STREAMING: Warfather’s “My Queen Shall Not Be Mourned”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

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It’s been more than a decade since Steve Tucker played death metal as vocalist and bassist of Florida titans Morbid Angel. His first album with the band was Formulas Fatal To The Flesh, an underrated gem that we named one of the best 100 death metal albums in our special last year.

Tucker is back with a new band Warfather and we’re happy to premiere the first track off the upcoming album Orchestrating The Apocalypse. It’s available January 21st from Greyhaze. Stream the track below and then hear Tucker wax poetic about the new song. We’re also stoked to see that someone in the band photo looks like they strolled out of the movie 300. This is Sparta!

My Queen Shall Not Be Mourned is the third track on Orchestrating the Apocalypse. This movement deals with what is truly important as a man, as a warrior…
Every man has loss, and we must survive many endings…
Survival and legacy have now become more important than any possession…
Many kings shall lose their wives But the one true vengeance is legacy!
“Though my queen has died, I will not mourn her loss. She has given me my future. My seed and my blood will live on…”

Connect with Warfather.

Sucker For Punishment: Shattering the illusion of integrity

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

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This past Saturday I attended a Lamb of God show, quite frankly because they put on a good show and Testament was also playing. But what was particularly interesting at this show was that the venerable Bay Area thrash heroes of Testament were stuck opening this show for Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage. If there was any indication of the current generation gap in metal today, it was this. Some in the crowd, most older, grumbled that it was a sign of disrespect that a band with as strong a legacy (no pun intended) as Testament be placed third on a four-band bill, but the proof was in the pudding when the crowd swelled to several thousand as Killswitch took the stage.

As always happens at these shows with two good bands and one mediocre one, it quickly got depressing as I sat on the side bleachers in the wide hall, nearly nodding off to the band’s forgettable metalcore. In contrast to Testament’s still exciting power and musicality displayed in a set loaded with songs neophytes could remember the first time they heard them – imagine that! – here was a band resorting to lame hardcore riffs, one-note breakdowns, dull screamed vocals, flat clean singing, pussy jokes, and acting like clowns. Yeah, old news, this has been going on for more than a decade now, but this was one of those moments of clarity where I thought to myself, just look at the adulation for such shit. By the time they got around to playing an actual catchy song – “My Last Serenade” – the singer didn’t bother singing the hook, instead imploring the crowd to do it. As a hardcore stunt, I get it, it’s part of that communal aspect, but from a metal perspective it’s just damn lazy. Sing the thing, with power, don’t make everyone else do it for you. What a waste.

But the kids ate it up, and as I looked around me, I noticed I was surrounded by a few dozen more bored metal fans like me, probably also wondering to themselves what this once glorious genre has come to. We were grossly outnumbered. The frontman screamed, and the kids sung so the guy wouldn’t have to. Metal in 2013, ladies and germs.

Anyway, the one new release that’s a must-buy is by a band that, 45 years after forming, still mops the floor with bands one-third their age.

Rush, Clockwork Angels Tour (Anthem/Roadrunner): On the heels of 2012’s Clockwork Angels, Rush’s best album since 1984’s Grace Under Pressure, the Canadian legends took the show on the road, featuring a set that leaned heavily not only on the new album but placed a lot of focus on their underrated 1982-1991 period. As is always the case, that tour produced an inevitable three-CD live album and DVD, and this one’s their best in years. The Clockwork Angels material translates well live – accentuated beautifully by the band’s touring string section – and the fan favorites are fun as well, but the real treat is hearing such ‘80s songs as “Grand Designs”, “The Body Electric”, and “Middletown Dreams”. “Red Sector A” is the best of the lot, given even more emotional weight by a sweeping string arrangement. Rush always treats their fans well, and they’ve put together another very nice package. Seeing how there won’t be any new Rush music in the near future – they’re taking a well-deserved break – fans will have to savor this excellent live document for a while.

Also out this week:

’77, Maximum Rock ‘n Roll (Listenable): Firmly rooted in the sound and aesthetic of AC/DC circa (obviously) 1977, the Spanish band do a serviceable job on their second album. The songs are catchy and exuberant in a whimsical way, but what’s sorely missing is the grit, the bite, the charisma that AC/DC brought, and which countless imitators have never been able to get right.

