there already. So I'd also recommend this to fans of kraut-rock, industrial, or any other form of music that is essentially stripped down to the crucial, percussive elements.

Killing Songs :
Boris, Ligature, Cow
Dee quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Melvins that we have reviewed:
Melvins - Everybody Loves Sausages reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Melvins - Freak Puke reviewed by Goat and quoted 74 / 100
Melvins - Stag reviewed by Crash and quoted 86 / 100
Melvins - The Bride Screamed Murder reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Melvins - Lysol reviewed by Phil and quoted no quote
To see all 7 reviews click here
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