Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Melvins(Lite) - Freak Puke

Melvins(Lite) - Freak Puke
Genre: Metal/Alternative
Rating: 5/10

The Melvins were spawned way back 1983. Since then the band have never ceased working hard, putting out albums and constantly touring. In their long career they have been championed by hundreds of more commercially successful bands as a huge influence and some have even claimed they are partly responsible for the creation of "Grunge" and "Sludge". In more recent years after firing yet another bassist the Melvins amalgamated with two man metal powerhouse Big Business taking on Jared Warren on bass and Coady Willis as 2nd drummer. This partnership saw the Melvins release some of their most celebrated works to date, however with Big Business still remaining an active independent project it was only a matter of time before a scheduling clash. Melvins(Lite) then is the combination of King Buzzo, Dale Crover and Trevor Dunn on bass.

The first thing that long term Melvins fans will realise when they listen to Freak Puke is the use of stand up bass in place of electric bass guitar. As a result of this the whole album has more of a soft sound than usually employed with Crover's usual frantic mindmelting drums taking on a much more conservative style. Similarly King Buzzo's guitar work is more ambient and toned down throughout the record to give the bass a helping hand to stand out in the mix. The end result is a very quiet but tightly calculated album with a lot of imagination something that can only really be compared to the bands work on previous experimental album The Bootlicker. Whilst this release definitely shows the band are still capable of fresh ideas you can't help but feel that something is missing somehow. Whilst the guitar work is still solid throughout the album it feels so restrained at points it can become quite frustrating and you're left wondering why they had to trade off big vicious riffs for a quirkier bass sound. It's not all bad though and there are still a handful of listenable tracks like the subdued  "A Growing Disgust" which see's the Melvins on perfect form with slow reverby guitars and interesting drums. Other highlights include "Leon Versus The Revolution" which see's King Buzzo's mean riffs and sneering vocals drowning out the silly standing bass noodlings which mar the record somewhat. Whilst Freak Puke is not the Melvins worst album it is definitely a step back from the quality of their work in recent years.

Overall Freak Puke is a fairly mediocre album from a band capable of better. Whilst there are a handful of nice tracks the majority of the record is dogged by the need to allow the bass to stand out. Definitely a record you should try before you spend your hard earned cash on it.

Download: "A Growing Disgust" "Leon Versus The Revolution"

Undersmile - Narwhal

Undersmile - Narwhal
Genre: Metal/Sludge
Rating: 9/10

Sludge has had quite a prolific revival over the past few years slowly expanding and overtaking Post-Metal as the latest big trend in the alternative metal scene. Unfortunately as soon as a sound becomes lucrative there is always throngs of copycats who do nothing but ride on the coat tails of other more successful artists. Thankfully that cannot be said of Oxford quartet Undersmile who have been slowly creating waves and solidifying a stellar reputation on the underground metal circuit. Narwhal is the bands highly anticipated debut LP and was released earlier this year on Future Noise Recordings. Running in at just shy of the 80 minute mark Narwhal is a huge album soaked in dread.

The bands sound whilst very characteristic of the genre retains a unique identity thanks to the singing talents of their two female vocalists and guitarists, Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown. Whilst many of the bands peers seem to rely solely on guttural roars Undersmile temper this with haunting almost choral dual melodies that help create the albums dark atmosphere. The rhythm section is a fairly standard sludge affair, fuzzy and sinister bass grooves unfurl at a snails pace whilst crashing cymbals keep time like some ungodly metronome. The riffs on display are slow, crushing behemoths of distortion that only relent occasionally, giving way to sparse and airy melodic interludes, before throwing you headfirst back into the firing line. Whilst this is undoubtedly not an album for the faint hearted somehow in spite of its fearsome dark atmosphere and its exceptionally long tracks it is quite an easy album to be hypnotized by. Highlights include the 16 minute masterpiece "Myra" which showcases all of Undersmile's strengths, slow burning vitriolic guitar, shifting time signatures and a combination of melodic vocals and blood curdling roars. "Berk" is another stand out track with its minimalistic beginning slowly building pace to a harrowing conclusion. The only downside to the whole album is that it is very much something that needs to be enjoyed as a whole rather than something you can just drop into. This isn't really a criticism though as it speaks to the strength of the atmosphere of all encompassing doom that they have strived to create.

Overall Narwhal is one of the most powerful and accomplished debuts I've heard in a long time. I would highly recommend it to anyone into Sludge, Metal or Doom. Highly recommended.

Download: "Myra" "Lockjaw"

Open for business

After a mammoth hiatus which has seen me completely stop writing blogs for nearly a year I've decided to pick up and carry on.

If any bands out there would like me to review any material they are releasing just email me a link and I'll get on it.