Category Archives: Music Review

Drunken Lullabies at The Social Kitchen

14330139_859700400829281_801541007932788024_n

I will admit to being pretty blessed when it comes to this silly little podcast that CHUD and I have been plodding along with for the past decade.  It’s taken us to San Diego where we met new friends and interviewed Greg Koch.  It’s gotten us VIP visits to breweries and opportunities to work with those breweries to get a handle of the topic.   We have interviewed top Brewers and up and comers.   It’s even gotten Groucho a steak dinner in DC!  If we made a list of benefits that come from our 6 bucks a month invested in a domain and online space… It would be an article unto itself.

Adding to this amazing pile of benefits was a recent invitation I got from Dustin “The Voice” over at Drunken Lullabies podcast.  If you don’t know them, they are the other Pekin beer podcast.  Apparently this town IS big enough for two!  Dustin was doing a remote show at the Social Kitchen in Lasalle Illinois  with a few musical acts…  And figured out through shared friends that I followed one of the artists.  Primarily, he was talking about Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers.  Also filling out the bill was Cody Diekoff, more known as the solo artist “Chicago Farmer”.

Cody is from Delavan.  He has been plugging away from complete obscurity a decade ago to near local celebrity in Peoria at this time.  The last time I saw him play was back in 2005 at the Farmhouse in his hometown.   He played against a wall to a local crowd that payed him no mind.  At the time it seemed a little sad, but in hindsight appears to be a testament to the perseverance that it took to get to where he is now.

Bob Walkenhorst.  The reason I listed all the great things that TBR has brought to us was to show you the reverence I had for seeing Bob.  This is right up there as a top benefit to doing the Beer Report.  I have been following his band The Rainmakers since their first major release in 1986.  Yeah, that’s a bit of time.  Bob still plays with the band, but recently seems to spend more time doing solo engagements as he travels across the Midwest.  I pretty much own everything he has produced…  Several times over as media has transformed from LP’s, Cassette and CD’s.  If Dustin was looking for a Bob expert to tag along for this show…  There are few in the Peoria area more qualified.

Drunken Lullabies does specialize in craft beers for its podcast.  But it also serves double duty by focusing on local bands.  Dustin had a unique advantage for this hosting job when he was manager of the local record shop, Co-Op Records.  Even though he is not there anymore, his love for music is evident in his efforts to bring local artists like this to the public.

The invite was to co-host this episode.  Of course, I was taking this gig!

venue

The best part about taking part in something like this was coming across a new venue for great food, craft beer and music.  The Social Kitchen was new to me…. I had no idea that Lasalle was hiding this little gem on its historical Main Street area.

Smoked Salmon

Pre show, we sat down to dinner.  Social Kitchen’s menu is a fresh and inventive mix of local flavors.  They combine that with off the wall items.  Delicious lobster corn dogs anyone???

I had one of the amazing salads and a few Revolution IPA’s.  We shared a table with some other folks and everyone raved about their dishes.   Had we been to the Social Kitchen just to explore a new restaurant, this would have been enough to call the night a success.

promoter

Dave Gualandri got up to introduce tonight’s acts.  Dave is a rabid music fan turned promoter.  His sheer will and love to music is driving a series of concerts at Social Kitchen called the “Songwriter Series”.  I was not prepared for what he was announcing next.  He said that Bob and Cody would be playing side by side passing a virtual baton back and forth as they sang songs about subjects they had agreed to over dinner.  Of course, both artists are from small Midwestern towns, so the overall theme would consist of music aimed at this part of the world we call home.  I was game.  I wanted to hear whole show of Bob… But hey, this concept sounded interesting.

concert

For nearly two hours, Bob and Cody (Who had never met until this night) went back and forth with songs themed with subjects ranging from cars to love.  It was a compelling show that sucked you in and made a couple hours disappear long before I wanted.    Adding to charm of the performance, the Social Kitchen acoustics were paired perfectly with the two artists acoustic guitars and voices.