Blackrat, Whiskey and Blasphemy (Xnihilo): Sodom’s influence looms large on this debut album by the Calgary trio, which in this case is a very, very good thing. Violent, relentless, and completely filthy, this vividly evokes the early, primitive days of Teutonic thrash, and anyone with a soft spot for that era will nod approvingly when they hear this. On a side note, this release caps off a sensational year for Calgary underground metal, which included sterling releases by Gatekrashör, The Weir, Wake, and Chron Goblin.  Stream and Purchase it via Bandcamp. 

Chastain, Surrender To No One (Leviathan): Well isn’t this a pleasure. More than 20 years after her last album with the Cincinnati heavy metal old-timers, Leather Leone is back delivering her raspy snarl. Musically, Chastain’s ninth album is nothing special – serviceable heavy metal circa 1984 – but it’s spirited enough, and it’s great to see one of metal’s great frontwomen back at the helm.

Coven 13, Destiny Of The Gods (Shadow Kingdom): It’s cool to see the Seattle doom band back with their first new music since 1987, but as spirited as it is, as much fun as they seem to be having, this comeback album is surprisingly scattershot, torn between doom, NWOBHM, punk, and gothic. A lot is thrown at the wall, but nowhere near enough of it sticks. That said, give these guys points for a passable cover of Siouxsie & the Banshees’ “Spellbound”.

Five Finger Death Punch, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell: Volume 2 (Prospect Park): The way the reigning Nickelback of metal panders to the lowest common denominator is damn near brilliant. Mohawks, brass knuckles, and carefully contrived hostility. An even balance of douchebaggery and sensitive tough guy shtick. Dumbed-down groove metal riffs and sly hooks. Calculated use of the word “fuck”. Ultra-polished production by Kevin Churko. It’s made for the masses, and the masses took a big enough bite to warrant two new albums in 2013. But while the bros and their chicks out there will go for this hook, line, and sinker, the rest of we disheveled lot will be doubled over in laughter at the yarling power ballad cover of “House of the Rising Sun”.

Funeral Circle, Funeral Circle (Shadow Kingdom): Stubbornly stuck in the 1980s, Vancouver’s Funeral Circle worships at the altar of Candlemass, and their latest album does a good job of it, combining mournful, funereal singing with Sabbath-derived riffs. They still need to grow into the music, forge their own identity, but this is nevertheless a good start.

Ghost B.C., If You Have Ghost (Loma Vista): Papa Emeritus and his nameless ghouls – along with some guy named Grohl – have returned with a terrific little stopgap EP highlighted by four very smartly chosen cover songs. You’ve probably heard their haunting rendition of ABBA’s peculiar, cabaret-tinged “I’m a Marionette”, but the real keepers here are the slithering cover of Army of Lovers’ dance tune “Crucified”, Depeche Mode’s “Waiting For the Night”, and best of all, a beautiful reading of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts”.

Hanging Garden, I Was A Soldier (Lifeforce): The Finnish band has quickly followed up their 2013 album At Every Door with a three-song EP that continues in a similar melancholy death/doom vein. Like a more robust Swallow the Sun, it’s a confident mix of power, gloom, and melody.

Harsh Toke, Light Up And Live (Tee Pee): Gosh, I wonder what these guys sound like. Yep, hazy blues grooves, wah-wah-enhanced solos, and soaring, epic space rock. And does it ever sound splendid. With bands like these guys, Earthless, and Astra, hopefully San Diego will be known more as a producer of first-rate psychedelic rock instead of the home of a lame Christian metalcore singer who tried to have his ex-wife killed.

Insomnium, Ephemeral (Century Media): The Fimmish melodic death metal band has a new album coming out in early 2014, and this lead-off single is as good a song as they’ve ever recorded, a rare melodeath tune that actually remembers to be hooky. The three acoustic b-sides are wastes of time. Just buy the “Ephemeral” track off iTunes.

Iron Mask, Fifth Son Of Winterdoom (AFM): Featuring Mark Boals, who’s most famous for singing on Yngwie Malmsteen’s 1986 album Trilogy, this Belgian band brings nothing new to power metal, but does it better than average, with lively, uplifting melodies accentuating the usual instrumentally lavish arrangements and fantasy themes.

Lord Fist, Wordless Wisdom of Lord Fist (Ektro): It’s easy to draw parallels between this new Finnish band and early In Solitude. They possess a flair for classic, proper heavy metal, and there are hints of bigger things to come, but the singing isn’t assertive enough yet to carry the music. Still, a good foundation is there.

