King Buzzo’s new album Gift of Sacrifice is out now via Ipecac Recordings.
To expect an acoustic album from Melvins’ Buzz Osborne and bassist Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle fame) to sound like anything resembling an acoustic album is a folly. King Buzzo’s first solo acoustic work, 2014’s This Machine Kills Artists, was to the point in its title, aim, and execution. Its tracks were based around Osborne playing little folk jams solely accompanied by his guitar.
Gift of Sacrifice strains the definition of an acoustic album like fitting rubber bands around a watermelon. Osborne’s guitar is now supplemented by double bass, strings, vocal distortions, and a dose of electronic ambience. Yes, strapping a million rubber bands around a watermelon is certainly an experiment, but one must question if the intent was to investigate how many rubber bands could envelop the melon before it eventually pops or to bluntly destroy the fruit. Most of the time Gift of Sacrifice ends up like the watermelon, labouring under pressure.
On Gift of Sacrifice the guitar is the backbone for the other concoctions Buzzo and Dunn have cooked into each track, aiming to disturb as opposed to comfort. ‘Housing, Luxury, Energy”s stomping riff is introduced alongside a menacing string accompaniment. Dunn’s double bass highlights Osborne’s harrowing strumming. ‘Delayed Clarity”s thick guitar layering crafts a sense of unease, enveloping and swirling until it gives way to dissonance. The tension is never lifted, even when Osborne rips into a Middle Eastern-tinged solo on “I’m Glad I Could Help Out”, as it’s bookended by his disturbed vocals, oscillating between high pitched whispers and snarls, before the song unravels into the fading stutter of a single note.
Unfortunately, the watermelon’s juices begin to leak and its toughened rind slowly shatters as Osborne and Dunn wrap more rubber bands around it. The majority of the tracks dissolve into sections disconnected from the composition of the preceding song; ‘Delayed Clarity’, ‘Housing, Luxury, Energy’ and ‘Science in Modern America’ all conclude with ambience that’s cut too short to amount to anything. There’s the scant smattering of potential caked in but implemented too haphazardly to function as more than a diversion.
‘Mock She’, the most stylistically different acoustic track due to its romantic interplay between Osborne’s guitar and Dunn’s impressive double-bass picking, suffers the most from this poor implementation. Halfway through the song halts its momentum to toss in pizzicatos that play out more like a Max Headroom-type interruption. The track closes with Buzzo’s heavily distorted vocals bullying their way to the foreground of the coda. An entire third of the album’s songs (‘Mental Vomit’, ‘Junkie Jesus’, and ‘Acoustic Vomit’) are short palette cleansers. Each flirts with noise, reverb-soaked vocals, and smatterings of pizzicato improvisation but none accomplish more than padding Gift of Sacrifice’s runtime. They’re products of the overflow bin from the cutting room floor.
Had there been more cohesion between the abrasiveness Osborne and Dunn wanted to explore and the songwriting Gift of Sacrifice would have amounted to more. Gift of Sacrifice strangles itself by sacrificing two goals instead of committing to one. There are some oddities that should’ve been expanded, yet few of the album’s ideas are allowed to bloom, instead disrupting otherwise enjoyable pieces.