Howdy folks! Vincent’s internet took a shit and died so he left it to me to present the offerings this week. There’s a real chance you may not notice any difference, but all the same, we bring you a pairing of a choice album with a favorite libation. Drink from the cup of heresy. This week’s offering: Canis Dirus’ Independence to the Beast and BuckleDown Brewing Company’s Belt and Suspenders.
The Tunes: Canis Dirus’ Independence to the Beast
It’s been seven long years since Canis Dirus’ last album Anden Om Norr, and a lot has happened on a personal level with the Minnesota duo that has shaped them musically, personally and philosophically. Multi-instrumentalist and principle songwriter Todd Paulson has described the band’s new material as more “open-minded” and “unique”, and certainly Independence embraces new and diverse influences to round out the old-school lo-fi black metal found on Canis Dirus’ previous releases. From neofolk to atmospheric post-rock to doom and thrash, this album has a wider sonic palette than their previous offerings while still keeping alive the sound that they’re known for. Despite the fact that there’s a lot more going on in each track, the songwriting feels a lot more focused and cleaner. I’m not sure whether it’s time, circumstances or new influences that make these songs pop more, but my guess is it’s all three coming together in a really interesting way. Each track has its own life and unique features, and it makes this a highly listenable album. The ethereal melodies play really nicely with the crushing doom on “The Child and the Serpent,” eventually giving way to a softer folk passage and ramping back up to old-school black metal fury. The mid-to-late 80s thrash break at the end of “Extreme Might of Resolve” is a pleasantly fun break from the bleak guitars and frantic drumming, and it shows that the band is still as tight as ever, even with a long stretch of inactivity. Vocalist and lyricist Rob Hames’ tortured, howled vocals tie each song together and are extremely reminiscent of their namesake prehistoric animal. Lyrically, the album focuses on dichotomies: of birth and death, of triumph and sorrow, of loss and gain, and of predator and prey. He even busts out some clean vocals on the gentle folk of “Father,” which is actually the only song where I feel the experimentation lets them down a little bit. Still, overall, this is a solid album that fans of their previous work should check out to see how the band has grown, and anyone looking to get into the project should use as a jumping off point.
The Booze: BuckleDown Brewing Company’s Belt and Suspenders
It only feels fitting to bring you a Midwestern beer to go with your Midwestern black metal, and for me there’s not much finer than a good hoppy Midwestern American Pale Ale, my favorite of which is Belt and Suspenders from Chicago’s BuckleDown Brewing Company. BuckleDown is just a small craft brewery, but they’ve been seeing a wider distribution around the Chicago area, which I’m very happy about. I discovered them because their operation is about 10 minutes away from where I work, so they began as a brewery of convenience, but once I tried Belt and Suspenders I knew they had something special on their hands. I’m a big fan of IPAs that don’t hold back on flavors, and this one definitely doesn’t pull any punches. It’s insanely hoppy but not terribly floral, it’s bright and juicy without being too cloying and it finishes clean with a little malt sweetness. The pine and resin flavors stand out due to copious amounts of Crystal and Sterling hops, and instead of the usual tropical fruit notes there’s quite a bit of citrus, particularly grapefruit, which adds a pleasant bitterness at the end. At 7.0 ABV, you might have to watch how many of these you put back, because they are very drinkable. Or don’t, what do I know? This isn’t my regular column and I’m not your dad. Just be responsible.
Cheers, and be good to each other.