Tarantula Heart

rating icon 9 / 10

Track listing:

01. Pain Equals Funny
02. Working the Ditch
03. She's Got Weird Arms
04. Allergic to Food
05. Smiler

What you can always expect from the mighty MELVINS is the unexpected. Running four decades strong and boasting over 30 albums, the MELVINS have been responsible for some of the undergournd's most unique sounds, merging heavy metal, punk, doom, and rock, while influencing everyone from NIRVANA to EYEHATEGOD along the way. The foundational duo of frontman Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have been accompanied by bassist/vocalist Steven McDonald, best known from Los Angeles' RED KROSS, for nearly 10 years. For this new release, that trio is joined by legendary drummer Roy Mayorga, as well as guest artists, including guitarist Gary Chester from Austin's WE ARE THE ASTEROID. A veritable who's who list of luminaries may sound good and cool on paper, but considering the substantial creative capabilities at hand, it's worth mentioning because they help take the new, five-song effort, "Tarantula Heart", to a new level.

With "Tarantula Heart", the notorious madmen have upped the ante yet again by doling out some of their most accessible and, simultaneously, their wildest songs ever. While early MELVINS material, as insane as it was, had a relatively coherent approach that melded punk and doom, they eventually gravitated to an absurd level of studio experimentation, before continuing to surprise with each subsequent twist and turn. On the new release, the unit took a new approach. Buzz played his riffs with McDonald and had the dynamic drumming duo, comprised of Crover and Mayorga (who now plays with MINISTRY and whose resume includes SOULFLY, STONE SOUR and NAUSEA) play along with them. From those sessions Buzz wrote new music based upon what parts worked best, prior to Texan Gary Chester adding his own flavor. During those base jam sessions, the drummers would improvise their fills. The majority of the five-song album involves dual drum sections that are, according to the band, unedited. "Allergic To Food", for instance, bubbles forth with an unhinged BUNGLE-esque circus element that's explosive because of the rabid percussive trade-offs.

Sure, the gargantuan, 19-minute marathon "Pain Equals Funny" is definitely not going to be a terrestrial radio hit, but the opening song is clearly the album's centerpiece and has plenty of movements that would connect with the uninitiated. Picture your prim 'n' proper co-worker joining you for a night out, connecting with THE BEATLES caliber pop magic, while being baffled by the maddening noisy eccentricities. It's structured rock music in so many ways, psychedelic and insane at others. "She's Got Weird Arms" similarly marries hook-laden grandiosity with flourishes of psychotic avant-garde.

This deep into their career, it's mind-blowing that the MELVINS are this good, and that they are arguably better than ever with "Tarantula Heart". That's impressive for a band that never stands in place. They're set to tour very soon alongside label mates MR. BUNGLE. Patton and his cohorts need to be on top of their game, because the maniacs in the MELVINS have yet again pushed the envelope right off the table.

Author: Jay H. Gorania
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