So, you may be saying… OK Groucho…  This all sounds amazing.   I know that I write everything like a Penthouse Forum letter.  I am just that enthusiastic!   What do you have to show for this?  Funny you should ask.  Dustin had setup a special recording of his podcast with the artists after the show.  What I have to show is Drunken Lullabies Episode 43.

podcasters

If you want to hear a couple of great Midwestern artists sing a few songs and drink Oktoberfest beers while being educated about beer by a completely entertaining writer named J.A. Konrath…  You have to listen to this one.  Oh, I’ll take credit for inspiring this episodes title as well when Konrath and I have a little fun with each other.

Thanks again Dustin for letting me tag along!

 

Links:

http://www.rainmakers.com/

http://www.chicagofarmer.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SocialKitchenLaSalle/

https://www.facebook.com/DrunkenLullabiesPodcast/

Winterfylleth – The Thredony of Triumph/St. Peters Organic English Ale

Taken from CHUD’s Facebook group and re-posted here… Because you know he doesn’t love you enough!  G

Link to the page:  https://www.facebook.com/bieristkrieg

 

Winterfylleth – The Thredony of Triumph/St. Peters Organic English Ale

Ah, it’s beautiful November again. This is by far my favorite month of the year. It’s that beautiful transition between Fall to Winter. Shadows creep low and long over the landscape. Temperatures finally start dipping into the 40’s and 30’s and with that for me at comes a rush of joy and breath of new energy. What’s great is that so many people hate this month with a passion. The whining and bitching about the weather starts growing and people start feeling generally moody and forlorn. To this I say YES!!! I don’t know if it’s some weird middle child sort of derangement, but when everyone else is having a shitty time of things, I generally feel better and more at peace. I’m like a weird superhero, drawing power, joy, and control from others negativity. Ooh your day sucks, why thank you, I’ll have another. Maybe it just makes it easier for me to avoid my own problems, but either way, it gets me feeling creative. I’ll save my freak outs for the summer months while the rest of you are giddy about something lame like the sun.

This time of year I want to be outdoors in the gray gloom and soaking up the damp smells of earth. Everything is just a tad phased out, visibility is low, and everything seems misty even when it’s not. It’s like the whole landscape takes on the quality of old vinyl records and analogue tape hiss. There’s just enough of a disconnect that you have to use your imagination to bridge a gap between you and the life in things, and you have to be a little bit more creatively engaged to experience everything around you.

The weather enhances one other thing too. Black Metal!! It just sounds better this time of year. That being said, I’m not quite ready to jump into full on black metal darkness as full time listening just as of yet. It’s a good time for some good ol’ pagan inspired black metal rather than the full on cold Satanic vibe. Bands like Drudkh, later Burzum, and Wolves in the Throne Room tend to dominate my listening. You can only go over those old classics so many times though. This is where Winterfylleth comes in. The name means October in old English, and I’m a year late coming to this record, a few years late in finding this band, but they’re a perfect addition to the seasons rotation.

They get compared a lot to Wolves in the Throne Room for their feel, and to Wodensthrone as they are fully inspired by their English landscape and history, but I don’t think that’s a totally fair comparison. Partially, but there’s also a bit of old Drudkh in there for good measure. They bridge the old and the new fairly well in their sound. The music on this one is a little more streamlined compared to the last two albums, with long flowing riffs that feel soft to the touch. The drumming generally sticks to mid paced blasting and rolling double bass but lends plenty of drive to the material. Touches of transcendent melody emerge from the throbbing hum of the guitars just enough to inspire the kind of feelings of longing and wonder that make you picture gray skies, hillsides covered in fading grass, and the muted out colors of the woods in late fall. Yeah, writing that makes me feel like there would be some black metal hipster holding a Starbucks, with a too thing beard, and a scarf nodding in agreement. That kind of makes me want to punch myself in the balls, but fuck it, there it is.

The production is pretty much perfect for this record to my ears. It’s very clear but feels very alive and not over processed. While the drumming may generally be simple as needed, you can hear all the subtle nuances to the cymbal hits very well. The guitars have a proper fallen leaves fuzz but never to the point of obscuring the content. The vocals have just the right amount of reverb and everything is mixed clearly.

If there’s one thing that could be leveled against the record is that the formula is pretty much the same for every song. For an album that just pushes past an hour in length, it has the possibility of making digesting the whole record in one sitting a tad much.

