Melvins release their first double album A Walk with Love and Death (4 stars)

Melvins release their first double album A Walk with Love and Death

Do the two discs combine to form a 'secret third album'?

One delightful thing about Melvins is that they pay zero heed to the notion of the 'proper' album. Any one of their releases in recent years – one-off collaborations, an antique lineup reformed, an album with multiple guest bassists, a covers record – would, for other bands, be temporary deviations from the steady path. But for Melvins, the unpredictable is standard operating procedure. Which brings us to A Walk with Love and Death, their first double album.

The 'Death' disc is a lean collection of fine tracks that could have appeared on any of your favourite Melvins albums. Opener 'Black Heath' is from the lush, softer end of their oeuvre, culminating in the kind of elegantly nimble, time-bending exercise for which Melvins don't get nearly enough credit. They're more often feted for excelling at super-heavy and grindingly slow violence like 'Euthanasia' but also have a surprisingly neat line in charmingly poptastic stadium rock, like 'What's Wrong with You?', sung, appropriately enough, by latest bassist, Steven McDonald (ex-Redd Kross).

'Love', the soundtrack to an as-yet-unreleased-but-horrifying-looking short film by Jesse Nieminen, is something else. An amorphous swamp of semi-overheard conversation, field recordings, noisy clatter and ambient drifting murk, it does a great job of sucking you into its ooze, but is perhaps not destined to soundtrack many beach parties.

Given their almost identical running times, curious listeners may wonder whether 'Love' and 'Death' are intended to be played simultaneously. A double album with a secret third sounds like the sort of thing Melvins might do. Sometimes the two are startlingly in synch and complementary; sometimes much less so. But when they cohere, whether by design or accident, when we walk with both love and death in our minds, it opens up a deeper appreciation of the whole. And that's precisely the kind of pretentious guff that Melvins would beat to a pulp with a breezeblock.

Out Fri 7 Jul (Ipecac Recordings).

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