Few bands working in alternative rock can hope to have a legacy and a body of work as impressive as that of the Melvins. The band formed in Montesano, Washington state in 1983, releasing their trailblazing debut album ‘Gluey Porch Treatments’ four years later. With Mudhoney co-founder Matt Lukin on bass and longstanding members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover on guitar/vocals and drums respectively, the album is now considered to be one of the earliest sludge metal albums and to have hugely influenced the Seattle grunge scene of which Lukin went on to be a key part.
Over the decades that followed, the Melvins have gone through multiple line-ups (often existing concurrently), released well over 20 albums, and sold out concert halls around the world. Inside and outside of the band, their members have collaborated with musicians as well-respected and wide-ranging as Mike Patton, Jello Biafra, and Teri Gender Bender. For their 24th album, however, Osborne and Crover decided to go back to their roots and reunite with their original drummer, Mike Dillard, for the first time since 2013’s ‘Tres Cabrones’.
And it’s possibly a good job they did, because the quality of the music on ‘Working With God’ easily surpasses that on the band’s last three albums, ‘Basses Loaded’ (2016), ‘A Walk With Love & Death’ (2017), and ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’ (2018). It’s not my place to say whether this is due to Dillard’s involvement, the comparatively long hiatus that preceded this album (indeed, it seemed like the Melvins were one of the few bands not to release an album last year), or another factor entirely, but the last Melvins album I enjoyed listening to as much as this was ‘Hold It In’ (2014).
The songs are a lot faster and more riff-driven than most of the band’s recent work and the bass is higher up in the mix, and I always approve of both those factors. The album opens in light-hearted fashion with ‘I Fuck Around’, an agreeably foul-mouthed reinterpretation of the Beach Boys’ ‘I Get Around’. The heavy riffing doesn’t really kick in until the following tracks, ‘Bouncing Rick’ and ‘Caddy Daddy’. ‘Brian the Horse-Faced Goon’ is very catchy and I honestly think ‘Boy Mike’ will stand up in years to come as one of the Melvins’ very best songs. ‘The Great Good Place’ and ‘Hund’ are two further rocking highlights. The album concludes with an a cappella cover version of The Spaniels’ ‘Good Night Sweetheart’ that works as a nice little palate cleanser after all the noise and heaviness that has preceded it.
In summary, this is the Melvins’ best album for several years and one that I think, in time, will be counted among the band’s best work and as one of the best metal albums of 2021. Whilst the production can be considered heavier and more expansive than much of their recent work, in many respects, the musicianship is far tighter and more disciplined. Fans of quality metal would be foolish to miss it. ‘Working With God’ is released via Ipecac on February 26th. Pre-order it here.