Metal and Beer collide!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but lately the worlds of craft beer and heavy metal have really been colliding, even more than they usually do. Last week the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) was held in DC. It’s a multi-day conference that is held in a different city each year and this year DC hosted it at the convention center. Craft brewers from around the country attend to take seminars and learn about new techniques and equipment they can brew with, as well as learn about how to better market their beer and other things like that. That’s great if you’re a brewer but for the rest of us CBC coming to town means a ton of side-events at bars and breweries in the area as our city hosts all these out of town brewers. Many breweries brought beers that normally aren’t distributed in our area but thanks to DC’s awesome beer distribution laws they can be sold in DC during the festival. That’s why so many bars had tap take overs from out of area breweries last week and so many of the specialty beer stores had beers from breweries that we never usually see around here.

Aside from exotic beers at Churchkey, Meridian Pint, Jack Rose and other places with CBC related events, there were a couple of metal shows during CBC week as well. DC Brau’s 6th anniversary happened to be during CBC week so they put together a one off show with Baroness at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, April 12th. The band put on a great performance and played many old songs since 2017 is the 10th anniversary of their first album. I had a photo pass and got to take a few shots right up front and you can see them below. Click here to see the full set on Flickr. I even made a couple into animated gifs!

John Baizley of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

John Baizley of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

Pete Adams of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

Baroness at the 9:30 Club

John Baizley of Baroness at the 9:30 Club

The following night, Thursday the 13th of April, I put on another metal night with my partner in crime Brewer Will over at Atlas Brew Works. We had live metal bands, concert ticket give aways, a lot of great beer and a ton of fellow metal heads in attendance. The Denver based black metal themed brewery Trve had three guest beers on tap and Atlas had some of their most “metal” brews pouring as well including The Emprosator, a doppelbock named for a Russian Circles album, HaSaWoDo, a saison named after the Bongripper album Hail Satan Worship Doom, and their collaboration with Champion Brewing made for Decibel Magazine, the Decibeer DIPA. Lots of brewers from outside the area (in town for CBC of course) stopped by including the gang from Metal Monkey Brewing in Chicago and Jester King in Austin. Lord, Cavern and headliner King Giant all put on excellent performances and you can catch a bit of each of their sets, and hear the guys in Lord and King Giant talk about their gear and rigs, in the below video that Guitar Guru Network posted on YouTube, shot entirely at the event. If you just want to see to the parts of the video with the bands performing live then skip to when Lord starts at 16:20, Cavern at 24:11 and King Giant at 46:25.

When CBC ended the beer and metal collision continued! On Monday, April 17th, another metal show came to Atlas Brew Works. Canadian black metal band Thantifaxath headlined the venue with local support by Myopic and Sickdeer. After talking to one of the mysterious and anonymous members of the band, I came to find out that he was also a beer brewer by trade! It was a really good turn out for a Monday night and Thantifaxath put on a hell of a show too. Below is a short clip I shot of them at the show.

However the biggest beer and metal event ever held is going to be in Philadelphia this weekend when Decibel Magazine holds their first ever Metal & Beer Fest! This isn’t just a fest with some metal bands and some random breweries, Decibel has done a really good job of finding metal bands with ties to beer and breweries with ties to metal for this festival. For instance you’ll notice Khemmis is on the bill. Their drummer, Zach Coleman, is a brewer at Trve, which also happens to be a brewery pouring at the fest. Then there’s Panopticon on the bill, a band that masterfully blends black metal with bluegrass and has only ever played live once before. The band’s sole member, Austin Lunn, is also a brewer at Hammerheart Brewing in Minnesota, which is named after the classic 1990 album by Bathory. Municipal Waste is also on the bill and their drummer, Dave Witte, while not a brewer does find employment at the Ardent Craft Ales brewery in Richmond. Cigar City Brewing will be at the fest pouring their beer Divine Blasphemer, a smoked porter named after a Municipal Waste song.

There will be plenty of other beers with tie ins to metal at this festival as well. DC’s own Atlas is bringing HaSaWoDo, the aforementioned Bongripper tied in beer. Three Floyds, a brewery that has made official beers for many metal bands including Amon Amarth, Municipal Waste, Cannibal Corpse and Obituary, will be bringing their Permanent Funeral pale ale, named for a song by Pig Destroyer. Burnt Hickory Brewery will have their beer Charred Walls Of The Damned with them, named after the metal super group of the same name. Mikkeller, a brewery from Denmark, will have their Mother Puncher beer with them, named after a song by Mastodon. Trve is bringing their Nazareth IPA, named after the lyric from the Sleep song “Jerusalem.” Dave Mustaine of Megadeth will be at the fest on Saturday pouring his A Tout Le Monde beer from Unibroue (specifically from 5pm to 6:30 and 8:45 to 10). As you’ll notice some of these bands, like Sleep, Municipal Waste and Pig Destroyer, are actually playing the fest! Along with the bands like Khemmis and Panopticon that actually have brewers in them, this fest really is something special. It’s not a metal fest with lots of beer. It’s not a craft beer fest with some bands playing. It truly is a beer AND metal fest. To say I’m excited is an understatement, this is a festival for my two favorite things! I’ll be attending the fest with a press pass so check back for my coverage after I recover from what I can only imagine will be the bangover of a lifetime. This is all thanks to Adem Tepedelen, the guy who writes the excellent column Brewtal Truth in Decibel that covers the intersection of beer and metal. He is one of the first to focus on the relationship between beer and heavy metal music and without him this fest would probably never have been conceived in the first place.