Possession, His Best Deceit (Iron Bonehead): Iron Bonehead has been coming through with some amazing finds this year, and this is yet another. Although it’s only their first demo recording, this Belgian band sounds in full stride on this cassette release, blistering, dank death metal that often veers into black metal atmospherics. Appended by a twisted cover of Sepultura’s “Necromancer”, this is one demo that you have to check out immediately.

Psalm Zero, Force My Hand (Last Things): This new project by Castevet’s Andrew Hock and former Dirty Projectors member Charlie Looker is peculiar but intriguing, art pop commingling with noise, featuring churning guitar work by Hock and some very unsettling vocal arrangements by Looker. Hearing these two tracks you get the feeling that it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as these guys are concerned, and their forthcoming album on Profound Lore should be interesting to hear.

Saxon, Unplugged and Strung Up (UDR): I usually cannot stand albums of re-recorded hits, and indeed, the acoustic/orchestral renditions of Saxon oldies do nothing for me. However, and that’s a big however, the bonus studio performance disc is flat-out fantastic. The boys are sounding as great these days as they ever have, and hearing them plow through “Dallas 1 P.M.”, “Wheels of Steel”, and “Motorcycle Man” with as much fire and passion as 30+ years ago is a real pleasure.

Sons Of Huns, Banishment Ritual (Easy Rider): Rampaging garage rock with plenty of stoner/psychedelic inclinations. It’s far from perfect, but what it lacks in good lead vocals is made up for in energy.

Tad Morose, Revenant (Deepsotz): This is the album power metal should be excited for this week, as the Swedish band has returned with their first album in ten years. Very much in the same vein as Symphony X, it’s a robust, guitar-oriented combination of power and prog, muscular, thrashy rhythm riffs lending weight to the strong, flamboyant melodies. New singer Ronny Hemlin holds his own very well in his own Ripper Owens way, and better yet, the songs have life to them.

Tombstoned, Tombstoned (Svart): Either it’s a lame weed reference by another weedy band, or they’re fans of The Undertaker. I’m thinking the former. Either way it’s some solid heavy rock, huge on the doom influence of course, but capable of gliding, ride cymbal-leaning desert rock, and best of all, the rustic, ragged sounds of Crazy Horse. There’s massive potential in this band, and if Tombstoned improve on this debut album, look out. You’ve been forewarned.

Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (self-released): The Tucson, Arizona band’s debut album Stone Tools was one of 2012’s most interesting American metal releases, drawing inspiration from not only Neurosis and Earth but their Sonoran desert environment as well. It’s sprawling and desolate, but always capable of genuine soul, and that’s again the impression you get on this fine new three-song EP. Only this time, the band sounds sharper, the songwriting a lot more confident – “Trail of Tears” is a stunner – and the dynamic between singers Benjamin Blake and Julia DeConcini is even more developed. More people need to hear this band. Stream and download it (name your price) via Bandcamp. 

Not metal, but worth hearing:

T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross (self-released): If you don’t know already, few heavy bands tap into Americana as skillfully as Across Tundras, their blend of rustic sounds, Crazy Horse-inspired jams, and Neurosis-style doom unique and evocative of the vast American landscape. Band leader Tanner Olson has just released his new solo record, which does away with the metal element and heads in a more folk direction, and its minimal, lo-fi recording style fits the compositions perfectly. Like SubRosa, the darker side of American folk music fits Olson’s songwriting to a tee, and he embraces that aesthetic fully on this murky, haunting album. It’s available as a “name your price” download via Bandcamp, and I highly suggest you get it.

Follow me on Twitter at @basementgalaxy 

MEET THE BAND: Yidhra

By: Jeff Treppel Posted in: featured, interviews, listen On: Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

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Having been to hundreds of shows in my life, it’s pretty rare at this point that I get blown away by a totally unknown band – but that was exactly the case with Yidhra when I saw them play the Complex in Glendale, CA a few months back. On a great sound system, with Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages projected behind them,  these dudes’ COC/St. Vitus/Trouble-derived doom rumbled straight to the pit of my blackened soul. Their debut full-length, Hexed, came out on Friday, September 13, and it was produced by the legendary Bill Metoyer (Corrosion of Conformity, Trouble, D.R.I.), and as long as you turn up the bass on your speaker loud enough it does a pretty good job of capturing their live devastation. I sent guitarist Dave Krocker a series of questions over email so the Decibel readership can get to know them as well. The full album is streaming on Bandcamp, and I’ve embedded it below for you to enjoy while reading Krocker’s responses. WITCH QUEEEEEN *giant riff* –

 

How did the band form?