This record needs a beer that is classically English, slightly bitter, but not too dark. It needs something still with some gold, a thinner body, but with enough flavor you know it’s still hearty ale when you’re drinking it. Something you don’t really drink when it’s freezing cold, but something not a hot weather beer either. Fitting the bill for this is St. Peters Organic English Ale. A classic of the style, this is one to drink at room temperature to get the full experience out of it and perfect for a cool and overcast day. There’s just enough hops to let you know it’s there, but you have to engage this beer a bit or it will go down a little too easy. It’s definitely one to savor and enjoy over time, and one I think pairs perfectly with a record like this.

4 out of 5 IBU’s.

CHUD

Dawnbringer – Nucleus

Dawnbringer – Nucleus

Metal. The essence of metal seems to reside somewhere deep down under our regular mental state. It comes from darkness. It comes from the unconscious mythological forms that flow underneath the rivers of the waking mind. It’s why metal brings a fanaticism and lifelong reverence in a way almost nothing else does for those who find themselves drawn to it. It exists outside the established realm of order, yet is strongly ordered in and of itself. It is one of the most diverse musical forms to exist yet every metal fan knows in an instinctive fashion when the music slips outside of “metal.” When you do hear something that is thoroughly, and completely, “true” metal, it’s like coming home. Not home in the structural, building sense, but home in the spiritual sense. You’re right where you’re supposed to be. Nucleus takes all that is metal, above and underground, and fashions something both forward thinking yet strictly controlled, completely new and undoubtedly ancient. Most importantly, the album is utterly fantastic.

The genius behind this masterpiece is Chris Black. If you don’t who he is it’s time you start ordering some albums. He’s been responsible for some of the best metal albums of the last decade. Not only is he the mastermind behind Dawnbringer, but also the absolutely righteous Superchrist, and High Spirits. In addition he plays drums for power metallers Pharaoh has helped behind the scenes to push Nachtmystium from a second tier black metal act into the innovators they are today. Oh yeah, he wrote for Metal Maniacs as well as runs the Planet Metal label and Distro. The guy is apparently pretty busy.

I first came into contact with his work with the last Dawnbringer album In Sickness and in Dreams. It was a potent mix of old school metal influence mixed with early 90’s death and black metal. The album was heavy and catchy, yet at the same time obtuse and esoterically introspective. This is in contrast to Superchrist, which is a very exoteric, I’ll get shitfaced, punch you and your mom, generally offensive, dirty metal band. High Spirits runs with a more of an early 80’sNew Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. What makes Nucleus so great is that it combines the fractured musical pieces of Black’s psyche and brings them all into one powerful vision.

Upon the first opening notes of So Much for Sleep you notice the death and black metal influences have been dialed back on this one. You also notice the big step up in production value from his previous work with the now popular Sanford Parker turning the knobs. Rather than the growls of the last album, Black lets his regular raw, yet clear vocals deliver his always intriguing, personal lyrics. When I say personal it doesn’t mean it’s anything like the New Wave of American Whining Metal that’s infected newer bands like a mental cancer either. What you also notice is the thick infusion of melody.

Third track The Devil takes the entirety of Black’s previous works, and stretches it out farther than ever. This song has to be the best thing he’ ever written. After a short intro riff, this thing barrels along like an out of control train. The downhill momentum is is palpable. You literally feel your blood pressure rise. It runs the gamut from Maiden melodicism, to throbbing, blast beating, black metal hypnotism, to a brilliantly fitting bluesy solo that crawls up from the crossroads.

The other absolute highlight is Old Wizard. The previous track All I See ends much like the last album did, with a guitar solo suddenly dropping completely away. Rather than leaving you in stunned silenced with a maddening case of musical blue balls though, here we go straight into a slow, gritty, impassioned dirge you will to play over and over.

Final track Pendulum starts with a melody of clanging out of tune strings. They weave in and out of the song, until they comes in tune and the songwriting in focus. It’s another example of Black’s ability to stretch and expand the fundamental form of metal, yet never break it or water it down by bringing in any foreign elements that clash. He adeptly plays with his chosen musical medium, knowing where he wants to go with it, but not limiting his options on which route he’s going to take to get there.

