So that was 2017, a year that did come with more than it’s fair share of drama, sadness, injustice and plain, utter weirdness throughout the world. The year did end on a particularly high note though with the eventual legalising of same sex marriage in our country. As far as music and beer is concerned though, I don’t think there has been a better time to be alive. And so here are a few of my own personal highlights from the last twelve months.
Elder’s ‘Reflections of a Floating World’ and Pallbearer’s ‘Heartless’ are two of my absolute favourite albums of 2017 and you can read my thoughts on both in earlier posts. But there was plenty more wonderful new music released throughout the year, and here are five more that really stood out, along with some equally awesome new brews.
The self-titled debut album from Adelaide’s own Kitchen Witch was released via Germany’s Bilocation Records and actually comprises material drawn from the prior ‘Back to the Mud’ and ‘Trouble’ EPs. But I’m treating it as a new album because it’s my blog and I can. Top notch, hard rocking heavy blues and stoner grooves capped off by Georgie Cosson’s amazingly powerful and soulful vocals. And they are an awesome live band to boot. Fruity, hazy New England IPAs are very much in vogue right now but a big, bold IPA in the classic West Coast style is really what you need here. The Mustang IPA from California’s Slo Brew ticks all the boxes with a big hit of dank hop aromas followed by stonefruit flavours well balanced by a solid malt profile and lovely piney, resinous finish. Somewhat reminiscent of Ballast Point’s Big Eye IPA but very much a beer full of it’s own character.
It has been some six years since the last truly metal album from Wolves in the Throne Room. The wait has been worth it though because ‘Thrice Woven’ (Artemisia Records) is a monumental return. Put simply, the album sounds huge while still retaining the primal atmosphere that the Washington State band are known for. There is a significant return to the snarling black metal of earlier albums like ‘Diadem of Twelve Stars’ but the centre-piece for me is the blackened-doom epic The Old Ones are with Us which features Neurosis singer/guitarist Steve Von Till. A big, dark and earthy beer is what you need and Foxhat’s ‘Full Mongrel’ imperial stout (10% ABV) fits that bill. Based on their already splendid ‘Phat Mongrel’ stout, this beauty has lashings of dark chocolate, coffee and big roasted malt flavours and aromas. A beer and an album to savour, particularly in the depths of winter.
In the depths of an Australian summer though the molten, slow burning heavy psych of Sydney power-trio Comacozer’s ‘Kalos Eidos Skopeo’ (Headspin Records) coupled with a few ice cold Mismatch Pale Ale (5% ABV) cans will hit the spot. The four lengthy instrumentals comprising ‘Kalos Eidos Skopeo’ are all completely immersive listens, each ebbing, flowing, building and ultimately releasing in waves of huge riffs and thunderous drumming. Mismatch’s Pale Ale meanwhile is my summer beer of choice. Replacing and actually improving upon their excellent Extra Pale Ale, it is an American style pale full of freshness and flavour with a crisp finish, making it a great summer session beer.
Towards the end of the year German space rockers The Spacelords released their latest and to my mind best album album with ‘Water Planet’ (Tonzonen Records). The album picks up where 2016’s ‘Liquid Sun’ left off and heads off even further into inner and outer space with their cosmic blend of space rock, stoner grooves and relentless Krautrock rhythms. And to drink, I reckon the ‘Galaxy Warrior Mosaic’ IPA (7% ABV) from the Barossa Valley’s Western Ridge Brewing is just what you need. Beautiful spicy, citrus aromas give way to a burst of fruit salad flavour and a sticky resinous and nice bitter finish. Unfortunately the last can has already rolled off the production line, with future versions likely to have different recipes. But if you are lucky (and quick) you can probably still find a few remaining cans at some local bottle shops.
