Review: Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics

Photo of Trappist's new album cover Ancient Brewing Tactics

Trappist unites bassist Chris Dodge of Spazz and guitarist Phil Vera of Despise You with co-owner of California’s Grill ‘Em All-slash-drummer Ryan Harkins for a craft beer-based hardcore band that’s an intoxicating amount of fun. Don’t let the name and theme fool you into thinking this is some kind of in-joke – Trappist combines powerful hardcore punk with well-written, intelligent lyrics to great effect over the course of 21 tracks and 33 minutes. The album also doubles as a solid soundtrack for getting drunk off excellent beer pairings.

Beer and metal have been getting closer and closer over the past few years. Decibel Magazine has their Metal & Beer Festival now, tons of metal bands have their own branded beers via various breweries worldwide (some Trappist wouldn’t approve of), and even before that, the imagery of metal and beer always seemed to go hand in hand. So Trappist seems like the next logical step in hardcore punk and metal. Especially considering bands have been writing about metal and beer forever now (Municipal Waste, Tankard, etc.), but not quite as intelligently or passionately as Trappist. This isn’t a band about swill. This is a band about the art of beer and about those who genuinely care to take it seriously.

Ancient Brewing Tactics will teach you a thing or two, if only because you’re baffled by the song titles. You’ll learn that Ninkasi was the Sumerian patron goddess of beer, or that Nihamanchï is a beer created from the wooly shrub manioc in South America. Or maybe you’ll wonder what the hell Reinheitsgebot is, only to find out that it’s the German Beer Purity Law that limited what can go into a beer in Germany (and eventually outside out the country). Even songs that don’t seem to reference beer, like “Victims Of A Bomber Raid,” have beer-related meanings – as the band will tell you, “a ‘bomber’ is slang for a 22oz beer bottle.”  Which is one major reason why Ancient Brewing Tactics is so much fun. The band knows their beer-based history and they want to pass on that knowledge to you. Though you’ll have to do a little work to obtain it yourself.

Lyrical content on Ancient Brewing Tactics ranges beyond esoteric brewing references goes well beyond the ones listed above. You’ve also got tracks raging against the capitalist ruination of beer like on “No Corporate Beer” to goofier ones like “Frank The Tank,” dedicated to the alcoholic character played by Will Ferrell in the 2003 flick Old School. There are even three tracks all under 20 seconds strewn throughout the record called “Waiting In Line” which chronicle the joys of waiting in line. Much like a well-stocked bar, there’s something for everyone here.

Musically, Trappist strikes a balance between furiously raw hardcore like Iron Reagan and touches of dirty grind à la Expulsion and Repulsion. From the d-beat stylings of “The Patron Saints” from the pure sludge of the closer “Trappist-1: Final Gravity,” or the throwback thrash of “Frank The Tank” and gang vocals on “Victims Of A Bomber Raid,” Trappist isn’t just relying on lyrics to get them through their debut. Ancient Brewing Tactics is simultaneously a throwback to the early days of hardcore punk and a look at where metal has heavily intersected in recent years.

Ancient Brewing Tactics also is a middle finger to people who accuse beer connoisseurs of being some insufferable man-bun wearing know-it-all with a flannel. I guarantee if you called any of the dudes in Trappist uppity posers about their love of beer, they’d first school you on everything you never knew about the alcohol, then they’d probably beat the shit out you. Because Trappist is not only knowledgeable, but they’re plenty pissed off and Ancient Brewing Tactics paints that rage in a variety of colors.

Oh, and you should probably check out the beer pairings for each song here (at the bottom of the post), courtesy of the connoisseurs themselves. Now go get your rage on.

Buy Ancient Brewing Tactics here.

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