Before we get into the review, I just wanted to thank those of you who gave me some positive feedback about the blog over the last few days. I had seriously contemplated killing this off, as Mosh and I have both been strapped for time the last few months, but knowing some of you out there liked this concept and viewed the reviews favorably gives me renewed interesting in keeping it going. Sleep can wait, there are reviews to be written and people to be made fun of!
With that, let's get back to what you really care about: beer, metal and comedy.
It may not be obvious by my moniker, but I'm kind of a fan of hops. Some may call me obsessed. Some may say that I'm a stalker. Some may say that I've had a restraining order filed on me by hops. I say to them: just fifty feet is close enough for me to get what I need from that delicious tasting and smelling flower. I really can't get enough. I tried to eat some and the three days of vomiting was TOTALLY worth it. So as I browsed the beer aisle for something new to try, the "Hoptimum" brew by Sierra Nevada caught my eye almost immediately. I'll try anything with the Sierra Nevada label, so add something with the word "hop" in it and I'm all over that like a hooker on an erection. Plus they cleverly combined the words "hop" and "optimum". Their marketing department should hire a guy to just shit out money for them at will. No matter what it costs. They deserve it. Other pluses include 1) it's a "whole-cone" IPA, which the word whole-cone sounds dirty enough for me to not need a simile or metaphor for it, b) it's Imperial, which typically means you pay the same price as a six pack for only four beers, so obviously they are better quality (or they catch me hook/line/sinker with their marketing ploy, which I am completely okay with), 8) 10.4% ABV and 100 IBU. That means the drunks are incoming and your mouth is going to feel like Mike Ty(hop)son gave you a right cross with a boxing glove sewn out of delicious hops, the hand within being made of hops (both hops skin and hops bones, with hops blood vessels and veins) and also clenching a fistful of hops. Upon impact, hops exploded outward and impregnated your face, and little hops now grow out of you and you have to pay child support for them and alimony to Mike Tyson. Also, hops.
Upon consumption of this delightful concoction, a genie appeared from the bottle. He was voiced by Robin Williams and looked like a huge hop. He granted me three wishes, as long as every wish was to have more hops, which I happily accepted. In (almost) all seriousness though, this is probably one of the tastier "hop-heavy" IPAs I've had. While I typically never turn away or dislike a ridiculously hoppy beer, the water used can have a significant effect, positive or negative, on the overall taste of the beer. In Sierra Nevada's case, the water complements the hoppiness positively, as it does with all of their brews. It also takes the edge off a bit to make the beer more accessible to those who may have less conditioned taste buds, without sacrificing the bitterness a hop-lover craves. Overall, it comes off less overwhelming than, say, Stone's Ruination, but still every bit as tasty. I hope that I can find this on a regular basis, because I will definitely pass up all other Sierra Nevada IPAs in favor of Hoptimum. I may have to have a drink-off between it and Ruination as a competition for my ultimate hop love. Maybe I can do "The Bachelorette", but instead of a chick, it's me, and instead of courters, it's hoppy beers. I'd watch that shit. I'd even buy all the seasons on Blu-Ray.
It's a review by me, so you can always expect an anecdote. Not to disappoint, here's one.
Though I never got much into Katatonia in their early days (I was likely more concerned with hardcore metal acts such as Boyz II Men, Bush and "Weird" Al Yankovic), I caught up with them around the Tonight's Decision/Last Fair Deal… era. I dug them for a while, but for some reason just put them away and was disinterested with them from shortly after Viva Emptiness until less than a year ago, when Mosh re-introduced me to LFDGD. Since then I've (again) been a rabid fan, and as such have been heavily anticipating the release of Dead End Kings.
If you're not familiar with the band's work, they are the yang to my normal metal ying. They provide a great counterbalance to the speed, intensity and harshness of what I normally listen to. They tend to the mellower side of things, with completely clean vocals and several quiet passages. Don't fret, as they definitely still know how to bring the pain in the riff department, but they explore a greater breadth of musical directions and have a large array of influences they draw upon to create their songs. The result as a band is a product that a larger crowd of people can get into. However, if this is your first foray into the genius of the band, I cannot recommend this album as your first. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and if you'll wait a goddamn second I'll tell you why. Christ, you're so impatient sometimes.
Previous albums (up until Viva Emptiness, anyway) were more straightforward and accessible, with lots of hooks and groove to keep your head(banging) in the game and to keep up your tough-guy metal image. Sure, it was emotional, but you could still feel good about yourself listening to it with all of those chunky riffs and killer drum fills going around. Nobody can call you gay if those touching sweet vocals are surrounded by sweet, sweet guitar lines. That's what I told myself while listening to it and fawning over my Justin Timberlake poster, anyway. With Dead End Kings, the band appears to be making headway towards the progressive side of things. The power of the riff wanes ever so slightly. Piano and synth have started to take over a bit. Song structure is not predictable and takes pieces from an increasing number of influences. The result is an obviously more complex and mature band and album, but accessibility has taken a hit. It begs to be listened to more times to slowly digest all of what it has to offer, kind of like trying to make your way through the buffet line at a Chinese restaurant for the fifth time. Sure, you've unbuttoned your pants and have puked twice, but something just keeps bringing you back. Probably MSG. I wonder if they put MSG in Dead End Kings. I'll get back to you on the taste test results.
Without comparing it to other efforts, I definitely do like what I hear from the band on this release. There are many delicious solos scattered about, and enough tasty riffs to keep my expectations mostly sated. The deviations and progressive elements encourage further listens, which means more beers consumed, and with more beer comes a more enlightened interpretation of the audio, of course. Also blacking out or open weeping, but nobody has to know about that. Just the tough guy stuff. If you are already familiar with Katatonia, this is a no-brainer addition to your collection. If you are just getting into the band, cut your teeth on Tonight's Decision and Last Fair Deal Gone Down, then come on back to the adult's table and spend some time with Dead End Kings. Remember the beers and leave behind the tears. That's a good sign off line.