In all his previous work Black has been strictly underground, rarely touring, doing many interviews, or getting much if any marketing push. You had to be one of the cool kids to know what was going on. This album seems to be getting more of a push from new label Profound Lore records, and word of mouth is spreading like wildfire this time around. It’s simply too good to stay quiet. I’ve played this album about 15 times now and it’s still revealing new nuances, new angles, and I have a feeling this is one of those records that I’ll still be jamming regularly ten years from now. There exists that elusive element most great records have, which is timelessness. It does it by stretching to the depths of metals roots but also looking forward from its highest branches. It’s nearly perfect. Hopefully we won’t have to wait four years for another one.

4 & 3/4 out of 5 I.B.U’s

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

The Final Frontier

Well, the new Iron Maiden is finally out. Opinions on this one run the gamut from the most uninspired piece of shit they’ve ever put out to it being the one of their best albums ever. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I think it’s the best album they’ve put out since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its flaws.

Now in terms of loving Iron Maiden I’m like a fatherless 16 year old girl from a New Jersey trailer park at a Motley Crue show in 1988. They have been a part of my musical landscape since early childhood. I still remember the feeling of pure occult awe the first time I saw a cassette of Live After Death as a kid. Brother Chump’s Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son posters were always around too. Really though, I never truly understood their music, or developed the full on, man-tastic, love I have for them until after Bruce rejoined the band and A Brave New World came out. I think that helps me take a broader view of what I like about Maiden then some old timers though.

Manager Rod Smallwood once made it a point to say that Maiden makes 45 minutes of awesome music per album. If Iron Maiden kept the mindset that they would limit themselves to that amount of music per album, I firmly believe that the last few albums would be seen just as fitting of being legendary as the early ones. With the rise of the compact came the urge to fill it though, and with it a slight watering down of the sheer brilliance the band is capable of at their best.

The band pulls one complete dick move right at the onset that has to be addressed. Don’t you fucking ever make a goddamn 4 and ½ minute intro on the same track with one of the best songs on the album!!! Track 1 is officially Satellite 15 and The Final Frontier together. Satellite 15 is just a long intro that will be cool for getting people to freak out at live shows. Why the fuck would you make me have to listen to that shit every time I want to hear the fucking song though??? None one give a shit about the intro, on almost any album, ever. Fuck off!!!

Okay then. Like said trailer bitch now that I’ve tossed my Smirnoff ice bottle at my man, and tried to emasculate him in front of his friends, I can get back to lovin’ him. After waiting forever, and the last four years of music geek lust building up is threatening to drive you crazy, the Final Frontier breaks in with a big, catchy rock riff. This thing was written to rock arenas and will rock your car just as hard. The song is one of the shortest at around 4 ½ minutes, but is heartfelt, epic, has giant hooks, and features Bruce’s voice well in the simple but impossible to get our of your head chorus of “The Final Frontier” repeated a whole big bunch of times.

After making you wait forever to get to that new song, then blowing the doors off, they make sure to let you know, “Hey baby, that was cool, but I’m not THAT into you.” The next few songs aren’t bad but aren’t spectacular either. The first single El Dorado is actually a pretty killer track, if a little self-conscious at moments. Mother of Mercy is kind of cool, but kind of plods at the same time. The voice Bruce chooses to use for the chorus is a little too close to the sounds probably made the dying soldier Bruce is singing about. That track seems to bother people the most. Coming Home is Bruce’s ballad to flying. It’s kind of sappy, and it’s not a bad song, but instead of having an epic feeling of how awesome coming home from a flight is, I think about what Iron Maiden’s kids think about that song. “Dad, while you were away playing rock star, everyone had to hear the story about how Mom was crawling through bathroom windows to blow Nikki Sixx. Fuck you Dad and your plane. I just wanted to you to come to a fucking soccer game, but you couldn’t fly in for that could you, fuckface?”

