Article by: Steven Principato
Despite Dale Crover’s life long career as the legendary powerhouse behind the Melvins drum-kit, among countless other acts including Nirvana, It’s a rather surprising fact that The Fickle Finger Of Fate (Joyful Noise, 2017) officially breaks Dale as a first-time solo artist. (I gather the Dale Crover Kiss themed solo 7 inch is technically a Melvins release)
A solo record in virtually every sense of the word, Dale flawlessly demonstrates his previously unrealized talent, far beyond his well known drumming virtuosity. Taking the lead role of essentially every musician for the majority of the tracks (save for a few contributions from long time Melvins sound engineer and producer of “Fickle,” Toshi Kasai and current Melvins Bassist Steven McDonald), Crover gives the listener a far more intimate look into his ingenious mind, both in his lyrics and songwriting.
Preserving his deep rooted establishment in Melvin-esque simplicity, Crover unleashes upon the listener a parade unconventional and dynamic sounds, spanning a wide range of influences, yet not one of the 20 tracks daring to cross the 4 and a half minute mark in length. Despite opening the record with a brief drum solo under the influence of a digitally glitched blend of distortion – this being a consistent and album wide theme, Dale’s unmistakable drumming style would however not be the focus of “Fickle”, instead giving the listener a virtual introspection inside of Dale’s unconventional imagination. Exploring exotic soundscapes that exist outside the glass boundaries of Dale’s repertoire within sludge and and stoner frontiers, with heavy emphasis on synths, samples, percussion, and strings, “Fickle” carries the listener to new and perhaps unfamiliar horizons.
Under a frequently alternating current between songs that conform to a standard format with vocals, and songs that don’t, a few tracks stand out: Halfway into the record, “Little Brother” gently strums along under a Nirvana-like cadence, beneath Dale’s album wide, Beatle-esque, yet scarcely audible digitally reduced vocals. Traveling onward, rapidly descending into a dark industrial tone reminiscent of N.I.N. with “Side on Up,” a fine example of the many instrumental experiments bracketing the “normal” songs, the listener might attempt to decipher the mind of Dale Crover. Stumbling upon one decent track that appears to represent a concise cross-section of the entire album, the track “Big-uns” stands out – perhaps due to the song’s coverage of the total spectrum in sonic madness throughout the album. Now shifting gears once again to a fair-weather, gentle acoustic soundscape of Pink Floyd inspired euphoria with title track “The Fickle Finger of Fate”, then to a playfully “Dark Side” themed “I Found My Way Out,” successfully manifesting the sounds of a more friendly and accessible incarnation of Pink Floyd, from far beyond the barriers of a parallel universe.
The Fickle Finger of Fate exposes the listener to a virtually unknown cache of virtuosity above and beyond the headset wearing mad scientist and legendary drummer fans have revered for so long. Dale’s impressive songwriting and multi-instrument talents greatly transcend the eternal thunder behind the Melvins (among others), fortunate enough to be rocked by Dale.