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Melvins Tarantula Heart Review: The Naked Lunch Approach…

Naked Brunch How Buzzo Made The New Melvins Album
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The Melvins Tarantula Heart is an album that was not exactly planned, and that might be for the better! Today we explore an unconventional album from a legendary band.


The TL;DR Verdict

Melvins Tarantula Heart, A Tour De Force of Weirdness & Doom

Melvins Tarantula Heart is a lot like those albums by Miles Davis, except there are heavily distorted guitars and powerful riffs instead of horn solos. But does it work?


chris horton

I can see why everyone in the band is so proud of this album, and I hope to see them live when they hit Atlanta this year. It is rare for a band to still surprise their fans this far into their career, but the Melvins pull it off.

— Chris, ELECTRIKJAM

Key Takeaways

Best Track

Pain Equals Funny

Album Length

39 mins 48 seconds

Produced By

Toshi Kasai

Release Date:

April 19, 2024

ELECTRIKJAM RATING:

★★★


Tarantula Heart by Melvins – The Full Review

At this point, a band like the Melvins are literally their own genre. If you play guitar in a heavy band, you know a Melvins riff or two. Hell, they might have even taught you how to tune to Drop D!

I know that was what happened to me, at the age of 16. I sat down with a copy of the underappreciated Stoner Witch and tuned my guitar down to Drop D so I could learn the songs.

You would be surprised at just how many bands cite the Melvins as their primary influence. You will be even more surprised to find out that these bands sound nothing alike, but somehow all have an appreciation for the Melvins.

These days, the band is a monolith for musicians into heavy genres. We all look to Melvins albums for inspiration. The band has a no-nonsense ethos despite the legendary status, disregarding the “Rockstar” lifestyle and often mocking it.

This anti-hero, anti-excess ethic runs deep in most Punk bands, but it is something we rarely see in heavy music. The Melvins have always walked the line between mainstream and underground, much like Fugazi.


Our Favorite Track On The Album

You might have heard about the Melvins from people that talk about the early Seattle scene. The connection to Nirvana is a part of history now, but Buzz is here still making great music, and Kurt unfortunately is not.

Over time, the Melvins transcended the whole “Seattle Scene” label, and became more of a legend in the pantheon of Rock/Metal. We have covered a lot of topics about King Buzzo, starting at the beginning.

Buzz and Dale have been at this for a long time now, and their creativity is still flowing. Melvins live shows are still a sight to behold, and almost a religious experience for fans. They have never let up, never wavered, and certainly never let us down.

Over the last 30 albums, the band has changed out members, including tons of guest artists from other bands. Each album is always something new, fresh but familiar.

The Melvins are one of modern music’s most influential bands. Having formed in 1983 Montesano, Washington, the group founded by singer/guitar player Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, has been credited with merging the worlds of punk rock and heavy music, forming a new subgenre all its own.

Sometimes psychedelic, often silly, but almost always heavy… Melvins are in a league of their own.

So where do you go after 4 decades of albums, side-projects, and even some acoustic records? Well, Melvins Tarantula Heart answers that question with a wall of noise and heavy guitar riffs.

Melvins Tarantula Heart: Making The Album

melvins Tarantula Heart

I wouldn’t imagine that a band like the Melvins have a “normal” approach in the studio in any case, but usually, Buzz and the gang have at least a framework for each song. At the very least, a collection of riffs that can be arranged into a song.

Showing up to the studio without any songs written would usually be a HUGE mistake, but the Melvins decided to let that idea fuel their creative process.

What if you just show up to the studio, and play? No concepts or song ideas on the list, just record and see what happens? The band was excited to share the process:

Buzz: “Usually we have the songs written BEFORE we start recording!”

Steven: “An album so magical, I helped create it without knowing it was happening. It’s definitely the weirdest album I’ve ever been a part of.”

Dale:Tarantula Heart is like no other record we’ve made. A Heavy Metal, psychedelic beast that shows no leniency and no restraints!”

As a bonus, this one features double drums (Ministry’s Roy Mayorga guests), and We Are The Asteroid’s Gary Chester adds additional guitars.

This is a unique way to approach recording an album, and the result is one of the strangest albums from the band. But it also shows off their abilities to go from a structured song, to a total sonic freakout in the span of a few minutes.

“The way we approached Tarantula Heart was different than any other Melvins’ album,” explains Buzz Osborne. “I had Dale and Roy Mayorga come in and play along with Steven and I to some riffs, then I took those sessions and figured out what parts would work and wrote new music to fit. This isn’t a studio approach we’ve ever taken.”

“The majority of Melvins Tarantula Heart has dual drum parts,” adds long-time Melvins drummer Dale Crover. “We invited Roy Mayorga from Ministry to come record with us. Roy is an amazing drummer! We would discuss what we would do pattern wise, then we’d just go for it! Improvising riffs and trading off on drum fills.”