I was introduced, through mutual friends, to Grant Story, a vocalist who wanted to start a Doom band. I met Grant, showed him a few riffs I had and we seemed to be on the same page so we got the ball rolling. The usual search for the rest of the members began… cutting to the chase… a couple of months later we were ready to play our first gig. Yidhra was about to face some unknown obstacles in these early days (it was early ’08)… our drummer had to leave, and shortly after Grant was in a horrible car accident. He became paralyzed from the neck down as a result of this accident. Wondering what was going to happen to Yidhra… since I was a founding member, Tom Harris (bassist) and I decided to keep the band going.

Another mutual friend set up a benefit show for Grant and wanted Yidhra to play, so I asked my long time friend, Ted Venemann, to stand in as vocalist…Ted and I had been in another band together so I was comfortably aware of his musical tastes and abilities so it worked out. Ted enjoyed helping out and decided to remain in Yidhra. We did a 4-song demo in the summer of ’09 which was very well received… though the revolving door of drummers was a small issue, the old “2 steps forward 1 step back” kind of thing. Once we found Chris Hannan we were set. Dave Krocker ~ Lead Guitar and B/U Vocals, Ted Venemann ~ Lead Vocals, Theremin and now Rhythm Guitar too! Tom Harris on Bass and Chris Hannan on Drums.

Did you have any influences that might not be so obvious?

Well, not really… Ted and I grew up playing punk rock, and back in the late 80’s when punk and metal started to blend we were both influenced by the usual suspects… Tom’s musical tastes are much like ours… Chris’ are a little more geared towards classic rock, which is great… he likes KISS and SABBATH, which is just fine by us!

What drew you to the Lovecraft/occult themes?

When Grant and I were trying to come up with a name, he being a H.P. Lovecraft fan, stumbled across the name Yidhra… we thought it sounded cool so we went with it. When it came to deciding what to do with the band after his accident… everybody in the band are huge fans of horror so it made sense to keep it. That being said, we didn’t want to just be a “H.P. Lovecraft” band… we want it to be a bit broader… but, obviously, keep it dark.

What does the name mean?

Yidhra is the Lovecraftian “Dream Witch”… the witch of all witches. She can take on any form and given the chance, will devour you.

Which came first, your love of horror material or your love of metal? Or do they feed into each other?

They definitely feed each other… I’ve been a fan of horror since I was a young kid and of course bands like SABBATH, KISS and ALICE COOPER. The combination just makes sense. As for the other guys in the band I’m sure they feel the same way… no doubt about it.

How does the songwriting in the band work?

Generally I come up with a riff, and skeleton structure of the song (musically, I mean)… bring it to rehearsal and work it out as a band. Once Ted has a vocal melody it will go through the arrangement process again to work out the bugs. After that Ted writes the lyrics. Since we’ve recorded the album, Ted has been playing rhythm guitar on some songs… so he’s been bringing riffs in too…. which is great, because I may have a riff and secondary part but need something else for the bridge or break-down and he’ll come up with something that usually fits perfectly. I do have to admit… it’s pretty fuckin’ heavy with 2 guitars!!!

What was it like working with Bill Metoyer? Did he bring any new insights to the album?

Working with Bill was great! Super nice guy…really easy going. Basically we just plugged in and played… he let us do our thing. Really, it was that simple… being familiar with his work we trusted that it would sound good. And fortunately enough, he ‘got’ us as a band and it all worked out.

What’s your favorite thing about playing doom metal?

The vibe, heaviness, volume…. everything about it!! It’s all about the RIFF… sure you can play fast, but something gets lost. Shit, even bands that play fast have those slowed break downs, right? We are a band that tries to write ‘songs’ and set a ‘mood’… when I’m talking to someone unfamiliar with us or doom I say this: Imagine walking through a graveyard at night, it’s foggy… but the fog is weed smoke… ha ha ha ha… DOOM is just HEAVY!!!

Why should people choose you for their doom metal needs?

