Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics

Can there ever be enough theme bands? We run into them every day. There’s the marijuana-themed death metal Cannabis Corpse. Power metal is rife with theme bands on topics like magic, Vikings, knights, or any number of epic tales. There are a number of bands who use science fiction motifs, fantasy themes, and the list could go on and on. However, very few of these bands dedicate themselves to beer, and even fewer of them are hardcore groups. Since there are so few of those, allow me to introduce you to LA’s craft beer trio, Trappist.

Trappist is a trio formed by veterans of the LA hardcore and powerviolence scene: Chris Dodge, Phil Vera, and Ryan Harkins. The three have bounced around several bands and are also apparently massive beer aficionados. It reverberates through their music and comes out in their attitude. Imagine a rage-filled frat party on a skateboard. Essentially that’s what Trappist does. It tows the line between hardcore, powerviolence, crust and crossover. Trappist does a little dash of that, maybe some spices over here, and voila! It definitely seems like brewing informs how they write songs. Sometimes you like an IPA, sometimes you want a porter.

But you really can see the changes throughout the album. Ancient Brewing Tactics begins with the rapid-fire gauntlet of hardcore with “No Soldier Left Behind,” an anthem reminding us to not leave half-drunk beers at a party. Shouting lyrics, machine gun power chords, and the onslaught of drums beat it into your head. This is a lesson of the street you must learn! And to really make it sink in, there is a music video featuring a drill instructor making sure you learn.

Trappist can also readily dip their toes into thrashier powerviolence tracks. Inviting Municipal Waste’s Tony Foresta to provide vocals, the band can rip into some nuttier guitar work to match their fast tempos with “Hymn to Ninkasi”. It’s certainly helpful to add Foresta to the mix if you wanted to add some metal-style tightness to what you’re playing. Hardcore can play it a little looser when it comes to rhythms and playing, but a metal sound can denote a more rigid sense of duty to the beat. That’s exactly what you hear: far more drums to guide the beat on a very linear path. The guitar and bass play along, and we just speed along for the quick 1:15.

And despite all the speed and ferocity, or maybe in spite of it, the band even knows how to slow it down. They close the record with “Trappist-1: Final Gravity,” somehow being an ode to both a dwarf star that might have life-suitable planets around it and also brewing. It clearly leans more heavily toward the galactic as it’s quite possibly the closest a hardcore band has gotten this close to playing doom potentially ever. There’s a lot of space on the track, showing significantly slower riffs and a comparatively glacial pace. Given all the belligerence on the rest of the record, the closer is how the band can bring you back to Earth.

Sure, it’s a theme band. They have a topic they like and have a lot of fun with it! We should all be so lucky to enjoy something so much in life that it inspires us to create. This record also has some incredible music and a breadth of musical knowledge that is pretty rare on records these days. If you like metal, this record helps you dip your toe into punk. If you’re more of a punk guy, welcome to thrash! There’s something for everybody on this record, including the perfect group shouts. Bottoms up!

Ancient Brewing Tactics is available now via Relapse Records.

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