Melvins - A Senile Animal (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


A Senile Animal (2006)


There is a story I will tell you about how evil came into the world. Once upon a time, all the witch people from around the world came together for a conference to see who could cook up the scariest thing. They took lots of approaches, for instance, making charms and potions, etc. Finally, there was one witch left who hadn't done anything; all that the witch had was a story. She told them the story and it was an awful thing full of fear, slaughter, disease and blood. When she was finished all the others agreed she had won but they begged her to take it back. Unfortunately, once a story is told it can never be called back.1 The name of this story had to have been the Melvins.

For the past 20 years the Melvins have been unleashing their murky hybrid of metal and hardcore punk to create some of the most interesting and twisted heavy rock to ever have been made. A Senile Animal is no exception to this rule and in fact to its credit is a lot more focused than some of the band's more recent output. The group is now a four-piece, having added the rhythm section of Big Business to the formidable talents of King Buzzo and Dale Crover. Regarding the band's lengthy output I'd say they were usually always a drummer's band, now with two drummers that is more evident than ever.

The album starts off with one of the best examples of this phenomenal percussion with "The Talking Horse." Around halfway through the song there is a drum attack involving some really nice cymbal and block or cowbell work. It is classic Melvins in more than the tight drumming. The guitar lines scratch at your ears, droning along but at such a pace that it never becomes monotonous. While the band has previously delved into some prog-rock and psychedelic territory they largely stay away from that kind of thing on this release. However, the vocals of the various band members tend to get layered atop each other, which gives a slight psychedelic effect but adds to the overall creepiness in songs such as the aforementioned "The Talking Horse." In fact, the vocal arrangement is slightly choir-like at times, something like fellow northwesterners Nomeansno might do. Unlike a great majority of heavy music, which can tend to be repetitive and boring to casual listeners, the variety is quite clear, from the stop start motion of "Blood Witch" to the unique but equally pounding drum intros on "A History of Bad Men" and "Civilized Worm."

Another highlight of the album for me was the self-production. When so many releases in punk and metal can sound like glossy pieces of turd, the Melvins bring back grit to rock'n'roll. This is no more apparent than the dark, garage-y punk strut walked on "A History of Drunks" which sounds more authentically 'garage' than most modern garage rock bands since the New Bomb Turks have come and gone.

Chances are if you like the Melvins but have lost touch with them recently this will bring you right back in. If you have always loved them, you will likely continue to do so. This has given me an excuse to go back and listen to Houdini and Stoner Witch too; if you haven't listened to the Melvins I suggest start with those, but check this out as well.


1. This paragraph is a paraphrase from pg. 9 in Thomas King's book The Truth About Stories, check it out stud.