From there the album actually takes off. The Alchemist could have come from the 80’s. No doubt it’s an immediate Maiden classic. Isle of Avalon isn’t always great, and they do the long intro thing way too much on it, but it has a fantastic chorus. Starblind is fairly progressive for them. It has a really cool, kind of odd main riff, and a nice section played in 7/7 time as a bridge. It’s gets a little wonky at one point where it sounds like the song suddenly dies, but they manage to pick it up and keep playing the verse and chorus another time and pull it out. The Talisman is awesome, again with another long intro but the song may feature Bruce’s best work on the album. After some more intro storytelling, (noticing a theme) The Man Who Would Be King is one of the best Maiden songs ever. It’s everything the band has always done well, but they throw a very space rock, very transcendent sounding section that really shows the band still has a few tricks up its sleeves. I’ll pit that song against anything else in their catalogue. If they play that live the next time I see them my panties are flying towards the stage. When the Wild Wind Blows is almost a poppy track about the end of the world to close things out, but does it need to be 11 minutes? A lot of people are talking about how this track is amazing, but I’m not in that group. It’s probably the least distinctive track on the whole album. It’s not annoying but instantly forgettable.

So here’s the problem with the second half of the album. It’s like this. Everyday I come home from work, I wish the moment I opened the door Thus Spoke Zarathrustra would boom from the speakers, the cat would obediently rub his head on my leg before going to sleep, and my fiancé would have an IPA and sandwich ready for me. It would be pretty epic. Eventually, though, you may say “Honey, could I get a stout today, or how about some Lucky Charms instead of sandwich today?” These ridiculously long intro parts just don’t need to be on most of these songs. Not every track needs to be Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and they shouldn’t be. Every once in awhile there’s nice foreplay, but eventually all this playing around is just a chore when you want to get down to the business in the back of a rusted Z28 real quick before the show.

So what does this all add up to? The problem of figuring out what to say about this album comes from the fact that the view from the heights of this album are breathtaking, but sometimes you need a team of sherpas to get you there. When Maiden is on top of it’s game no other band can touch them. When Bruce really opens his pipes and it sounds like the cosmos itself is reverberating with his vocal chords, I’ll wade through 5 minutes of intro to hear it. What does it say about a band that when they suck they are still better than almost all the other music you can get your hands on? For all its’ faults I still love this album and still think it’s full of brilliance. Iron Maiden seems to channel a power greater than the band itself when they hit things in stride. Something I like about this album too is that every song is memorable and distinct, a quality lacking on the last few albums.

Just remember to compare this album to the output of other mortal bands rather than to what you think of other Iron Maiden albums.

4 out of 5 IBU’s

Sacrilege – Behind the Realms of Madness

First up for the lost underground classic reviews is Sacrilege’s first full length Behind the Realms of Madness from 1985. This thing is a MONSTER! What kind of monster? Imagine all the crust your mom ever cut off your sandwiches as a kid formed into a band and decided to hate you for taking them away from their doughy insides, and now all they have left is hollowness and anger. I say that because much of the band was made up of members from hardcore legends The Varuker’s , who some consider the fathers of Crust. If you’re not familiar with Crust, it’s that crunchy blend of punk and metal that’s the aural equivalent of snorting a mountain of blow and tying yourself to the hood of a racecar. The CD version sounds like it was ripped from an LP. Another thing that makes this album really stand out is the vocals Lynda “Tam” Simpson. She was hot and her voice rocks. It’s feminine, but still a little rough, and all nut stomping bee-yatch. I’m sure there was a pile of pimply face, hopeless metal losers back in the day dreaming about how great it would be she thought they were cool. I’m not even sure you can still find the CD anywhere but one of the guys from the band is still selling LP’s from the U.K. as I write this.

The album starts off with Life Line, which is probably still one of the heaviest highest energy Crust tunes I’ve ever heard. It starts off with a greasy sounding high speed thrash riff and the absolutely explodes like into a metallic punk frenzy. Seriously, this song is like watching a nihilistic kindergarten class throw hand grenades into nursing homes. The youth are here cleanse the fucking Earth!!! Raaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhh!!!

Next up is Shadow from Mordor. This is a mid-paced chugger that is content to steadily beat you down but isn’t quite too excited about it. As one commenter on Youtube put it, “one does not simply thrash into Mordor.”

At Death’s Door up’s the speed a little but grooves harder. They take an extended break from vocals in the middle and just absolutely drive home a couple of crushing riffs that will make you put your face through your computer screen. That section totally makes this song a classic.

