How we write our beer reviews

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Why read a review at all? For some, it is like reading a catalog: find the basic attributes of a product. For others, it is an investment in the judgment of others to tell how well the product fits together. Any idiot can cobble together a checklist of trendy things that consumers have indicated they want in user-response surveys. It takes a stronger human being to figure out where they intersect, how to balance them, and from that how to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This applies to music, smokes, literature …and beer.

I write all the beer reviews for Death Metal Underground. These are my opinions and mine alone, but I base them on years of sampling and enjoying different beers. I bring something else to the table, which is practicality. Any idiot hipster can write a review gushing over the radical new ideas — not all that’s new is good, mind you — in some IPA made by two guys in a garage using only wild-grown hops, antique oatmeal and West Alabaman cardamom. A practical writer looks at what the beer has to offer and how that fits into the life of the person who will be drinking it. You know that phenomenon where you or someone near you sees an advertisement and thinks, “You know, that’s what I really need to complete my life — a combination hedge-trimmer and ionizer!” and rushes off to buy it, without having ever recognized the need for something like that before. This is the most common human failure of understanding, what Brett calls “reversed cognition” and William calls “islands,” where instead of thinking of what we need in a logical manner, we stumble along and see what crops up that might fit the bill and then buy it. All advertising works on this principle, and so do all hipster beer reviews. Your life just isn’t complete until you taste this beer… but why did you want it in the first place?

My reviews look into the utility of a beer. That seems like a Walmart-level consumer attitude, but it is a practical one. It involves two questions: Why would you drink this over all the other options available? and Why would you buy this in comparison with the prices of other beers? Beer is, like everything else, a market; demand balanced against supply determines value. Sometimes, demand is irrational, like all the people rushing out to buy bitter but saccharine IPAs so they can tell their hipster friends, “No, man, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Broken Alternator Upside-Down Ale, broslice.” But metalheads are more practical folk. We drink for flavor, true, but also for alcohol (who buys non-alcoholic beer except designated drivers?) and for the situation in which we are going to drink the beer. Drinking with friends in a San Francisco bar, where every beer costs $32 and twenty cents of that goes to starving orphans in Malaysia who are so poor they have never even seen Twitter, is different from everyday life where you’re picking up a half-rack to pound down with friends.

To that end, every review has two ratings: a quality rating, and a purchase rating. They look like this:

Quality rating: 3/5
Purchase rating: 3/5

Note to the curious: on a scale of five, a “three” is the equivalent of “take it or leave it,” dead center in the middle of your options.

The quality rating determines how good the beer is as an everyday drinking or weekend drinking beer. This is not for people with giant beer cellars who prize rarity and oddity over hassle-free enjoyment. It is also not for people who are uncritical and buy whatever the beer giants put out in 18-packs on sale at the local Ralph’s, because that group does not need beer reviews; it needs coupons and (probably) Alcoholics Anonymous. For your practical-minded metalhead, which is the type of person who reads this site, my quality rating provides an assessment of how good a beer is independent of how novel, weird, “interesting” or unique it is. That jive is for giggin’ hipsters (definition: a giggin’ hipster is one working a series of day jobs while “working” some vast artistic project that will never come to fruition, or will be garbage welded together with boar semen entitled One Day in the Multiverse (Republican Cadillac Genocide, part II)) and no metalhead wants that. The purchase rating gives a sense of how worthy it is to seek out this beer given the other options available. If Pig Wrasslin’ Pale Ale is 20% better than Humpty Dumpty’s Riverhead Lager, but also is 40% more expensive, it suffers on this account because the added quality is not worth the leap in price. That may seem shallow to you, but your money matters. The extra bucks you could drop on fancy beers that do not really add that much more to the party, especially after the third glass, could go toward buying rare Demoncy LPs. Mull that over when you have your next beer.

Like most things on this site, my reviews aim to be controversial not for its own sake, but because the truth is usually controversial unless a question is so universal (“who likes to poop? raise your hands”) that it answers itself. I write for this site because they will let me get away with this, where on Beer Advocate or other metal sites I would be drowned out by hep cats listing off their favorite beers which can only be purchased during the full moon for two weeks in December on a ferry between unnamed islands in the Agean Sea. If you like them, great. If not, I extend a hearty classic metalhead-style middle finger to you, a wink, and hope you enjoy whatever overpriced fad swill you’re chucking down on Daddy’s trust fund account.

