Melvins @Gorilla, Manchester
Alejandro De Luna
A venue like the Gorilla seems the right place for a group like the Melvins. It is a small cavern under Manchester’s industrial railway tracks. There’s no division between the stage and the audience, and there’s this gloomy red lightning reminiscent of the obscene scenes in Irréversible when the band hit the stage. But before the Melvins, the mighty Dale Crover and Steve McDonald (the Melvin‘s current bass player) warm up with Redd Kross, the opening act on the current tour.
To be at a Melvins show is to witness pure musical history. They are still too radical and weird for the mainstream industry, but way too important to be ignored. This is one of the most imitated bands in the last 30 years. They are also one of the most influential, if not the most important, band coming from the American underground movement during the 80s.
After more than three decades and an overwhelmingly prolific catalogue only comparable to other misfits like The Fall, the Melvins remain untouched by commercial banalities and short-lived music fashions. They remain true to their unique sound, art and vision. Onstage they are a force of nature that is hard to describe.
A few years back, King Buzzo defined the sound of the band as “heavy metal Captain Beefheart”, but this definition comes way too short. The thing with the Melvins is that they sound like no one else. They create their own microcosm where thick riffage, loud tension and forceful drumming blast your eardrums like no other band. You have the obvious reminiscences to hardcore punk, sludge, heavy metal, hard rock, psychedelia, grunge, stoner and doom but the soundscapes created by the Melvins avoid simplistic categorisations.
“Maybe in a hundred years all bands will sound like the Melvins” – Kris Novoselic
The gig lasts no more than 80 minutes. King Buzzo, dressed in a long black robe, plays only when necessary and allows Dale Crover and Steve McDonald to fill the space and create the dense and heavy atmosphere. There’s some colossal Sabbathesque riffs, but also lethargic moments in songs like ‘Hung Bunny’ that contrast with the powerful renditions of ‘Oven’ and ‘It’s Shoved’. There’s also tributes to Flipper, The Beatles and David Bowie in pure Melvins fashion, and a couple of news songs from their latest album, A Walk With Love & Death.
With the Melvins it is more about the act as a concept of visceral art rather than a conventional rock show with a setlist of fan favourites. The Melvins as a unit is a unique and unpredictable machine of musical precision, experimentation and vehement energy.
The crowd leaves the venue with ringing ears and outside the cavern life goes back to normal in Manchester after less than 80 minutes of fearless noise.
Melvins‘ A Walk With Love & Death is out now.