If you can’t make the fest don’t worry! There’s still a lot of metal and beer tie ins to come. DC Brau has announced that they’ll be brewing another batch of their Savor The Swill beer, brewed with the guys in local band Darkest Hour (and named after the DH song “Savor The Kill”) that will be re-released this summer, including at the Darkest Hour concert at the Rock & Roll Hotel on July 14th (details here). Also, Thou and Cloud Rat are playing a show at Atlas Brew Works on June 26th (details here). I’m not sure what else is to come but as the worlds of metal and beer become more intertwined you can bet on one thing: metal heads that are craft beer lovers have a lot of good things to look forward to!

Review of Tales Of Ruin by Cavern

Band: Cavern
Album: Tales Of Ruin
Release Date: 4 March 2014
Record Label: Grimoire Records
Buy digital ($3) or cassette ($5) from Bandcamp: Here

Cover of Tales Of Ruin by Cavern

We’re back with another review of a release by a band on Grimoire Records, this time it’s the new EP by the Maryland three piece Cavern. Their sound is hard to categorize so I suggest giving them a listen by streaming the song at the end of the post or listing to the entire EP here while you read this review. And be sure to check out more of Tal’s writing on her blog here.

One of the cool things about reviewing albums is that I end up listening to things I would probably not seek out on my own – such as Cavern’s EP Tales Of Ruin. I’m usually more in the mood for atmosphere and melody or heavy, headbangable riffage, and didn’t expect to find either on an album with strong stoner vibes. While the album is dominated by a sludgy stoner sound, it’s not just that; there’s a lot going on that’s not covered by that label. (The same is also true of Cavern’s self-titled debut, released in April 2013.)

Tales Of Ruin starts out with a leisurely rhythm and melody, but the pace picks up about a minute into the first song, and the guitars charge into energetic riffs. Sometimes the band even races into hammering black metal-like segments or plays rocking classic metal riffs, though even these segments are thick with doom sound. Whether fast or moderate, their guitar riffs are pretty infectious – this is music you won’t be able to help bobbing your head along to. There are a few parts where the band slows down or gets downright spacey, but most of the album holds my attention with energetic and catchy guitar work.

In the first song, “The Pathway | The Void,” Cavern mixes it up constantly. Though they’ll repeat the same riff for several measures, the tempo and riffs change often. I love the moments where they launch into classic heavy metal riffs for a few seconds. The second song, “Colours,” is groovy, but the guitar riffs are rather repetitive. There are some intense moments, though, when the drums thunder or the guitars gallop into headbangable riffs. There’s a truly plodding part near the end of the song, but it’s relieved by a lovely sorrowful melodic lead. The third song, “Stretcher,” takes a while to build up with a churning intro, but once it gets going it has a nice momentum, helped along by the forceful, deep vocals. I enjoyed the bridge near the end, thick and heavy, atmospheric in a way different from the cold, dark sound of say, atmospheric black metal. After that, there’s over a minute of spacey distortion at the end of the song, which is a cool effect at first, but goes a little too long.

The vocals seem rather distant at the start of the album, nearly buried among the instruments. They come closer to the fore later, but are still a bit low in the mix. In the first two songs, the vocals are mostly an angry shout – not angry in a punk way, but more despairing. In the third song, the vocals are a gravelly baritone, which I find more fitting with the thick, heavy sound of the band’s music.

The last song is a cover of “Grounds For Divorce” by Seattle stoner/sludge band Big Business (who shares two members with The Melvins). This cover song is the most energetic song on the EP, with zooming guitars (that literally sound like a vacuum cleaner at times) and lively vocals. I can’t help headbanging to its insistent pace. Cavern’s take is a little thicker and sludgier than the original, with lower and gravellier vocals. The rest of the album sounds good, but this song sounds great – it’s the catchiest and most intense song on the album.

Despite not being a fan of stoner metal in general, I found myself enjoying this album, especially the guitars. The guitars were more energetic than I expected, even a bit catchy. I felt like the shouted vocals didn’t do much for the songs, though; especially when they were quite low in the mix, they just sounded like background noise. The gravelly vocals contributed more to the heavy sludgy feeling. With more vocals like that along with the catchy guitars, this EP might actually have converted me to their distinctive sound. The guitars at least should satisfy those who are already fans of sludgy stoner music.