Allegations of Black Sabbath worship have plagued the Melvins since the group's first, ominous riffs sounded in their hometown of Aberdeen, Wash., back in 1983. There's no denying that slow and sludgy guitars are part of the group's sound. The Melvins were an essential step in the evolutionary path from punk to grunge in the early '90s. But there's nothing sludgy about the fast-paced guitar-and-drum interplay of "Kicking Machine," the opening track from the Melvins latest release, Nude with Boots (Ipecac).
"We've been playing fast stuff for years but people latch onto this idea that we only play slow stuff, and that's not the case," huffs guitarist and vocalist Buzz Osborne. "It's always been a real head scratcher for us."
Osborne's dilemma is not unfounded. The Seattle sound that the Melvins helped create was defined by simple punk rock cut with primal angst and played at 33 RPMs when it should be spinning at a speed of 45.
But the Melvins went against the grain by honing an intentionally complicated sound, and Nude with Boots brings their legacy to an intricate point. Their current lineup, featuring Osborne along with longtime drummer Dale Crover, bassist Jared Warren, and drummer Coady Willis (the latter two make up the Seattle duo Big Business) refines the group's heavy and complex sound.
"Kicking Machine" and "Billy Fish" are rife with odd melodies and intros that thrive in a web of buzz-saw guitars and Osborne's operatic wailing. Each song comes together in a seamless motion that disguises the difficulties of the music with velocity and brutal elegance.
"They're not easy songs to do," Osborne adds without a hint of modesty. "If a song like 'Suicide in Progress' doesn't sound difficult, that's because of how good we pulled it off. When you do something right people think you haven't done anything at all. But we've done it so well that we've managed to make it sound easy."
The Melvins play the Drunken Unicorn w/ Big Business. $15-$17. Sun., Aug. 17. 8 p.m. 736 Ponce de Leon Place. www.thedrunkenunicorn.net.