A Violation of Something Sacred brings back the punk fury with a little something that reminds me of Motorhead. It’s good but if there was one song on this that doesn’t quite stand out it would be this one. It’s kind of like the opener but just not with as much raw power.

The sound of a church bell starts The Closing Irony, an absolutely punishing chunky thrash song. This was made for head banging. It’s a weighty, meaty, rare steak of a track.

The whole closes out with Out of Sight, Out of Mind. This is a solid old school thrasher that just crackles with power.

At six tracks in 26 minutes this thing is short, sweet, and sheer thunder. What makes this release so classic is that there is a monolithic solidness, a weight behind everything going on that is captured perfectly, making the recording timeless. Buy the LP, dig it up on CD, or just check out the tracks on Youtube. You won’t be disappointed.

4 ½ out of 5 IBU’s

– CHUD

New Blog Intro + Cardiac Arrest Review

Q:What is best in life?

A: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

Q: Okay, but besides the obvious?

A: Not hard to say. Beer, metal, food, and culture.

Those last four pinnacles of human achievement are the impetus for starting this new blog project. While The Beer Report has always been Groucho’s creative baby that I just get to show up and drink at, I wanted to make something to tie all my interests together. So, I convinced Groucho to give me a blog space and invited him to contribute as well. Thanks for putting this together for me brother.

As for content, this is still the beer report after all, so you will see pictures and reviews of beers I’m drinking when we aren’t doing the show. If I’m going to be drinking and sitting in front of a computer I might as well share it everyone, right? I’ll try and keep the fancy beer language to a minimum. Rather than discuss the differences between Noble and Cascade Hops I’ll try and keep it metaphorical and entertaining.

I will be upping the metal ante though and writing album reviews. There won’t be any restrictions on the style but you can expect to see mostly underground metal highlighted. As well as seeing reviews on new albums I’m digging, expect to see some nostalgic reviews of classic albums, and reports of musical archaeology as I dig up rarities, or albums I just plain missed decades ago.

This space will also be getting hit with anything else of interest, be it food, museum trips, book reviews, mythological speculation, Lovecraftian evocations, philosophical self flagellation, and the discussion of T-Shirt culture ethics in underground music scenes.

UP THE IPA’S!!!

No use wasting time so let’s get right into it. The first album up for review is Cardiac Arrest – Haven For The Insane. The band has been around since 1997 but have only recently become prolific. This is their third full length since 2006. It’s their first record for Ibex Moon Records which is run by John McEntee of Incantation. If you’re fan of old school death metal at all it’s a label you should be checking out.

The first thing that leaps out at you is that the guys in Cardiac Arrest love early death metal and play it the way I think it’s supposed to be played. Lots of underground bands these days are all noodles, weak sauce, and no meatballs. There’s no need to worry about that with this album. Yes there’s speed, but not for the sake of speed, and they have no problem taking big, mid paced, bloody, chunking riffs and riding them when necessary.

I’ve listened through this a few times and have come to the conclusion that this is the Donovan McNabb of death metal albums. By that I mean that the record is mostly great but slightly aggravating at times. It’s not because the album isn’t good. It’s that it flirts with greatness but just doesn’t quite reach the pinnacle. This is no doubt a killer death metal record and I recommend any fan of death metal to check these guys out, especially if you grew up on or like material from the early 90’s. There are a few details that trip it up at times though. The production is tinny. Not completely thin but just enough that you know it could be a little more powerful. On the other hand, the production does a great job at capturing the energy and aggression of the band, and they have those qualities in spades. This thing rips. While the album is mostly packed with killer riffs, there are a few that fall flat, or a few transitions here or there that just seem a little wonky. There are plenty of other riffs that are fantastic on the record, and the fact that the rest is so good it makes the bad moments really stand out. Maybe shaving a couple of tracks off the record may have just honed it down to extra sharpness.

I know this review may sound a little conflicted, but overall I wholeheartedly recommend checking these guys out. The good far outweighs the bad and I am really nitpicking this one fairly hard. I’ll be checking their older material soon.

3 ½ out of 5 IBU’s.