To top everything off, the album was recorded and produced by Toshi Kasai, a long-time collaborator with the band in other ventures like Plan D, and even the T-Fuzz pedal.

Drummer Mayorga said “We made several passes like this to create a foundation of different tempos, different colors and different textures, then Buzz wrote the craziest music to all these drum takes. Believe it or not the drum tracks are completely unedited!”

This process sounds like it could be a nightmare, but somehow the album comes together. Technically, everything was written “on the fly” but when you listen, it all sounds cohesive.

“When the rest of the band heard these songs I’d created from the sessions, they were blown away,” said Buzz. “These were fully developed new songs that they’d never heard before that had seemingly appeared out of thin air. Presto!”

This weird musical process created an album that sounds like musical magic in fact Melvins/Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald describes Tarantula Heart as “An album so magical, I helped create it without KNOWING it was happening. It’s definitely the weirdest album I’ve ever been a part of.”

Track By Track

Melvins Tarantula Heart was going to be a wild ride, no matter what in my mind. Every Melvins album is a wild ride, since Houdini, released over 30 years ago.

Since I knew the “trick” before listening, I expected it to be more like an “inspired jam session” than fully developed songs that make sense. Boy, was I ever wrong about that!

The song “Pain Equals Funny” kicks of the album with a ominous start. The sparse sounds slowly build into a fully-formed riff, with Buzz singing “I’m about to make you happy”. The band delivers on that promise.

This first track is a rare song for the Melvins, since it begins in a major key, with a soaring guitar riff. The keyboards, and vocal harmonies all start to build into a crescendo of chaos that is almost 20 minutes long.

The next track has been released already, and “Working The Ditch” sounds the most like a Melvins song, whatever that means. This track could have been on just about any of their records, and it is the closest you will get to a “standard” song on this album.

The other standout track to me is “Allergic To Food”. This could definitely be on one of Mike Patton’s projects, heavy and psychedelic, it never lets up. The vocals are absolutely nuts, and this is where having dual drummers really shines on the album.

On your first listen, let the album loop once. I did this while writing this article. It lines up perfectly if you have the album on repeat! The closing track “Smiler” goes right back into the opening track, at least it does for my ears.

I am not sure if this was intentional, but it is a cool feature. Toshi Kasai manages to somehow reign in the dual drummers, and the production really needs to be heard on good headphones.

I honestly did not know what to expect when it came to the concept, but it managed to surprise me. It has also inspired me greatly, since I have been writing an album, and painstakingly worrying about the arrangements.

Melvins Tarantula Heart is definitely now in my top 5 albums from the band. You can tell that every member had a blast making this project. It certainly doesn’t sound like an album from a band this late in their career.

Final Thoughts…

Naked Brunch How Buzzo Made The New Melvins Album

Upon my first listen, Melvins Tarantula Heart almost immediately reminded me of Miles Davis. The free-form composition, with dynamic shifts is something we usually only see in Jazz and Jam Bands.

But Jam Bands are meandering and annoying, even to fellow musicians. You have to know when to “reign it in” with a song, even if it is improv or free-form. The Melvins somehow pull this off without making it a chore to listen to.

I wrote this article before fully exploring the press kit, where Buzz talks about Davis being an inspiration for the album. But if that was what King Buzzo was going for, he nailed it.

Buzz says “Of course, I LOVE Miles Davis, especially the electric era records like On the Corner and Big Fun. Those records have been a massive influence on what I do for decades and they were a massive influence on Tarantula Heart.”

Melvins Tarantula Heart is a lot like those albums by Miles Davis, except there are heavily distorted guitars and powerful riffs instead of horn solos. But does it work?

I think it works, and Tarantula Heart is going to be a wild experience if the band decides to play these songs live during the upcoming Summer tour. Even if you are a long-time Melvins fan, there are surprises on this album for you.

I can see why everyone in the band is so proud of this album, and I hope to see them live when they hit Atlanta this year. It is rare for a band to still surprise their fans this far into their career, but the Melvins pull it off.

Long live the Melvins.


Album Credits

King Buzzo – Guitar, Vocals, Assorted Noise
Steven McDonald – Bass, Vocals
Dale Crover – Drums, Vocals
Roy Mayorga – Drums, ARP 2600
 
Special guests:
 
Gary Chester – Guitar
Gareth Turner – Vocals
Toshi Kasai – Backup Vocals
 
All music written by The Melvins
All lyrics written by King Buzzo
 
Produced by The Melvins and Toshi Kasai
Recorded and Mixed by Toshi Kasai at Sound of Sirens Studios, Los Angeles
Mastered by John Golden
 
Album Design & Illustration – Mackie Osborne

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