It’s a little hard answering that question without sounding arrogant, ha ha ha ha ha. Yidhra is a good band, we write good songs (or at least try to). Look, I might not be the greatest guitar player in the world but I mean what I play. I like what I’m doing… and I’m sure the band likes what we are doing too, that’s what matters. If people can sense that I think it comes across through the music… and hopefully they will be into it too.

 ***The vinyl will be out in early December and available through their Bandcamp page as well, but until then you can download Hexed or order it on CD here. Follow them on Facebook here.

 

Axeslasher Track-By-Track

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: featured, listen, lists On: Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

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We called the latest from Axeslasher a “straight-up thrash-terpiece” in a blurb on our Halloween must-haves list a few weeks back, but Anthology of Terror, Vol. 1 — available here for a cool $6.66 — is sick enough to warrant a bit more coverage. Thus, the following track-by-track, courtesy guitarist/vocalist Justin Lascelle…

Mark of the Pizzagram

I love intro riffs. “March of the SOD”? What’s not to love about a band announcing their presence with an overture of riffs? I just wanted to intro the band with a short instrumental to prep you for what’s to come: lots of chugging guitar and minimal bullshit.

Invasion of the Babesnatchers

This one is heavily inspired by a dream I had based on the cover art Ken Sarafin created for the album. I basically sent Ken a shit load of comic covers and he came out with the alien death worm babe sacrifice that made it to the cover. In the song, the alien race is fed up with the humanity experiment and is now mining them for resources — mainly to convert the human race into pet food for their giant pet death worms.

Woodland Tortuary

STREAMING: Nausea “Cries of Pain”, from forthcoming album Condemned to the System

By: jonathan.horsley Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, November 18th, 2013

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Courtesy of the good people at Willowtip, we’ve got a fierce, frantic and faceripping track premiere from Nausea‘s forthcoming LP, Condemned to the System.

While Nausea have been grinding it out live over the past couple of years, showing up and throwing down at such shindigs as MDF and Bloodshed, they’ve hardly been prolific; Condemned to the System will be the LA death/grind quartet’s first full-length album since their 1991 debut, Crime Against Humanity, and features a mixture of re-worked tracks that never made it past demo stage and a fresh crop of aural roughhousing. Indeed, you might recognise “Cries of Pain” from their 2006 demo release, Images of Abuse.

Condemned to the System features fresh blood in the form of bassist Alejandro CB (Pounder, Chemical Bitches) and guitarist Leon del Müerte (Murder Construct, ex-Exhumed, Phobia, Impaled, Intronaut), and maybe with a fresh line-up we won’t have to wait some 20-plus years for album number three. But, musically, this is business as usual for Nausea. There’s no esoteric creative digression here; Condemned . . . is visceral and from the gut, instinctive and gnarly. It drops on Jan 7th 2014; in the meantime, press play on “Cries of Pain” and momentarily expunge that Monday afternoon ennui.



**Nausea on Facebook

STREAMING: Tad Morose “Revenant”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, November 18th, 2013

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Back in 1993, the least fashionable music—as far as extreme music is concerned—was heavy metal. Unless it was Iron Maiden, but they were also on the skids with Fear of the Dark. For Swedes Tad Morose, they had precious little chance of surviving the music climes of death metal, the nascent (and hyper-ascendant) black metal scene, the successes of doom metal (of the death metal variety), and whatever subgenre (Viking metal; folk metal) was burgeoning out of the cracks. They were not like the others and suffered, to some extent, from lack of recognition. Nevertheless, Tad Morose released Leaving the Past Behind on Black Mark that year. Five full-lengths followed, the last of which was 2003’s applauded Modus Vivendi.

Fast forward 10 long years. And Tad Morose return. They’ve gone from Black Mark and Century Media to Swedish made Despotz. The group’s penchant for dark melancholic heavy metal remains intact, however. That the sounds on Revenant on more relevant than ever is merely a plus. Founding member/guitarist Christer ‘Krunt’ Andersson had this to say about the group’s seventh full-length: “Revenant is a very important album for us and it feels unbelievably awesome to finally get it out! Thinking back on all the hard times we’ve been through over the years to make this happen, it feels kind of unreal that we are here. The album is done! Well, what can I say? I’m really at a loss for words when I think of it. We hope you’ll like it! And remember! Play it LOUD!”

You heard the man. Play Revenant LOUD!

** Tad Morose’s new album, Revenant, is out November 20th on Despotz Records. The physical CD is available HERE and the digital download is available HERE (iTunes).

