REVIEW: Volbeat “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies”/Shiner Bock

Volbeat comes from Copenhagen, Denmark, but I think their sound is straight out of a Texas rockabilly bar, with some very metal guitar work. Makes sense, since former Anthrax member Rob Caggiano is now in the band and produced their latest record.

THE RECORD: Volbeat Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies 2013 Universal

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I think this record definitely has appeal with a variety of music lovers, from punk rockers to metal heads, even Metallica, whom the band opened for when they came to Denmark a few years ago.

“Room 24” is probably one of the heaviest tracks on the record. As it should, since it features vocals from King Diamond. The guitar work is absolutely face-melting on this one and the drums sound like a stampede. However, a few songs later is a surprising cover of Young the Giant’s “My Body”. Even if you’re not into the original, Volbeat’s version is pretty awesome. Michael Poulsen’s soaring vocals take this cover to a different, heavier level that rocks pretty hard.

“Lonesome Rider” is a total rockabilly treat, and features vocals from English singer-songwriter Sarah Blackwood. The contrasting male-female vocals work really well in this song, and kind of exemplify the title of the album.

“Doc Holliday” similarly starts off with a western-swing-sounding guitar that gives it a folk vibe, but then they turn up the badass a bit and it gets a lot heavier.

All the punk rock hooks give each of the tracks a certain catchiness and make Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies an incredibly fun record.

THE BREW: Shiner Bock- Spoetzl Brewery- Shiner, TX

I’ve heard a lot of reviews of this beer which say it’s overrated, but I disagree. It’s not trying to be anything crazy, it’s just a simple, good-tasting bock that’s available all year round. For a bock, it’s fairly light in color. Some sweetness, a little bit of caramel. A light head when you pour it into a glass that doesn’t linger too long. Certainly not as heavy as the classic German bocks, but then again, you can’t necessarily drink 3 or 4 of them in a row comfortably either.

THE PAIRING: This album calls for an easy to drink and easily accessible beer. Shiner Bock isn’t outstanding, but it’s definitely easy to find depending on what state you’re in, and certainly easy to drink. With a 4.4% ABV, it’s a session beer that you can have a few of if you’re seeing Volbeat live or listening to the album a couple times.

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REVIEW: Heavy Breath “Muddy Life” [EP]/New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper

One of my jobs in the music industry is a live audio engineer at a few different venues around Connecticut. So I see a lot of local acts on a regular basis. Although I have a certain amount of respect for all my local musicians, there are a few bands that are just so incredibly awesome that I really look forward to seeing. Heavy Breath is one of them. I was introduced to them last year when they opened for Old Man Gloom at the Space in Hamden, CT. They recently released an EP titled Muddy Life, which will be coming out on a 12-inch this spring on Battle Stag Records and is available now on their bandcamp page.

THE RECORD: Heavy Breath Muddy Life Battle Stag Records

Muddy Life cover art

With a name like Muddy Life, I was expecting slow sludge, but I think a truer description would be a roundhouse kick to the gut. I like the contrast between the screams and the more melodic vocals on “Chekhov’s Bomb”, a track that also name checks the album title (“Complacency is enemy because this is Chekhov’s bomb/It’s a muddy life”).

“Be The Prometheus” is my favorite track of the three. It’s got those fast, punk rock drums with heavy, slower guitar riffs in between that I totally dig.

and of course, as someone who works in sound on a regular basis, I think the mix is well done on all of these tracks. Sometimes sludgy guitars get lost in a mix but all the instrumentation is heard really clearly and well-balanced.

Even the artwork is awesome- I am a big fan of vikings, so the combination of a horned helmet and a battle axe make for an awesome cover. I was told that it’s actually a screencap from the most recent season of Dexter, so I don’t know if that’s what’s going to be on the cover of the physical album. If it’s not, I hope there horns involved regardless.

My only negative thing to say is that there’s only 3 tracks. They totally leave me wanting more. I guess I’ll have to check them out live again, because Heavy Breath is a band that needs to be cranked up and rocked out to.

THE BREW: Imperial Stout Trooper- New England Brewing Co.- New Haven, CT

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I’m definitely a lover of stouts. They are my favorite beer style and although I enjoy plenty of them, the Imperial Stout Trooper is my favorite. It’s made right in my home of New Haven, CT AND the name is a Star Wars reference. What’s not to love? But even if it was made somewhere else and wasn’t Star Wars-related, it’s a great example of the stout style. The color is almost black, with a thin tawny head. Aromas of sweet milk chocolate, smooth, creamy mouthfeel. It’s great aged, or cask-conditioned in bourbon barrels.

THE PAIRING: I try to pair local bands with local brews whenever possible. This in-your-face EP needed a big beer to drink with it. Nebco’s Stout Trooper, like Heavy Breath’s music, is massive, but it goes down easy. Delicious on the ears and palate. Some stouts are tasty but sometimes too intense and difficult to drink. Kind of like some hardcore and metal bands. Heavy Breath’s music has a lot going on with it, but one of those qualities is a sort of punk rock sensibility that draws you in immediately. I would probably drink this beer either before or after seeing this band live, but not during because I wouldn’t want to pit it out with a tulip glass in my hand. And let’s be honest, this isn’t a band you’re going to watch live and stand still for.