To quote a great philosopher (who knows so much about nothing at all): “Beer: the cause of, and the solution to, all of life’s problems.”
Here at Last Rites, we enjoy a good beer. And sometimes, we even enjoy a crappy beer, as anyone who’s seen us crush some Natty Boh’s at MDF can certainly attest to. We spend quite a bit of time behind the scenes passing beer and music recommendations back and forth, so we figured, in honor of National Beer Day here in the US, we’d issue ourselves a fun challenge: Pick a great beer to pair with a great album that turns 21 years old in 2021. (For our international friends who may be unaware, 21 is the legal drinking age in the United States, and far be it from us to suggest that anyone younger than that would ever even dream of drinking a beer.)
So crack open a cold one and read on. When you get to the end, jump on into the comments and tell us what you’re drinking and what you’re spinning. And, hey, if it’s the room that’s spinning, maybe take a break for a bit, okay?
Prost! Santé! Kippis! Salud! Skål! Kanpai! However you say it: Cheers! Here are just a small few of our favorite albums to drink beer to.
CRADLE OF FILTH ‒ MIDIAN
“Ooooh, sweet Midian, I burn for thee at heart”
Who among Cradle of Filth fans hasn’t been completely loaded and started trying to warp their voice to do a terrible impression of Doug Bradley’s impeccable narration from album closer “Tortured Soul Asylum?” The choice to use Hellraiser’s Pinhead as a narrator was no accident as all the lyrical themes in Midian are based on the written works of Clive Barker.
Barker will turn 69 (heeyyooo) this October, but our beloved Midian will turn 21 just a few weeks later. It can finally walk its pale, bondage-clad body morosely over to the P.F. Chang’s on the other side of the mall for a drink after its shift at Hot Topic. While I’m sure you would like to join the festivities of this newly inebriated adult by licking a mixture of blood and wine off of a top-hat wearing vampire, I’m going to suggest a bomber of 3 Floyds Brewing Co.’s Chevalier Bertrand Du Guesclin.
What sort of Saffron’s curse brought about that silly beer name, you ask? Well, the name refers to an obscure 14th-century warrior who was legendary in battle for brutalizing people across Spain and France; seems like someone those Elizabeth Bathory loving Brits would appreciate. The other reason, of course, is it’s a blueberry tart ale that gets brewed in a foeder, which is some sort of giant fancy barrel. Everything about this beer points to excess, which is a staple ingredient in any Cradle of Filth album. Plus, blueberries pair well with cheese and there’s loads of wonderful cheesiness packed into this charcuterie board of gothic delights.
Midian saw Cradle of Filth’s music finally get a more polished production that gladly threw away the typical raw approach black metal took at the time. By the grace of two creatures kissing in cold mirrors, the producers actually realized the band had a bass player and that the mix could have a low end — a wild idea. Whether it’s the Cello break in “Lord Abortion,” the operatic chorus of “Her Ghost in the Fog”, the speedy gothic keys of “Cthulhu Dawn,” the all-too-easy to chant “Satanic Mantra” or any of the other absurdities offered, the band’s excesses all took black metal to a new level of joyous nonsense and that deserves a cheers with a boozy bougie beer! [SPENCER HOTZ]
HELLOWEEN ‒ THE DARK RIDE
Helloween is handily among the most all-caps FUN bands in metal history, and what’s more all-caps FUN than drinking beer? Not much, I tell you. Not much at all.
Back in the 80s, Helloween helped create power metal, but by the beginning of the following decade, they’d fallen off a cliff, losing guitarist and songwriter Kai Hansen and releasing two underwhelming attempts at a more straightforward rock approach that cost them fans, their record deal, and eventually, their vocalist Michael Kiske and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. With newcomer Andi Deris behind the mic, second guitarist Roland Grapow, and drummer Uli Kusch, the founding pair of Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf beat the odds and righted the ship. By the turn of the millennium, they had three strong comeback albums under their belt (plus an enjoyable, if inessential, covers collection). Released in 1998, Better Than Raw saw them heavier than ever, blending chunky riffs and instantly hooky choruses into that perfectly powerful Pumpkin pie.
Their first album of the new millennium, The Dark Ride, followed suit, adopting a darker feel to match its title, pairing the more traditional Helloween fare like “Mr. Torture” with the down-tuned heft of tracks like “Escalation 666” or the moody chug of “The Departed.” This is still power metal, so expect plenty of uplifting melodies and epic pomp, but its a less gleeful take on the sound that Helloween had established over the previous two decades. Deris’ voice is given more bite and snarl than before (or since), and these songs run the gamut from the blistering “We Damn The Night” to the midtempo piano-laden single “If I Could Fly” to the menacing groove of the title track.
