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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Melvins + Scion = ???

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2012 at 5:43 AM

  • Jessi Rose

By Jef With One F

Almost 30 years after Buzz Osborne founded the Melvins -- playing tonight at the Firebird -- the band remains hard to concretely classify. You can call them punk, metal, grunge, rock and any one of a dozen other genres, but good luck trying to pin one particular tail on this donkey.

But the band isn't resting on its laurels at all. A new full-length record, Freak Puke, is due out in June, some tribute albums to the Melvins' personal inspirations are in the works, multiple tours of America and Europe are planned, and then there's The Bulls & the Bees.

This five-song EP is being made available to anyone, free, through a partnership with Scion, a division of Toyota. The company is very involved with the artistic community through its Scion A/V branch, even founding a monthly podcast with exclusive artist interviews and news of upcoming releases.

"We have been working in the music space since 2003," says Scion spokesperson Jeri Yoshizu via e-mail. "We have been working with the Melvins since our event in Austin in 2007.

"They have always been open to working with Scion since that event, and have been willing to collaborate on projects," she continues. "They have incredible reputations, are professional and are everything you would want in a band."

As struck, the deal was simple: Scion would pay the Melvins up front for the EP, and would handle free downloading distribution through the company's Web site. The Melvins stand to gain further exposure thanks to a company that has become passionately dedicated to supporting the music industry.

Scion, meanwhile, would reap a great deal of legitimacy by associating itself with a band that has influenced some of the best music of the last two decades. Soundgarden, Tool, Mastodon, Nirvana and ­Eyehategod are just some of the bands who would sound very different if Osbourne and crew had not existed.

So what exactly did this coupling between big business and pioneering geniuses sound like? It sounds amazing. Simply amazing.

It's only when you listen to The Bulls & the Bees that you realize that a lot of bad music from the late '90s and early '00s really didn't have to suck so bad. The EP is full of the sludgy guitars and the Melvins' trademark Viking-war-cry vocals, which so many bands tried and failed to emulate. Here stands the original, and the so-called hardcore bands that emulated them pale in their shadow.

Take opening track "The War in Wisdom," for example. The pounding dual drums of Dale Crover and Coady Willis alternate between sludge-metal's dirge-like tank rumble and a thunderous Iron Maiden-esque charge.

The howling, abstract vocals feel like summoning a demon; it's a dark, energetic start to the album that should prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Melvins are still very capable of delivering an uncomfortable masterpiece.

"War on Wisdom" also spawned a Scion-funded official video directed by Mark Brooks, in which kid versions of Warren, Crover and bassist Jared Warren storm Wisdom Middle School with Super-Soakers to liberate the pint-sized Osborne from detention in time for band practice.

Teachers are systematically taken out in a wave of ultra-hydration during the mission, but despite the video's lighthearted approach, in a modern world where school shootings happen with alarming regularity, it also seems provocative and daring -- much like the Melvins themselves.

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