Welcome back to another weekend beer and metal pairing. Most of the time when I do these articles I have a beer (or at least a style of brew) and album in mind beforehand, but tonight’s offering is a chance meeting that I felt was too good to pass up; a beer and album that I both bought on a whim that seemed drawn together by fate. But how will this unplanned venture work out? Let’s find out. The Metal: Jassa’s Lights in the Howling Wilderness. The Booze: Drake’s Brewing Company Drakonic Imperial Stout.
Jassa are a band that took me by complete surprise. I had no prior experience with this Russian duo before I heard “Breath of the Most Ancient God” teased on Freeform Portland’s Cities in Dust radio station (rest in the halls of Radio Valhalla), but I was sold instantly and bought this LP the minute it became available on the strength of that song alone. In the chaos of a time when I bought a few (too many) LP’s at once, I had forgotten to listen to the stream of Lights when it was debuted. I was originally going to pair my beer with a different album, but a fateful early delivery from the post office put Lights in my hands and I knew that I had to see if it wouldn’t make for a better pairing. I was also curious to see if Lights in the Howling Wilderness would live up to the expectations I had for it. As it turns out, the album delivers on everything I had hoped it would. Jassa play a blistering and heavy take on pagan black metal. Tribal rhythms and shamanic percussion share equal weight with thrashy riffs and inhuman vocals, combining to bring about something that truly captures the feral essence of pagan worship. Songs like the aforementioned “Breath of the Most Ancient God” excel at lulling the listener into a hypnotic state only to break through with some of the most frighteningly vicious riffs I have heard in recent memory. Lights in the Howling Wilderness is a unique and devastatingly heavy album that combines the best of ancient tradition with a modern edge.
As I had mentioned earlier, this was a beer that I purchased blind while I was looking for something new to try. While I had never sampled the Bay area’s Drake’s Brewing before, I had a feeling I wouldn’t be let down, given my penchant for dark beers above all else. It turns out that I made an incredibly smart move going with this beer, not only because it ended up being delicious but also because the name fits with the roots of the band I paired it with; Jassa takes its name from a deity of ancient Slavic mythology depicted on the album cover as a dragon. The Drakonic Imperial stout is wonderfully rich in body with a deep, bitter flavor that will appeal to those seeking more robustness from their beers. Dark coffee and bitter cocoa are the main focus here, with no hop or citrus notes to offer any respite from the engulfing darkness of the flavor profile. The 8.75% ABV succeeds at further pulling you into this brew’s grasp; this is definitely a sipping beer, but one that you can savor every drop of.
No matter how hard you plan for something, you have to take a better opportunity if it falls in your lap. Would I have been more satisfied with the album I had originally come up with, or a beer that I had not chosen by chance? Who knows. But thanks to some well placed happenstance, I had a great time with a fantastic new album and a beer that I will absolutely seek out again.
Cheers, and be good to each other,