Well folks, it’s Ian again. Capitalism has stricken my esteemed colleague and brother down, so it’s up to me to carry the torch this glorious Friday. Drink from the cup of heresy. This week’s offering: Atræ Bilis’ Divinihility and Blaum Bros Distilling Company’s Oak Reserve Gin.
The Tunes: Atræ Bilis’ Divinihility
Hailing from the fabled Canadas, Atræ Bilis are newcomers on the tech/brutal death scene, but they attempt quite an awful lot on Divinihility, their first release. The band’s mission statement is to ingest the basic elements of many different permutations of death metal and spit it all out into an amalgam that never quite settles on one particular format or stylistic hallmark. There’s bit of old school riffage, brutal slams, dissonant prog, technical wizardry and brooding atmosphere, but nothing that explicitly puts them in one box or another. This ends up being both a strength and a weakness for the album, ultimately. It’s really interesting and refreshing to see that these musicians can do so much and do it convincingly. The technical skills on Divinihility are a strong selling point. The riffs are crunchy, the blasts are sick, the vocals are deep and guttural and no matter what piece of the death metal puzzle they attempt, Atræ Bilis pull it off. The downside is that when the main idea of the music is to bounce around from idea to idea as fast as possible and blend as many styles together as possible, the final product ends up feeling unfocused and muddy. Divinihility features a lot of really great musical ideas thrown around, but as soon as the band moves beyond them, they are never circled back on. I would have liked to see a lot more development in these ideas instead of just moving from riff to riff to riff. You could make the argument that this is true of most tech death bands, but I know plenty of them that can circle back to and focus on ideas, giving them time to open up and stick in the listener’s brain. Time is also a factor that hinders Divinihility. Clocking in at barely 22 minutes, it feels disappointingly short (even for a tech death album), and it really cramps everything the band tries to do even more. At the end of the day, this is an album that is forward-thinking and technically impressive, but sonically cluttered, unsatisfyingly brief and a little uneven.
The Booze: Blaum Bros Distilling Company’s Oak Reserve Gin
When Vince put out the call for aid, I volunteered myself before I even realized that I don’t actually have any beer in the house. At least, not anything interesting. Still, I figure I can do my brother justice by talking about one of his favorite things: gin. Blaum Bros Distillery is located in Peoria, IL, which isn’t exactly local to me but it’s in the same state so I’ll count it. Started in 2013, they’re also relative newcomers, but in that time they’ve managed to conjure up a lot of quality spirits, both conventional and outside-the-box, like their HellFyre hot pepper vodka (perfect for Bloody Marys) and the Oak Reserve Gin, which sees their standard gin spend a year aging in a variety of used and new barrels. Each batch spends time in a different combination based on what they have available and what the brothers are dreaming up. Some batches get toasted oak, ex-bourbon and rum, some get madeira wine, tequila and new oak barrels. The individual batches have their own unique characteristics based on their treatment, but they’re tied together by the smoothness the aging process lends to the gin. You still get a lot of botanical on the nose, but taste-wise you’re immediately hit with the vanilla notes that come with the oak. It feels and tastes a lot like drinking whiskey, and while the classic bite of gin is still there, everything is much more rounded and mellow. It makes for some very easy sipping neat or in an old fashioned, but it also makes a very interesting gin and tonic. It wouldn’t work as a swap in every situation, but if you’re looking for something interesting and unconventional in the way of spirits, look no further.
Thanks for allowing me to captain the ship this week without any open revolt. As the man himself would say, cheers and be good to each other,