From tip to toe, The Dark Ride is a bleaker take on Helloween’s normal happy-metal vibe, but even in their darkest hour, Helloween can’t help but be all-caps FUN, and these hooks are custom-made for drunken singalongs. What beer to pair with it depends on how dark and how fast you want your ride to be. If you’re living on the edge, going for speed, and looking for a quicker up and down (and if you’re in the greater Middle Tennessee area, since I don’t know how far this one is distributed), I highly recommend the Navel Gazer Imperial Stout from New Heights Brewery — it’s definitely dark, and at 9.25%, it doesn’t take too many. If you’re in for the long haul, maybe something a little less potent, a little more sessionable, like a Devil’s Backbone Black Lager schwarzbier. It is a German style, after all, and quite the drinkable brew, even if the brewery sold their soul (and presumably their backbone) to the devil of InBev a few years back… [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
MORBID ANGEL – GATEWAYS TO ANNIHILATION
Happy 21st Birthday, Gateways to Annihilation, you hefty-heftiest of Morbid Angel albums. You absolutely most muscular and flexing of records made all the more swole by Erik Rutan’s legendary forearms. You occasionally most warbling and lumbering of deathly slabs. You beautiful, spaghettifying singularity of titanic Azagthothian riffs and Sandoval pummels.
Most of the time you offer death metal thicker than The Rock’s stack of morning cod fillets, but when you speed up, you achieve the type of weightlessness Brutus T. Beefsquanch thinks he possesses before tearing his ACL trying to clear a low fence to impress his bros. The soloing, like on many a Morbid album, pretty regularly sounds like it’s under the influence of some chemical, ethanol or otherwise. In so many ways, Gateways features Morbid Angel stretching out their various Morbid Angelisms to their furthest extents. The opening bars of “Opening Of The Gates” could be the soundtrack to a slobbering sot struggling to unlock his or her front door after a night out, but then much of the same song finds the music in Ultimately Empowering Mode. A tune like “I” is all mega heavy with its main syncopated pattern but then like a 6/10 doofus at a sports bar gets it in its head that it’s all pretty with those psychedelic leads. It’s almost like the album’s whole intent was to take the listener on the emotional and physical rollercoaster ride of a particularly serious bender.
Hey, but guess what, Gateways, it’s all downhill from here. Before you know it, you’ll be 43 and still acting like a 20-something, all “Ageless, Still I Am” while you shotgun a sixer of National Bohemian as a chaser to a double of well bourbon. Then, during a (brief) period of drunken revelry, you scream out “To the Victor the Spoils” to the whole bar, the onlookers totally unaware that there was even a battle happening because you were watching minor league soccer on your phone. Later you’re headed home to be “He Who Sleeps,” blissfully unaware of the misery that awaits you upon your “Awakening.” You’ll try “Summoning Redemption” with some unholy crème de menthe and coconut water concoction, but to no avail. You passed through the gateway and got annihilated. Time to pay the price.
Beer to pair with this porterhouse of a death metal album: North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. It’s heavy. It’s mean. It’s the opening riffs from “Summoning Redemption” in beer form. (Could that tune possibly rule more?) Plus, Raspy’s dalliance with weird shit probably wasn’t too far off from Trey’s Old Ones obsession. Do not drink six of these in one sitting. [ZACH DUVALL]
INTERNAL VOID ‒ UNEARTHED
Here are a few things I very much enjoy associating with the spring and summer months spent hanging with a beloved crew amidst good times: Day drinking out in nature as virtually anything unlucky enough to be within a ten foot radius of the grill gets cooked up; hazardous tire swings flinging you into the refreshing waters at Camp Crystal Lake; fireflies in the tall grass as the gloam slowly takes over; doobs, reminiscences, more beer, general merriment, and the sounds of Maryland doom testing the strength of a portable speaker. And while one really can’t go wrong with any of the remarkable bands that once nested on and flourished alongside the terrifically unique lifecycle of Germany’s Hellhound Records from the late 80s and throughout the 90s, it is Internal Void and their 2000 release Unearthed (via Southern Lord Records, as a result of Hellhound running its course) that wins the day for this feature for a number of extremely logical reasons. First, it’s finally old enough to drink on its own here in these United States (even if we suspect it’s been tippin’ ‘em back for a number of years already); second, that wonderful album cover artwork would look smashing as a label on a limited run of smoooooth lager; third, there’s a song called “Pint of Love” on the record; fourth, the design / assembly of the album (not even sure what that entails) is credited to a company called Giant Beer Design; and fifth, Internal Void’s brand of doom, while fittingly heavy and bluesy and Sabbathy, is like the perfect summer breeze on a day when your troubles feel a hundred miles away. Pairing it with Cleveland’s own award winning Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold only seems fitting because, like Unearthed, it is notably smooth, balanced and perfect most any time of day (don’t judge), any day (or all days) of the week. [CAPTAIN]
NILE ‒ BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE
If we’re being honest, even though the timeline is slightly squishy, I’ve had a longer relationship with Nile’s Black Seeds of Vengeance album than I have with beer. As the first proper death metal album I ever owned, Black Seeds was one of those albums that confounded me so thoroughly I wasn’t even sure what to do with it. That’s how completely it upended my existing sense of what music could do. Seeing the band in concert the following year on a curious triple bill sandwiched between God Forbid and Cradle of Filth only solidified the notion that there was a magically inspired weight to the impossible frenzy of the album; as they closed out the concert with the band all in formation at the front of the stage leading the crowd in “Khetti Satha Shemsu,” it felt like they had actually tapped the marrow of the ancient world.
