There has never been a band quite like the Melvins. Frequently misunderstood, always underestimated and relentless in their pursuit of both challenging and delighting a die hard audience that shifts, changes, and expands almost as much as the music itself. A documentary on them and their 30+ full-length albums over 30 years seems like somewhere between a fool’s errand and a scientific impossibility.
Yet the Colossus of Destiny has managed to pull this off, and so much more. Existing as one of the most compelling documentaries in recent years with a misleading aura of effortlessness. Subtitled “A Melvins Tale”, the impish, gleefully mischievous hint that a raconteur with questionable motives might captivate you, telling you this story by a fire only adds to allure. Spinning a rock and roll story of a band that somehow managed to never quit and has never sucked.
A fantastical creature to be sure!
The tired Behind the Music or Spinal Tap tropes cannot be found in the Melvins Tale. There are no band psychologists, there are no Desmond Childe penned arena ballads. There is no period of execrable lost in the wilderness genre jumping. There is no time for such weakness of spirit.
The Colossus shows that the Melvins are a mighty machine that rolls forward and does not give a whit for your perceptions of what they are or what they should be. Cranking out album after album that continues to surprise and innovate and still never sound quite the same. They never follow a script or formula and always push for the next weird and awesome thing.
Whether it’s showing up in the movie Juno as a casual reference, or as background music in a bar in the best episode of the first season of True detective. There is a cultural saturation that is both undeniable and well deserved. The Melvins are an American band and exist with or without your approval or interest.
The Colossus of Destiny manages to show this through the words of the people not just involved, but around Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, band mates, label heads, luminaries influenced by their work and yes, Krist Novoselic and Gene Simmons. There are no periods skipped past or glossed over, no punches pulled, the tale is told in a relatively linear matter that includes the inauspicious beginnings right up to the now.
An excellently balanced mix of live footage, interviews and other fascinating nuggets shows you an entry way into the world of Mr. Osborne and Mr. Crover that is damn enlightening. Embodying the least odious parts of the KISS philosophy, which is a unabashed, unabiding love and respect for their fans and for anybody else that comes along along with a gleeful punk rock spirit to do whatever they want at that time despite orthodoxy or trend. The world of the Melvins is laid bare to the viewer in a unique and fascinating way.
Major moments in the bands history are represented including: 51 states in 51 days with Melvins Lite, an iteration of the band with Standup Bass (!) and a much smaller footprint, cracking a Guinness book of records milestone previously held by George Thorogood. However, some of my favorite parts of the film are just quick and candid moments with Buzz and Dale. Short quips that are often funny as hell and very self-aware but speak volumes in their brevity.
Several key figures choosing not to participate in the film is disappointing, but their absence does not hurt the film or the story. At a running time of almost two hours, there could easily be a Part Two and you still couldn’t get the entire story. I can only imagine the decisions on what to leave out to be brutal and heartbreaking. A problem most band documentaries absolutely do not have.
Named from a fantastic, uncompromising and influential John Fante book, it really is the perfect title, The Colossus of Destiny.
What more can I say? This movie, created by two first time filmmakers Bob Hannam and Ryan Sutherby over the course of years is not only a labor of love, it’s essential viewing for those that live the life of rock ‘n roll or are just fascinating at the steadfast endurance of true artists carving together an incredible niche for themselves and continuing as always to press forward.
Watching this film in a theatre full of like-minded travellers and rock ‘n roll warriors was a very special and unique experience for me. Fair warning: for the less hard hearted of you, might find that the theater you are watching in has a bit of dust that might get in your eye.
*In the interests of full disclosure, I do play music with Dale Crover in Secret Friends. However, I come to this as a lifelong fan from the age of 14, with an excitement that can only be borne of seeing one of your favorite bands story unfold in an incredible way.