Article by: Brian Halsey ‡ Edited by: Leanne Ridgeway
Winter is the time of dark, bleak coldness. It has its perks. Halsey goes into dank jams mode and loses his collective marbles in the frozen tundra of New Jersey… as do most of us confined by the seasonal weather psychosis whims of the Northeastern U.S.
This article is a bit late, which is my entire fault, but hey we do a lot of stuff around here and winter is prime time to accomplish indoorsy tasks. Like moving frozen water from its initial landing place over to sludgy piles along the road, and days upon days of listening to the 1,400 new albums coming out every week. Fair warning – Halsey delved into full regalia Halsey mode this round. ~ Leanne
Beer: Metallica – Enter Night
Let me be the first to say that I don’t think bands doing mash-ups with breweries and releasing what is essentially a common beer in a commemorative can is corny at all. On the contrary, I think it is awesome and one of the most American things humanly possible. Based on the strength of BEHEMOTH’S new album, I thought there might be a slight chance my local would be carrying their namesake beer.
As expected, I was wrong. Even more ironically, I was met face to face with a familiar frenemy. Metallica… beer. In many obvious ways, Metallica shreds hard. No metalhead should deny this. They have a bunch of albums I love and a bunch of songs I love on albums I hate (SPIT OUT THE BOOWWWNNN). But this felt a lot like turning on Sirius Radio; you cross your fingers and pr666y for something that’s actually heavy, but you get ‘Re-Load’ era Metallica.
Fuck it, I’m not changing the station. Metallica beer is the most Metallica thing Metallica has ever Metallicaed. It is so magnificently predictable in both taste and presentation that you can almost hear “Enter Sandman” play for the 15th billion time when you crack your first tall-boy. A sleek, black can, menacing in design, features the edgy simplicity of a devil head logo and “Enter Night” in classic Metallica-logo font.
I assumed – based on the price, the color of the can, and the name of the beer – that I would be dealing with a dark stout or at least a dark ale, despite the fact that the word “pilsner” is included elsewhere on the label. This is where they Metallicaed the shit out of me. Upon the first sip, I was introduced to a very familiar and widely accepted taste. This beer is essentially Coors mixed with Budweiser and a respectable dose of hoppy German pilsner. It was crisp, refreshing, forgettable, and totally fine. I was drinking stock beer out of a cool can.
<3 Metallica4EVR I tried to be the hero of the day, but I did the unforgiven, laugh if you want, but don’t tread on me (insert 20 vomit emojis)… it’s sad but true (RIP my credibility). On to the music.
Very few things make me happier than a properly done Norwegian black n’ roll album dropping just before the dawn of winter. SLEGEST rips and roars with a wild mix of black metal vocals and surprisingly upbeat, riffy 80’s rock music.
The band has shown more than flashes of this style before, but this time they are riverboat gambling with their reputation on the line. Fuck this up and you insult your entire country by crapping the bed on a genre they almost singlehandedly pioneered, or pull it off and catapult to the forefront of bands finding balance while raging in opposite direction.
SLEGEST will have American fans singing along to words they don’t even know with their fists in the air. Alongside Taake, Madder Mortem, Avast, and Helheim, SLEGEST solidifies themselves on the Dark Essence roster as one of the must-listen bands out of the Bergen, Norway camp.
Band: Sigh – ‘Heir to Despair‘
From the place that gifted us sumo wrestling, hentai, and the concept that you can basically pull fish out of the ocean and fucking eat them, Japan is awesome in the weirdest of ways. Thus only natural that Sigh, who was a black metal band back in the ’90s, has evolved into a super-bizarre juggernaut of heaviness that defies the concept of “genre.” It is more than understandable why so many critics have this album ranked high on their ‘Best of 2018’ lists. It has definitely been my go-to ‘change of pace’ recently.
The heaviness is always present, but there are also sick flutes, robot voices, crazy vocal patterns, and just generally odd traditional sounds being poured into the mash. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be surprised. These doodz are bred from the heroes who invented the katana and figured how to earthquake-proof all the skyscrapers on their whole island. All of that stuff shines through when you hear Sigh rip. Seriously, it does.