The Decibel Top 40 Lives! In the King Diamond Issue!

By: andrew Posted in: featured On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

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Unassailable living heavy metal legend. Close personal friend of Anton LaVey (R.I.P.). Internationally certified lab assistant? Believe it or not, all describe the immortal King Diamond, who finally graces the cover of Decibel this month.

The thankfully newly healthy Mercyful Fate/King Diamond ringleader let J. Bennett into his inner occult circle — in the Dallas suburbs, of all places — for a fascinating career retrospective. Ever candid and compelling, the still hungry proto-corpsepainted icon links his historic past to a bright, unwritten future.

Diamond’s visions headline the annual Top 40 Albums of the Year issue, our always controversial rankings of the year’s finest in extreme music. There were plenty of exceptional candidates for the top spot — In Solitude, Gorguts, Inquisition, Carcass, SubRosa — but you’d better hit the webstore to find out before your friends spoil the whole damn thing. And bonus: you’ll want to hear that ripping Toxic Holocaust flexi, too.

STREAMING: Sandrider’s “Champions”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen, tours On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

Sandrider-9 © Kelly O_web

It’s been a busy week of streaming action at the Deciblog and we’re closing it out with yet another premiere.

We’re happy to present the track “Champions” off Sandrider’s forthcoming album Godhead (out November 19). Check out Facebook to learn more about an upcoming appearance on KEXP and get tour dates.

Here’s guitarist and vocalist Jon Weisnewski’s take on the track:

The starting riff on is one that was stuck in my head for weeks before I ever actually even picked up a guitar to play it. It was probably planted in there from listening to Wipers or Drive Like Jehu.

The second chunk of the song where it opens up and goes into the solo was kind of a natural part that materialized as I was playing with the first section. The last section of the song took a while to solidify. The first incarnation was pretty complex, had some weird timing, and unnatural chord changes that you kind of had to force your hands to do. It was a cool progression but once we tried to play it together it felt forced and unintuitive, completely opposite of the rest of the song. So we stripped it way down to its core and I think it was a good call. The song flows much better now.

The song is about those self destructive impulses we all get like: “What if I just punch this guy right now?” or “What if I jump out that window?” The idea hit me while driving over the I-90 bridge, when I had that sudden impulse to just crank the wheel and go into Lake Washington. I’m not depressed or suicidal at all, but those thoughts just hit you out of nowhere all the time. The lyrics are kind of saying that if we all knew someone actually did it based on that split second impulse they’d probably go down in history as some kind of urban legend champion.

Preorder Godhead from Good To Die Records.

BREWTAL TRUTH: Drink Real Ale…Or Not

By: adem Posted in: featured, liver failure On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

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We know, we know, this Trooper beer is old news. You’ve seen a bazillion blog posts on every metal website in the internetiverse about it and maybe, if it’s available where you live, you’ve even tried it. It’s an Iron Maiden beer, so of course you have. But it’s actually more than a typical “big-name band slaps logo on piss-colored fizz water lager and calls it good.” This is, in fact, the measured opposite (at least in some regards) of that. First of all, it’s an ale—so big ups for that, at least—and that separates it from Motörhead and AC/DC’s own predictable pale lagers.

The English have an interesting relationship with beer in general. On the plus side of the ledger, many iconic styles—pale ale, India pale ale, porter and stout—were created there centuries ago. On the minus side, for much of the last several decades bland, pale lagers have been the beer of choice in England. We went to a traditional pub in London in the late ’90s and were horrified to find most people in the bar holding a bottle of Budweiser. The popular infatuation with pale lagers became so great it threatened to wipe out the English brewing tradition of real ale (also known as cask ale).

So, what the hell is real ale? It sounds like a term Manowar might come up with, but it’s meant to indicate an ale—and it can be pretty well any style of ale—that is brewed and served in a really traditional way. Two of the characteristics—a lack of big carbonation and a less-than-frigid serving temp—can be off-putting to us North Americans who insist all beer should be ice cold and really fizzy. Basically a real ale is brewed, put into a cask (a keg) without being filtered and pasteurized, and then a dose of yeast (and sometimes sugar) is added to start a secondary fermentation that creates all the carbonation the beer will have. Since no added gas (carbon dioxide or nitrogen) is used to fizz it up and propel it through a draft line, casks can be set up on bars and tapped so that gravity does the work of getting it out of the cask, or it can be drawn up (if the cask is stored away) with a hand pump. And, yes, the “proper” English way to serve this brew is at cellar temp, which isn’t room temp, but it isn’t “chilled” either.

