Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21st, 2012 - In The Terrible Presence of Gods

Hey there my rockin' beer-lovin' friends!  The Meista here with another great pairing for you... tonight I'm going with a long-time favorite album of mine, Led Zeppelin's 1976 "Presence" and Unibroue's Terrible.

Pouring an almost black and opaque chestnut, the Terrible by Unibroue is an Abbey-style, Belgian, strong, and dark ale.  The nose is characterized by rich notes of fruit and spice... plum, slight banana, clove, coriander notes abound.  Coming it 10.5%, this is a beastly brew... perfect for the beastly and god-like power that is the mighty Led Zeppelin!!  As with good wines, the Terrible's complex flavors develop with aging, 5 years for this particular brew! As with nose, the flavor is also very rich and sweet, but the fruit notes are subtle and there is also a prevailing crispness to the Terrible..  It is highly carbonated, so the mouthfeel is very bubbly and foams in your mouth.  There are notes of cola, prune, cherry, and vanilla in the finish along with those lovely spices: clove, nutmeg, and black pepper.  There's also a little booziness on the front, but it mellows quickly and finishes nicely... really good for a meaty dish like "Presence."  Mmmmm... so rich and complex!  A really, really good winter beer!

Speaking of complexity and richness... "Presence" is a monstrous and multi-layered album of shear genius!  Led Zeppelin's 6th studio album, "Presence" was released on March 3rd, 1976 on their own Swan Songs Records label.  The album received mixed reviews by both critics and fans, but I personally think this is an amazing and defining album... maybe their best.  This will probably sound rather silly, but I always found "Presence" to be a much more guitar-driven album than previous outings... virtually no acoustic work on this album and virtually no keyboards.  The album came out at a rather tumultuous time for the band.  They were at the height of their popularity and a huge world tour had been planned.  But then, singer and frontman, Robert Plant sustained serious injuries from a car accident in Greece.  Guitarist, Jimmy Page wisely cancelled the tour and decided to record an album from scratch.  Page said of the release, "I think it was just a reflection of the total anxiety and emotion of that period. There's a hell of a lot of spontaneity about that album. We went in with virtually nothing and everything just came pouring out." 

Opening with the epic "Achilles Last Stand," this album is the bible of metal/hard rock song writing!  "Achilles..." is profoundly heavy... proto-Iron Maiden galloping metal here kids!  "For Your Life" is aggressive and dark with overtones of the pitfalls of drug abuse and a kick-ass guitar solo to boot... coupled by brutal drumming and bass work!  "Royal Orleans" just grooves and grooves and grooves... John Paul Jones' bass work is pure heavy funk my friends.  "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is one of my favorite Led Zeppelin tracks, a traditional "Negro spiritual" made famous by Blind Willie Johnson.  But Page and boys really amp this son of a bitch up!   Plant's harmonica complimented by Page's guitar work and Bonzo's drumming along with Jonesy's bass is absolutely awe-inspiring!  Hard rock at its best!   It is also one of the only two tracks they would play live from this album.  "Candy Store Rock" is a fun, 1950s, Elvis Presley-styled rocker.  "Hots For Nowhere" is another fun little rocker with Plant's lyrics about his frustrations with Page and manger, Peter Grant.  The album ends with another favorite of mine, "Tea For One," which starts off more mid-tempo, but then evolves into a slow and heavy, minor blues number.  Page slays on this track!  I think the solo may be his best.  "Tea For One" could easily be on an early Led Zeppelin blues-based album like I or II.  So emotional, so real, so honest, so heartfelt... but heavy as hell!

The album cover and inside sleeve design of "Presence" was created by famed art group, Hipgnosis. It displays various images of "wholesome and conservative" people interacting with a black obelisk-shaped object.  Page said of the artwork, "There was no working title for the album. The record-jacket designer said 'When I think of the group, I always think of power and force. There's a definite presence there.' That was it. He wanted to call it 'Obelisk.' To me, it was more important what was behind the obelisk. The cover is very tongue-in-cheek, to be quite honest. Sort of a joke on [the film] 2001. I think it's quite amusing."

So what I'm trying to say here in a long, drawn-out kinda way is that you MUST own this album and you MUST listen to it with this ale!!  Cheers!!

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