Friday, September 30, 2022

Song Highlight: Melvins - If I Had An Exorcism

When it comes to heavy music, my preference is for it to be slow, heavy, and abrasive. I was not attracted to metal for flashy guitar solos and theatrical vocals. Of the myriad of subgenres in heavy music, my favorite is sludge metal. Music of this style takes the slow, down-tuned aspects of heavy metal music and combines them with the aggression of punk rock. One of the early practitioners of this style was the Melvins. Guitarist Buzz Osborne started the Melvins when he was in high school, playing fast hardcore punk music in the style of Black Flag. That all changed when Black Flag released My War in 1984, and slowed tempos down to a crawl on the second half of the album, in the vein of Black Sabbath. Osborne and drummer Dale Crover began to experiment with slower music themselves and helped give birth to sludge metal and drone metal. In the band’s almost 40 years of existence, they have released a lot of albums and have experimented widely with sounds and styles, though it is primarily for their slow and heavy material that they are known.

“If I had an Exorcism” is a track off of the Melvins’ third studio album, Bullhead, released in 1991. It does a good job of demonstrating the weirdness of the band along with their characteristic heaviness. The song begins with clattering percussion and Osborne mumbling nonsensical lyrics:

"It's not like a you could feel just

Like what you want more metal, heh!

Hangin' from your neck like

Feels too good to be real

Like somebody took a coathanger

Munched it and tore it from the sign'nning

Numzph-numonh, bleeargh"

As Osborne is gargling out those last few nonsense syllables, the guitar comes crashing in with the bass guitar churning along in unison. At a little over a minute into the song, everything falls away except for the guitar strumming the same note repeatedly, which it continues for the rest of the song! Eventually the bass guitar comes back in with a very compelling groove and the drumming picks up, bringing the song to a powerful close as Osborne incoherently snarls in the background.

If you are interested in experimental and heavy music, you need to spend some time with the Melvins.

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