Black Seeds of Vengeance presented a significant focusing and refinement of Nile’s already ferocious debut from two years prior, so although there is no getting around the utter technical brutality of the title track or “Chapter for Transforming into a Snake,” Black Seeds presented a more holistic panorama. The tectonic breakdowns are more fully earned, the indigenous instrumentation is more seamlessly integrated, and the multitude of voices (both from the band and many guests) suggests an entire community came together in ecstatic aggression to lay this down.
Hell, there’s even the song called “Masturbating the War God,” which is downright, well, lovely in its midsection. If I am being even further honest with you, friends, it was not until just now, when taking another close listen to write this up, that I noticed how the line “We lay our bloodstained weapons of Iron /on the altar of Anhur” just before the end of the song is actually sung in the same melody of the dirge-like motif that’s been playing previously. Twenty-one years later, and there are still details to be dredged from this deceptively complex berserker of an album. Nile has arguably crafted even heavier, more sophisticated, more professionally impeccable albums in the intervening years, but for me, Black Seeds of Vengeance is THE Nile album.
To pair with this exquisite album, I’m recommending a hometown favorite in Temperance Beer’s Masquerade Tears double IPA. As they say, it’s “[i]nspired by the boozy fruity cocktails of New Orleans… Masquerade Tears is an over-fruited milkshake double IPA chock full of passionfruit, pineapple, tangerine, milk sugar, and vanilla, and dry-hopped with Mosaic and Chinook.” Just screams Egyptian-themed technical death metal, right?
Well, like Black Seeds, Masquerade Tears has a whole lot going on, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it takes a left turn. It’s sweet upfront, but not overly syrupy (the 8.0% ABV has a kick but doesn’t push it), and the tropical fruit notes are rounded off by the smoothness of the milk sugar. And like Black Seeds, the first time I encountered it, it very nearly knocked my socks off. Death metal and beer are very much alike, in that too many folks try to get too fancy and end up coming off as tacky. This beer pairs with an album like Black Seeds because it’s assertive, but knows how to back up that confidence with its craft. Plus, you can write a “Chapter for Transforming into a Hangover”** if you’re motivated enough. It’s got a “Libation unto the Shades” right there, and you may find yourself wanting “To Dream of Ur Next One.” People are corny. Shouldn’t you pick beer and heavy metal that isn’t? And c’mon, don’t you know this whole thing’s just a setup for you all to yell with me:
MASQ! TEARS! OF VENGEANCE!
MASQ! TEARS! OF VENGEANCE!
(**Please enjoy defiling the gates of Ishtar out the rolled-down passenger window of a Geo Metro responsibly.) [DAN OBSTKRIEG]
THE CHASM ‒ PROCESSION TO THE INFRAWORLD
Sometimes you just have to break out the big guns, I mean the real heavy artillery. We all have those records, the ones we save for the rainy day experience – drawing the curtains, lighting some candles, kicking back with a favorite brew (or beverage of choice), and just getting lost in the music. The Chasm is the perfect band for such an experience. Their albums tend to occupy the better part of an hour ‒ and justifiably so, mind you ‒ so there is a commitment involved in experiencing the entirety of any one of their full works. Perhaps this is a portion of what makes enjoying them such an experience. It’s not casual listening. Putting on The Chasm is, for me at least, an almost ritualistic experience. They’re a band that encapsulates everything I love about heavy metal. It has the gallops and searing highs of traditional metal, the brutality and occasional dissonance of death metal, the occult atmosphere of cosmic black metal, the riff-laden backbone and lead guitar heroics of thrash, the slow ‘n’ soulful doom section; in essence, if there were ever one band that earned the right to simply say, “We just play heavy metal,” in a post-1994 context, it’s The Chasm.