‘In Contact’ (Inside Out Music) by Brisbane’s Caligula’s Horse, is a wonderful example of progressive metal/rock done just right. On the one hand the album showcases musical and lyrical complexity, but this is balanced by endless great hooks, thumping riffs and soaring melodies. The songs are generally kept to quite concise lengths (at least by progressive music standards) and as a result the music never drifts off into pure self indulgence. And it is all capped off by Jim Grey’s extraordinary vocals. Similarly complex yet accessible is Clare Valley Brewing’s Red IPA (6.9% ABV). Much more than an amped-up version of their core Red Ale, this is relatively malt-forward and beautifully balanced beer delivers lovely caramel flavours after an initial waft of fruit salad hop aromas. The finish is somehow sweet, resinous and bitter all at once. Another seasonal release, however, I have still seen the Red IPA available in a few good bottleshops. Hopefully though this beauty will become a permanent part of the CVB range.
Lastly a special mention of Noise Records’ excellent reissues of Celtic Frost’s seminal first three albums ‘Morbid Tales’, ‘To Megatherion’ and ‘Into the Pandemonium’, along with the underrated ‘Vanity/Nemesis’. Both the vinyl and CD versions contain a heap of extras including extensive liner notes and archive photos. There is also an excellent new CD compilation ‘Innocence and Wrath’ which is an ideal place to start if you are unfamiliar with this unique and hugely influential band. A pity, however, that the same level of care wasn’t evident with the label’s reissues of the equally legendary Voivod’s early albums.
Once again there were many great shows throughout the year, and a big shout out to all the venues and to the punters who get along to support live music. My own top ten in no particular order were:
- Guitar Wolf, Grenadiers, Hydromedusa, Rat Catcher at the Ed Castle
- The Tea Party at Thebarton Theatre
- Living Colour, Massive at the Gov
- Paradise Lost, Dyssidia, Dirt at the Gov
- Lecherous Gaze, Hydromedusa, Crypt, Jungle City at the Ed Castle
- Mammoth, Kitchenwitch, Acid Wolf, Dirty Pagans at Enigma Bar
- Exploding White Mice, Juliette Seizure & The Tremor Dolls, Ben Gel & The Boneyard Saints and Young Offenders at the Producer’s Bar
- Any of the Dunes’ residence gigs at the Grace Emily in October
- Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress at the Gov
- Kreator, Vader, Truth Corroded at the Gov
Local beer events
It seems to me that here in Adelaide in 2017, we had more beer and beer-related events than ever before. The third Adelaide Beer & BBQ Festival was bigger and better again to the point where they now really need more space. Great to see also that the organisers have another event lined up with seminal English band Gomez playing at the Adelaide Gaol on 27 March.
The ABBBQ and the Royal Adelaide Beer & Cider Awards were accompanied this year for the first time by Rad Beer Week, which saw venues and brewers really mobilise to deliver a whole raft of amazing beer events in Adelaide and surrounds. I have particularly fond, if slightly hazy memories of the Hawkers Barrel Aged Dark Beer Banquet at the Franklin Hotel.
The Wheatsheaf as usual was to the forefront with many events, headlined by the Good Beer Wheaty programme in May, of which the ‘Wired does it Napar?’ event with head brewers SØren Eriksen from New Zealand’s 8-Wired and Juan Rodriguez from Naparbier in Barcelona was a particular highlight for me.
Fork on the Road continued to deliver great, family oriented events with local brewers, distilleries and wineries complementing the endless variety of wonderful food trucks. The Pirate Life’s birthday celebrations at the Gilbert Street Hotel went off in fine style again. The Arkaba’s long standing Beer and Cider Fest is a great little event, and there were many, many more. And what is really fantastic is that many, many people are really supporting the events and in turn local brewers, produce and venues.
More and more venues are embracing craft beer and doing it well. And so with apologies to the many other fine establishments whose hospitality and beer I have enjoyed over the course of 2017, here are just a few of my favourite places to enjoy an ale or several:
- The Wheaty (of course)
- The Franklin (ditto)
- The KIngs Head/Sturt Street Cellars
- Big Shed taproom
- Sweet Amber Brew Cafe at Semaphore
- The Gilbert Street Hotel
- Woolshed Brewery
- West Thebarton Social Club
Thank you very much for reading Morbid Ales in 2017, and very best wishes to you and yours for a happy beer and music filled 2018.