The benefits of cask beer or real ale are that it is beer in its more unprocessed and “natural” form and thus tastier. When beer is filtered and pasteurized, a good bit of the flavor is wiped out. It’s basically no longer alive. Bringing this all back to Iron Maiden’s Trooper beer—which real ale fan Bruce Dickinson apparently helped develop—if you were to find this beer on draft in a pub in England, it would be cask ale and it would probably taste markedly different than this bottled version, which has definitely been filtered and likely pasteurized so that no unwanted secondary fermentation occurred. Secondary fermentation is good when it’s intentional, but not so good when it happens because an unfiltered beer wasn’t kept cool and the yeast comes to life again in an unexpected way.

The bottled Trooper beer looks nice, smells decent—floral, citrus and grainy malt notes—and tastes fairly innocuous to our North American palate. Style-wise it’s probably closest to an ESB, but it is quite light bodied. For a band that makes music that’s complex, intricate and deep, this is rather pedestrian. Certainly not bad, like that AC/DC beer that was foisted on the Canadian market, but just a bit lacking in intensity and depth. Though we’re not the biggest fan of real ale—again, probably a cultural thing—we can’t help but think that Trooper in a cask would rock a little harder.

Adem Tepedelen’s new craft beer book, Decibel Presents the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing’s Outer Limits, is now available in the Decibel online store.

Year of No Light: Full Album Stream!

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, listen On: Friday, November 15th, 2013

Year of No Light featured

In just two weeks, French sexies… uh… sextet Year of No Light will release their 3rd official full-length record, Tocsin, through Debemur Morti Productions.  Caught somewhere between bludgeoning metal bluster and chamber orchestra sound sculpture, Tocsin arrives three-and-a-half years after the band’s last official studio album, Ausserwelt (though only a few months after their soundtrack project Vampyr).  There’s a lot of doom here, both in pacing, tonality and instrumentation, but sweeter sides exist as well.  This is instrumental music meant to carry you to other worlds within yourself, and it leaves all torturous virtuosity for somebody else’s band.

YoNL inline

But why wait two weeks?  You can get a full stream of the album now through DMP’s Bandcamp site, and after checking it out, you can pre-order your own copy here at www.eitrin.com.  And beneath the album stream, you can check out the band’s track-by-track explanation of their most recent work.

Enjoy your Friday!  Enjoy Year of No Light’s Tocsin!

Tocsin (words by Pierre): A sepulchral incantation seeking for vengeance with a majestic and mournful vibe. The heavy monolithic riffing strengthens the ritual aspect of the narration. It’s also the first song we wrote when we started to work on the album. We wanted something heavy and crushing with a funeral doom atavism. The last portion of the track is also an unintended tribute to a band we all cherish.

Géhenne (words by Jérôme): A simple, melodic and straightforward song, very similar to its demo version. A noisy yet melodic maelstrom highlighting some of our influences:  raw punk rock (MC5 & Stooges), primitive black metal (Darkthrone) and  abrasive noise (Deity Guns, Sonic Youth). In three words: intensity, trance and climax.

Désolation (words by Jérôme): Géhenne’s antithesis, with a lot of attention paid to arrangements and sustained by the use of brass instruments. Désolation is a topic example of the band’s bipolarity. It is like a canticle closing the first part of the record, with an introspective and epic vibe.

Stella Rectrix (words by Mathieu): To my ears, it’s like if 4AD had released a doom record in the mid-80’s. And it’s like a music-lover’s dream… All the bass foundation is played on a minimoog and the lead on a sickened string machine. So, it’s pretty much a perverted electronic track. Something we wanted to experiment on this record.

Alamüt (words by Pierre & Jérôme):  An involuntary anticosmic anthem. This fucking track haunted us for months and almost drove us mad. It also proceeds from one of the most destructured writing process we ever faced. Alamüt went through a lot of incarnations, but we had to burn them. This was chaotic, painful and absurd. It’s probably the most destabilizing song of the album, where droning/neurasthenic krautrock meets over harmonized climax and salutary chorus. The last portion of the track is like…well…think of a bunch of retards with insane minds playing some György Ligeti.