Melvins are as reliable as your regular morning bowel movement. And just as well shaped, solid, and refreshing (hopefully for your sake). The Seattle sludge metal pioneers are back with what I count as their 22nd studio album in 27 years, Hold It In, and their first as a four piece since 2010’s The Bride Screams Murder. This time round, however, it is not Jared Warren and Coady Willis of Big Business rounding out the quartet but rather Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus of experimental noise rock outfit The Butthole Surfers. But don’t be fooled, Hold It In is not the avant garde tour de force one might expect from this unique combination, but the continuation of the more ‘to the point’ tunes Melvins have served up since 2006’s awesome (A) Senile Animal, with forays into a number of the odd alley ways Melvins have frequented in the past.
Essentially, the album works as an overview of everything the boys have brought to the party since the release of their debut album Gluey Porch Treatments in 1987. There’s the straight up sludge of recent years in the form of the swaggering, chugging “Bride of Crankenstein” and the triplet heavy, intimidating “Sesame Street Meat”. There’s segues into pop melody on the 80s esque “You Can Make Me Wait” (replete with what sounds like a vocoder), and the near pop punk of the Paul Leary sung “Brass Cupcake”. There’s the dripping, eerie soundscapes of “Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit” and the bouncy, playful fun time nature of “Eyes On You” and “Piss Pistopherson”.
When the band expand beyond the upfront, relatively accessible template on two occasions it makes for epic results. “The Bunk Up” is a seven minute epic trudge through off kilter vocals, the best Black Sabbath riffs since Sabotage, and a laid back organ section before culminating in funeral knolls and a scathing, irreverent guitar solo. Album closer “House of Gasoline” is a chugging instrumental monster that has time for pinch harmonics, guitar hero solos, breakneck riffing, watery unnerving industrial soundscapes, and a dark ambient passage over it’s colossal 12 minute running time.
On Hold It In, Melvins manage to balance their seemingly limitless creativity and ideas with consistency. It’s a smorgasbord of all that they were and are with some new additions to their formidable repertoire. In an I Made You A Mixtape feature on A.V. Club earlier this year Melvins bandleader Buzz Osbourne picked bands that “were good, but blew it”, on this evidence Melvins won’t be joining Buzz’s illustrious list of blowhards any time soon.