While The Chasm sit at the nexus of the various offshoots of true heavy metal, their fourth album, Procession To The Infraworld (which turns 21 next week!) rests comfortably at the nexus of their (to date) eight-album career. Stylistically speaking, it dwells between the raw ambition of Procreation Of The Inner Temple (1994) and the unfiltered despair of From The Lost Years… (1995) to the fully realized potential found on The Spell Of Retribution (2004) and the progressive instrumentality of A Conscious Creation From The Isolated Domain – Phase I (2017). While The Spell Of Retribution is arguably the band’s magnum opus, Procession To The Infraworld is the perfect album for fans of the band’s entire catalogue; Much like Death’s Human, it wraps everything about the band’s evolution into a singular, balanced package. Procession is a level-up on the stylistic realization the band outlined on 1998’s Deathcult For Eternity: The Triumph. The head-bobbing introduction track of “Spectral Sons Of The Mictlan” merely hints of more to come ‒ the bands seem to have a knack for nailing intro tracks that hold their own weight as fully realized songs that know their place in the flow of the album (see “Revenge Rises/Drowned In The Mournful Blood” on Deathcult or the way “From The Curse, Scourged…” just rolls on into “The Omnipotent Codex” on Spell for further evidence).
The midpoint of the album hits maximum The Chasm vibes with the marriage of two tracks. “Fading…,” highlighted by the twin guitar solo that erupts out of a sea of dissonant aggressiveness into pounding rhythms sets a perfect tone for the rolling percussive thunder of “Return Of The Banished” to spike the ball over the net. If “Fading…” sought to find order in the chaos, then “Return” embraces it, shifting seamlessly across angular, yet melodic riffs that seem to come at a mile-a-minute. A slow groove is found, and those particularly emotive solos send the focus of the song across the spiraling cosmic void of infinity in a sorrowful acceptance of futility. Yet in the final minutes of the song, that aggressive strength found in the gallows of despair is drawn upon. The leads pull on the conviction in the vocals as they cry out what could very well be the mission statement for the band: “Our cult is turning smaller but growing stronger… We are the overlords!”
The back half of the album leans heavily into otherworldly escapism, with “Cosmic Landscapes Of Sorrow,” leading the picked chord leads of “Architects Of Melacholic Apocalypse, which paces changes quickly across a progressive landscape of songwriting. “Cosmic Landscapes Of Sorrow” charges in out of a Painkiller-styled cold drum open met with one of the most The Chasm-esque riffs to grace the halls of the band’s discography. The prominent tremolo riffing at the mid-point of the song hits with maximum ferocity ‒ the sparing usage of such tactics adds to the overall impact in the album experience. Even the solo is a nonstop, furious pick-laden cyclone that stands as a testament to the band’s commitment to honing their technique to better serve their craft. And as much as The Chasm have a grasp on opening track dynamics by the point of Procession, so do they on album closer, “Storm Of Revelations:” A brilliant collage of ominous builds that gives way between a storm of blasting shreds and mid-paced riffage to mark a pinnacle endpoint for the centerpiece of The Chasm’s career to date.
Much like albums crafted by The Chasm, the Baby Maker Double India Pale Ale is best taken in as a big-gun experience. This dual-wielding Imperial IPA from Charlotte, NC’s own Triple C Brewing Company is a tricky beast. The bitter bite of the hops is surprisingly smooth for the seasoned IPA palette. Much like the classic metal spine of The Chasm, the Baby Maker boasts a malty backbone that allows the flavor to shine against its hardy, traditional backdrop. While the bite latches on across the mouth, the ease in which it goes down the ol’ gullet betrays its lurking 8.5% ABV. It’s a beer I have a healthy respect for – much like The Chasm, some of its charm comes from the pacing of making an evening of its enjoyment. For a bit of a lighter, more casual affair, I highly recommend Triple C Brewing’s Golden Boy Blonde Ale as well! [RYAN TYSINGER]