Band: High On Fire – ‘Electric Messiah‘
Muscular riffs and pounding drums. Ripping guitar solos. Heavy Metal. Matt Pike never having a fucking shirt on. HIGH ON FIRE is like a mathematical common denominator, you figure out right away that they completely kick-ass and you build your metal collection from there.
I have literally never met a single person that doesn’t like HIGH ON FIRE. Probably because I start most of my conversations with a friendly handshake and a simple introduction, “Nice to meet you. My name is Brian. If you don’t like High on Fire, you’re fucking done.” ‘Electric Messiah‘ is their best offering to date, topping even my personal favorite, ‘Death Is This Communion‘. They have a way of making banger after banger and never letting you down.
It is this signature brand of high-octane riffage that the band has built their temple upon. “Spewn From The Earth” and “Drowning Dog” are proof this band’s better days are still ahead of them. They deserve the recent Grammy nomination they received and to win goddamned global recognition after 20+ years.
Bonus points if you low-key enjoy being sick in the winter because it results in your having the same whiskey-soaked gravel voice as Matt Pike.
Band: Bruce Springsteen – ‘Springsteen on Broadway‘
Yo, my whole thing is about supreme positivity and not trashing bands. BUT, as a true New Jersian, I gotta speak my peace on “Tha Baws” because I can assure you it won’t hurt his bank account. This album is a stain on the soul of our country. This is coming from a man who will always love ‘Born to Run’, ‘Greetings from Asbury Park NJ’, ‘Nebraska’, and ‘Born in the USA‘ with all of his heart.
‘Springsteen On Broadway‘ is a self-serving pat on the back for a fucking lightweight who has done nothing but sing about his youth for the past 50 years. I have worked on the docks, grown-up, had kids and watched them go fishing on those same docks, since the last time Bruce performed anything moderately close to manual labor without a camera being present. The dude hasn’t been middle class since the ’70s, and that’s fine. Own it.
I don’t hate on people for their political views, or for their long streak of mediocre records. The guy is old, filthy rich, and totally out of touch… yet amazingly, he has still cranked out some decent songs as an elder statesman. Sadly, Broadway Bruce is a beast of a different nature. Do the math, 15 songs for $18 on iTunes is the cheapest you can buy it for. Essentially you are paying double the price of a normal album because he does a 10-minute rant about each song before the song starts. The same basic rant he has done live and on live albums for songs that have been released and re-released 50 times over. Listening to this thing from start to finish is scientifically fucking impossible.
I can only hope and pray to whichever saint invented the Wawa hoagie, that this is not an introduction to what was once a great musician, for those casually clicking through iTunes. Go blast “Growin’ Up” on a hot, sticky night, near a beach fire, and save this Broadway bullshit for the guy wearing a $250 Tommy Bahama shirt while he’s on a date with Nance.
Band: Venom – ‘Storm the Gates‘
VENOM STILL RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As always, I don’t think a single thing I have said is debatable, but feel free to change my mind (™ Steven Crowder). I’m always on the lookout for weird stuff to feature in this section, so hit me up with recommendations.
Lastly, if you didn’t notice, Riff Relevant has turned into make-a-wish for stoners. We recently gave away one of the most epic doom / heavy groove rock bundles to ever exist on the internet. The only way to top it next year will be to actually give away free weed* with all the cool stuff packaged up in the RR giveaways. Keep the change, ya filthy animals.
[*Editor’s disclaimer: It wasn’t quite that epic, but the last giveaway was pretty sweet (photo below). I’ll try to surpass Halsey’s lofty expectations for the next one. Follow our Facebook page to stay aware.
The RR bundle giveaways are built from freebies collected while shopping at music stores, merch tables at live shows, or just outta my own wallet. If you – or your band, label, venue, store, artistry, etc. – want to contribute towards upcoming giveaways, feel free to mail some swag to us HERE. We love doing things to support you doing your thing. DO THE THINGS. ~ Leanne]