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Melvins - Tarantula Heart (Album Review)

Wednesday, 24 April 2024 Written by Tom Morgan

Melvins are grafters. Hailing from working class and rural Washington state, vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover are hyper-prolific, hard-touring musicians with a monstrous back catalogue.

‘Tarantula Heart’ is the 27th studio album released under the Melvins name, not counting an assortment of EPs and collaborations. Their oddball brand of sludge-metal is basically Black Sabbath meets Captain Beefheart; a unique blend of electrifying downtuned riffs flavoured and absurdist humour.

Their lengthy discography has taken some strange turns, often playing up the dadaist joking and loosening their grip on sludgy bludgeon.

‘Tarantula Heart’ — which also features bassist Steven Shane McDonald and We Are The Asteroid guitarist Gary Chester — provides just the right amount of both.

Whereas most bands would place their biggest, most towering track at the end of an album Melvins, of course, put their nearly 20-minute monster at the start.

Pain Equals Funny moves through more ideas than most groups manage in an entire album and provides a brilliant showcase for Buzz Osborne’s soaring vocals. Elsewhere, we have the hypnotic, trudging Working The Ditch, a rapidfire shred-a-thon in the manic Allergic To Food and the bizarre alt-rock sing-a-long She’s Got Weird Arms. 

A nice quirk of ‘Tarantula Heart’ is the use of dual drum tracks. Provided by Roy Mayorga (who got his start with crust-punks Nausea before, somewhat bizarrely, becoming best known for his work with Hellyeah and Stone Sour) the rhythmic churn of these five tracks matches Osbourne’s riffs in terms of weight and visceral impact. 

Another highlight in a career full of them, the gleefully-heavy ‘Tarantula Heart’ shows that, four decades in, Melvins remain a glorious imaginative pair of eccentrics.


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