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Devin Townsend Project set to release Dark Matters & Sky Blue August 7

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Devin Townsend Project released the double album, , in late 2014 and will now issue each part, Sky Blue and Dark Matters, in their own separate packages on August 7.  The lyric video for the track “March Of The Poozers” taken from the Dark Matters side of the album can be seen on the InsideOut YouTube channel here: http://youtu.be/1NGQjRMXg28

 

You can view lyric videos for the tracks “Rejoice” and “Rejoice” below:

Deathray: http://youtu.be/1DJrnr3cnro

Rejoice: http://youtu.be/pCNx6vs7c2Y

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Paradise Lost releases new album in North America

paradiselost

Paradise Lost has finally officially released their 14th album, The Plague Within, in North America. The band has also announced exact tour dates along with the release.

 

“The Plague Within” – European tour 2015
27.09 – IE Dublin, The Academy
28.09 – UK Belfast, The Limelight
30.09 – UK Manchester, Academy 2
01.10 – UK Glasgow, Garage
03.10 – UK Wolverhampton, Wulfrun Hall
04.10 – UK London, Koko
05.10 – DE Cologne, Live Music Hall
06.10 – BE Antwerp, Trix Muziekcentrum
07.10 – NL Utrecht, TivoliVredenburg
09.10 – DE Berlin, Huxley’s Neue Welt
10.10 – SE Malmö, KB
11.10 – SE Göteborg, Sticky Fingers
13.10 – FI Helsinki, The Circus
15.10 – SE Stockholm, Debaser Strand
16.10 – NO Oslo, John Dee
17.10 – DK Copenhagen, Pumpehuset
18.10 – DE Hamburg, Gruenspan
20.10 – CZ Prague, MeetFactory
21.10 – PL Wroclaw, Alibi
22.10 – PL Gdansk, B90
24.10 – CZ Ostrava, Barrak
25.10 – SK Bratislava, Randal Club
26.10 – HU Budapest, Barba Negra
27.10 – HR Zagreb, Vintage Industrial Bar
29.10 – SI Nova Gorica, Mostovna
30.10 – DE Munich, Theaterfabrik
31.10 – AT Vienna, Arena
02.11 – IT Milan, Live Club
03.11 – CH Solothurn, Kofmehl
05.11 – ES Barcelona, Salamandra
06.11 – ES Madrid, Sala Arena
07.11 – ES Bilbao, Sala Stage Live
08.11 – FR Bordeaux, Rocher de Palmer
09.11 – FR Paris, Le Trabendo
10.11 – FR Strasbourg, La Laiterie
12.11 – Liverpool – O2 Academy 2
13.11 – Nottingham – Rock City

 

Paradise Lost online:
http://www.paradiselost.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/paradiselostofficial
http://twitter.com/officialpl

 

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Gomorrah release new track

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Nu-thrash band Gomorrah has revealed one track from their upcoming album to be released later this year. The single is called “Phantom Sun” and bears unmistakable resemblance to modern acts like Sylosis.

 

Guitarist Colton Deem says:

This song is but a sample of the new refined Gomorrah sound we’re trying to encompass with the new record. A lot of the new tracks are a bit more diverse in their flow and construct than our prior work. “Phantom Sun” is one of the first songs we finished writing for the album and it’s  a good representation of what’s to come.

 

https://soundcloud.com/metalgomorrah/phantom-sun

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May 2015: The decent and the rescuable

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This is a “best of the month” list for this month, but making the title “Best of May 2015” sounds like giving too much of a spotlight for such a short span of time, and devaluating the word “Best of” somewhat, in my opinion. Therefore I chose a title to reflect reality more clearly: these are the only albums we heard of on this website this month that were decent enough to not be considered utter disgraces to the metal genre (those were in the SMRs or were ignored). The “decent” are those that show consistency in style, coherence, a direction and a clear artistic voice and goals. The “rescuable” are those that are still confused in their composition — unclear, or that seemed to be impeded from development by their own approach to music-making (or that of their own genre).

 

The Decent

  • Ascended Dead – The Advent                                      review
  • Blasphemic Cruelty – Crucible of the Infernum      review
  • Exhumation – Opus Death                                           review
  • Luciferian Rites – When the Light Dies                     review
  • Necrophor – Exterminatus                                          review
  • Nekromanteion – Cosmic Horrors                             review
  • Perversor – Anticosmocrator                                      review
  • Shroud of the Heretic – Unorthodox Equilibrium  review
  • Undead – False Prophecies                                           review

 

The Rescuable

  • Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror                review
  • Bureviy – Concealed Beyond the Space                     review
  • Dew-Scented – Intermination                                     review
  • Maruta – Remain Dystopian                                       review
  • Undergang – Døden Læger Alle Sår                           review
  • Wende – Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft    review
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Shroud of the Heretic – Unorthodox Equilibrium (2015)

