(The) Melvins are under the classification of “Sludge Metal” (confirmed by my wise colleague, Luke Bradley), and were in fact pioneers of the sub-genre. They are known for their distinct combination of doom metal and punk rock.Their influence is heard amongst the likes of other Seattle bands, including Nirvana, and drone metal icons, Earth and Sunn O))). While these ambiguous classifications of genre suggest that Melvins produce dark or even morbid music, the Melvins do so with a sense of ironic humor.
Their show personified their unique ability to seamlessly blend hardcore genres with a “tongue in cheek” stage performance. The first thing I noticed was their amplification set up. A barrier of amps divided the stage in half, most of which were notoriously powerful brands, such as Sunn O))) (not to be confused with the previously mentioned drone metal band) or Marshall. I anticipated powerful, bone rattling, low frequency rumbles from both guitarists, and I got it. When the band began their set, it was not the volume that stole my attention, but instead, the ridiculously outlandish appearance of the trio. Steven Shane McDonald (bass) and Dale Crover (drums) entered the stage first, in matching black t-shirts, bedazzled with their respective roles in the band. Crover’s hair was reminiscent of an 1980’s hard rock band, as were McDonald’s fingerless leather gloves. Then, Buzz Osborne, a.k.a. King Buzzo, entered wearing a robe, covered in Egyptian style script-eyes that shrouded the entirety of his body. His signature hair protruded at least three inches above his head. It was as if he were a cartoon character who had been struck by lightning. The whole image could have been something straight out of the cult classic “Spinal Tap”.
Melvins begin their set with a drone driven sort of warm-up, with McDonald providing a constant kick drum thump, interjecting with thunderous strikes to his drum kit. Buzzo improvised on electric guitar, alternating between heavy power chords and high shrieks on the guitar’s upper register. He paced around the microphone in an anticlimactic manner for upwards of ten to fifteen minutes, before stepping up to the mic to sing the first song. His characteristic combination between of a growl and a shout were juxtaposed quite humorously by his comical outfit. King Buzzo and McDonald traded off vocals, with McDonald’s more melodic tenor providing contrast to Buzzo’s shouts.
Melvins mixture of hardcore with humor materialized in the audience. A mosh pit formed at the sound of the first chord, and continued through the finale. Men and women of all ages, most of which who fit the stereotype of “metalhead” flung their bodies at one another, and I do believe that I saw a few punches thrown. Each time a mosher was thrown to the ground, a herd of fellow moshers would rush to their side, to sling them back on their feet. The fallen was usually met with a group bear hug and smiles, before being thrown back into the madness. This cycle that continued for the duration of the performance is a great way to summarize what the entirety of my experience at the Melvin’s show was like.
Written by Phillip Greene
You can also catch Phillip’s show Sound & Color, Tuesdays at 9PM only on CisternYard Radio.