Well wouldn’t you know it, it seems I am in need of both a beer and a way to gush about a great album this Friday. Hmm, how can I satisfy both cravings at once? I guess it’s time for me to commandeer this column again. This week’s offering: Ardormort’s The Desolation Letters and Blackrocks Brewing Company’s Grand Rabbits.
The Tunes: Ardormort – The Desolation Letters
Too metal for a Rainbows in the Dark, just metal-adjacent enough to make me second guess myself about writing a weekly review, Rhode Island’s Ardormort brings an awful lot of diverse influences to the table on their fourth release The Desolation Letters. Shades of doom and death metal are wrapped up in a blanket of old-school, second wave black metal and shellacked in a thin layer of coldwave and dungeon synth to make a final product that is eclectic and interesting. Granted, these are influences that one should look at and think that on paper they wouldn’t go together, and as it turns out, in practice they do, in fact, go together really nicely. The synth work on The Desolation Letters takes the place of vocals in these eight tracks, and this is what lets it truly be the star of the show. The artist behind Ardormort is also the person behind the dungeon synth powerhouse Shrouded Gate, so it should be no surprise that the synthesizers take center stage here, and also that they are wonderfully executed. From the classical woodwind arrangement on “A Study of Death” to the lush atmosphere of “Eyes of the Fall” to the almost industrial vibe of “Failure Index,” there’s never a spot on the album where the synths don’t set these songs apart from mere black metal aping. There’s a lot of life and depth in the layers of these compositions, and it makes for a really engaging listen. Plus, there’s plenty to love in the metal facets too. “Back the Blade” features intense, in-your-face blast beats and death metal riffing, and “Valfar,” dedicated to the man himself, ends with a cacophony of aggression that would make him proud. Overall, this is a really solid listen, and it effectively bridges the gap between the old-school and the modern.
The Booze: Blackrocks Brewing Company – Grand Rabbits
I, and I ALONE had a birthday last month (please, god, listen to the newest Audio Thing for the necessary context), and some amazing friends were generous enough to go in on one different beer for every year I’ve been alive as a way to make the day feel special in these shitty times. This beer was one of them, and although I have never had anything else by Blackrocks, I’m certain I am going to seek them out more after this. Grand Rabbits is a dry-hopped cream ale, which seems like a strange combination, but it works really nicely (I think I found the theme of this edition). Equal parts smooth and crisp, there’s a significant amount of hop flavor at first, but the profile mellows out really quickly into a sweet malt finish with a dry, and predictably creamy mouthfeel. The hops are not overpowering on this one, which I was a little afraid of because of how delicate cream ales can get, but you get a good balance of both flavors in every sip, and it’s surprisingly clean in the finish. It’s a solid drink for transitioning between summer and fall, with just the right amount of body and bright notes. Made with “superior” Lake Superior water, it’s easy to see how much care Blackrocks, a small Michigan-based brewery, puts into their product. It’s an interesting drink, made for sipping and relaxing, which is exactly what I plan to do with this.
Well, that scratched the itch. Time to hole myself up away from the world and try to take joy in the little things. As they say, cheers and be good to each other.