Melting Hand describe themselves as a ‘psych dirge’ super-group which sort of leaves me in a binary quandary; because to me ‘psych dirge’ sounds just excellent. But super-group? I’m immediately put in mind of ageing rock stars seeking out their last paydays from collaborations that provide ample evidence to show that they are mere shadows of their former selves. Sure there are some notable exceptions to this, if only to prove the rule.
So if you are feeling similarly turned off by this phrase let me attempt to turn you back on again. Let’s face it I wouldn’t really be writing about something that I thought was just ok (I tend not to do that); and really in the ‘psych scene’, such as it is, there are not really characters looking for easy money and big paydays (if they are they’re certainly looking in the wrong place). Instead its probably a good idea just to let you have the Melting Hand line up, then you can decide:
Mike Vest – Guitar (BONG, Drunk In Hell, Blown Out)
Tom Fug – Drums (Gum Takes Tooth, Luminous Bodies)
Gordon Watson – Bass (Luminous Bodies, Terminal Cheesecake)
Russell Smith – Guitar (Terminal Cheesecake, Skullflower)
Well whether or not that constitutes a ‘super-group’, it certainly gives ample evidence that Melting Hand could be a really super band, drawing members from some of the best and most exciting outfits around; something that is certainly borne out by the music on this debut album. This is a seriously intense album, as you would expect from the band’s various members, but there seems to be some real chemistry going on here. Of course this cannot be reflective of a group of people who have spent years together developing their sound, rather it is indicative of a group of fine musicians who are able to come together and jam; to bounce ideas off each other and improvise on the hoof.
‘High Collider’ is an album that is loose enough to give you space to explore the music and really let it take you places, as any great space rock album should. However, it also has a tightness and focus to it which doesn’t only mean you can dig the music but really appreciate the very high standard of playing. The album opens with a the lilting hazy blues feel of ‘Carcel de Ibiza’, a suitably relaxed introduction to the band which, as the tempo picks up, gets you well into the groove. There’s lots of great space between the instruments on this track, which the band somehow manage to combine with a growing intensity as the track ebbs away at the end. Weighing in at over eleven minutes it really does leaving you feeling more chilled and sorted than when it arrived.
Things get decidedly darker with ‘Chemical Deadline’ with its doom-laden rhythms and tribal drumming. This is a track that pummels rather than cajoles, a track that only a stake to the heart could defeat. This path into darkness continues with ‘Drug Cop’ which, from it’s Sabbath-like guitar intro plumbs some real depths. There isn’t the doom element of the previous track, this is more complex in its intensity, especially the dark chaotic interludes that disrupt the space rock on this track; interludes that eventually take over as the band brings the track home in a somewhat disturbing manner.
The title track is a the shortest on the album, but what it lacks in length it certainly makes up for in heft. This track is fucking heavy, a massive slab of high tempo, high stakes rock designed to blast all-comers totally out of the water, melting brain would probably be a more appropriate title at this point. Following this massive block of neuroplasticity-inducing dark matter comes ‘Slug Race’, the longest track on the album and the one that bears quite a bit of affinity with some of Mike Vest’s other bands, most notably ‘Blown Out’; one of my favourite bands of the moment. As such this track gets something of a free-pass for me as I could really listen to this sort of stuff all day. What it also does, however, is stand in contrast with the rest of the album, and as such tells me that, in true super-group style, there is not one musician that dominates Melting Hand; it is a real collaboration between its members.
Melting Hand calls itself a super-group and while this explains very well how this is four musicians coming together on equal terms, in many ways it really is more than that. This is a band of people who really seem to have jelled and created an album in which the influences of those who are playing are plain to see, but have also created something new on their way to recording an album that, while on the same shelf as the other bands represented here, I for one will certainly be getting out to play again and again in the future.