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Skillfully bringing together doom/death, modern atmospheric and war metal styles, Unorthodox Equilibrium is more than a fitting name for describing the musical approach used in this album. Bands playing in any of the aforementioned styles have typically fallen prey to different misconceptions. Some have failed by attempting to adopt an orthodox position simplified to the precept that genre cliches guide songwriting and that the result will be good if it “feels good”. Others have taken a route that attempts to bring more original ideas into the mix but whose ultimate goal is still that each section gives them a certain feeling, an “atmospheric/ambient” effect. We can summarize the cause of these blunders by saying that their approach has been too pleasure-oriented.

In Unorthodox Equilibrium we can hear familiar voices bearing the mark of Worship in Last Tape Before Doomsday, Disembowelment (I refuse to follow ridiculous indications as to what letters should be written in uppercase format) in Transcendence into the Peripheral and Esoteric in Paragon of Dissonance.  Unlike them, though, Shroud of the Heretic only slightly avoids falling into complacency with the immediate effect of their arrangements and instead channels these as methods used measuredly. The band manages to promote a sense of movement in each section while maintaining atmosphere without depending on stagnating in the harmony within one section or getting anchored to one kind of texture or intensity level for too long.  This makes the album an incredibly varied experience within the non-restrictive but focused confines of a florid and eloquently coherent language.

Independently of whether this was a conscious decision or not, the heterodox and non-monolithic composition route taken by Shroud of the Heretic avoids this atmospheric metal trap and represents an excellent indicator of an artistically healthy direction for this subgenre of metal.

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Perversor – Anticosmocrator (2015)

perversor - anticosmocrator cover

Perversor play a fast and ripping minimalist death metal which some would be tempted to encase in the line of primitive South American so-called black metal were it not for the strong structural development so strongly evident in the detail-intense songs which defeat any accusations of purely atmosphere-oriented thinking. In fact, Anticosmocrator gives us the opportunity to contrast their more musical approach to that of bands with a more vague and atmosphere-building composition mindset. This difference lies in the importance of keeping a balance between evocation and solid musical construction.

While Perversor fills all the requirements to be classified beside any atmosphere-minded bands like those playing war metal, for instance, it far outdoes them by virtue of achieving solid development of ideas in the composition of their songs. Typically, Perversor will take a fast riff and develop both variations on the riffs or transitioning into riffs that are easily recognized as being related to the previous ideas through the interval relations in the patterns used while the rhythms and register are changed. This is a formula that is easily summarized but which nonetheless requires great skill to apply and expand to create convincing songs that both take the listener from a beginning to a distinct ending yet do not exceed the natural reach of the riffs and ideas used.

This is the sort of release that is excellent but will not turn the heads of those who are always on the look out for bands thinking “out of the box” as if that were the whole basis of good music. Perversor compose songs on a solid basis and while not diverging or breaking any limits, create evocative, musically competent and whole music that should be at the top of any discerning metalhead’s list for 2015 .

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Mefitic – Woes of Mortal Devotion (2015)

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Attempting to create an atmospheric kind of death metal, Mefitic build their style on alternating sections of slow, assertive chords in simple rhythms and droning/fluttering, tremolo-propulsed, slowly-advancing melodies and motifs, both usually played in low registers to maintain the aura of heaviness. Unfortunately this is all that there is to say about this album. The description of a superficial traits is all that can be said for it, as the music construction is based on it and therefore paper-thin. The reason why it still deserves a review of its own is twofold. First of all, it gives us the opportunity to point out the deficiency of this songwriting approach, and second because Mefitic remains consistent and coherent throughout the whole album, which is more than can be said of the vast majority of releases.

While we must acknowledge the focus that Mefitic has displayed throughout the whole album, the overall result must be judged and its limitations pointed out. The consistency in color and expression is laudable and should be emphasized as an example of consistent songwriting. The limitations lie in the music being too riff-oriented and the goals remaining superficial, being completely bent on a sort of evocation and heaviness, leaving the musical composition as secondary. While in metal we consider that this is generally ideal, solid and effective composition should not be disregarded in favor of  writing atmosphere-oriented sections that are lined up one after another. Solid composition gives a clear direction, an intricate picture to be discovered through subsequent listens. Forgetting about it leaves you open to the danger of painting a confused or too-general a picture that remains too mystic, indicating a way but not undertaking it.We condemn Woes of Mortal Devotion because this is all it achieves: the building of a foggy and general atmosphere that doesn’t solidify into a clear picture of anything.

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