Melvins – At The Stake: Atlantic Recordings 1993-1996: Album Review

Melvins iconic albums collated by Cherry Red Records in a superb package highlighting their Atlantic Recordings; Houdini, Stoner Witch and Stag.

Release Date: Available Now

Label: Cherry Red Records / HNE Recordings

Format: 3CD Boxset

Melvins are one of the most iconic rock bands of all time. Their prolific nature is largely unparalleled and they consistently put out top notch records into their fifth decade as a band.

Of the three albums included here, Stag is by far the most experimental, Stoner Witch is considered one of the greatest grunge albums of all time and Houdini is choc full of hulking riffs.


Originally released in 1993, Houdini was Melvins’ fifth studio effort. It is the bands most commercially successful album and contains 13 songs that drive straight to the core and capture Melvins at their immediate best. Sessions for Houdini involved Kurt Cobain and he is credited with co-producing duties alongside the band.

Most of the songs are in your face early doors. Hooch, Night Goat, Lizzy, a cover of Kiss’ Goin’ Blind and Honey Bucket rip through in quick fashion. They are full massive riffs that chug through and make for a headbangers dream. If you like to think of albums in ‘sides’ then there is a clear split here as the first half is certainly more orthodox.

Hag Me is the centrepiece of the album with a longer track length and a suitably psychedelic coalescence going on. Set Me Straight continues the psychy feel with a brilliant riff underneath some sinister sounding vocals. Joan Of Arc is a sludge metal cracker and Teet moves the pace up a little.

Sky Pup is delightfully bizarre with some great bass work and strange vocals; it has a bit of a Frank Zappa vibe. If you are a fan of percussive solos, then the close of Houdini is for you. Spread Eagle Beagle is a ten minute percussive solo that shows that Melvins were definitely doing things on their own, unconventional terms.


Into 1994, and Stoner Witch saw the light of day. A year on, and from the start of Stoner Witch, you can feel that there is a change in the feel of the band. Skweetis opens the album is a short stoner metal track. Queen and Sweet Willy Rollbar hold the same aesthetic with the latter being another short, sharp shock to the system.

Revolve has a great groove and is one of the most recognisable cuts from Melvins vast discography. The style that it is delivered in has a Corrosion Of Conformity mood in the chorus and vocally. Magic Pig Detective offers a challenging listen with a feedback drenched opening soundscape before breaking into a straight up rocker.

Again, the album closes with a lengthy, abstract piece. The hum of feedback, slowly rolling bass notes and cracks of percussion make for an interesting listen. There is definitely an early Pink Floyd vibe to the construction of the song.


Stag, originally released in 1996, is the bands eighth album (as they still recorded for indie labels during this period). An Eastern tinged opening gives way to a dense riff pattern that builds superbly on The Bit. Bar-X Rocking The M sees the introduction of brass into the Melvins mix. This is definitely a left turn for the band, but by the same bar, it feels very normal for a band of this ilk. The brass solo is absolutely wild; it is surrounded by guitars being fed through pedals to create a quite unnerving sound.

Goggles is another test of the senses. Some of the heavily distorted vocals could have been used on many a black metal album. Musically, everything sways along seemingly in the background with the bass leading and crashing cymbals punching through. For all the ingenuity and experimentation, Melvins still showed that they could throw out a relatively straight up rocker with Captain Pungent.

In 1996, the band were dropped by Atlantic Records. Stag is definitely an unconventional record as many of the songs are not formulaic. Perhaps this was intentional by the band. Melvins have always trod their own path and by this time in 1996, grunge had been swamped. Melvins didn’t fit the bracket anymore. For all intents and purposes, the label were clearly trying to cash in on the grunge movement with Melvins.


Plenty of extras are included across this collection. Melvins’ cover of the MC5’s Rocket Reducer #62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa), a cover of The Germs’ Lexicon Devil alongside a live cut of It’s Shoved are included with Houdini. More live cuts are included with Stoner Witch, in the form of Anaconda and Let God Be Your Gardener. There are also a couple of different takes on Revolve. The live tracks give an insight into how the band works in the live environment. Stag contains a single edit of The Bit, a cover of Pink Floyd’s sprawling Interstellar Overdrive (which is genuinely mind melting) and a track entitled Tipping The Lion B.

For a snapshot in time for a legendary band, this is a great collection. You can hear the songs that the label ‘wanted’ in striving for cashing in, and you can hear Melvins’ at their playful and most far out best. It is the latter that is more fun, but each composition here is mad in its own way. It is a great entry point into the band if they are new to you.

Check out The Bit below. You can buy the collection from Cherry Red Records here.

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