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First Chop: Salford Red (England: Speciality Grain 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel to red. Yellow-brown moderate bubbled head. Clear body.

Nose: Fresh cut wet grass. Pine cones. Malt chocolate. Fresh mint. Menthol. Peppermint. Oats.

Body: Very herbal. Sage. Mint. General greenery. Orange crème. Peppery.

Finish: Orange crème. Pepper. Rye crackers.

Conclusion: Ok, this is absolutely nothing like I expected. This is really, really herbal – minty notes, sage notes, fresh with a peppery spark. I have to admit I was expecting a hoppy amber ale, so that completely blind-sided me. Silly me, no?

Anyway, after I got over my shock I started recognising the more beer like elements under the greenery – soft malt chocolate notes and a creamy orange touch, as the beer warms they become more evident – nothing complex but closer to the expected amber ale notes in the malt style. By the end the sweet orange cream notes especially have risen to the challenge.

Still, that feels like a backing for the most part – a base for the high, herbal notes to dance upon. Does it work? Kind of. The favours are tasty, savoury and it tastes like something I would definitely enjoy if it was poured over some lump of lightly cooked meat on a dish. As something I am drinking in a glass? I will admit it is taking some time for me to get used to it.

I enjoy it, but in small doses. The herb notes last a looooong time after you have finished sipping and as of such I can’t say I was lining up to break open another one after I finished the can, but I did appreciate it while it was there.

Another one of those for the interesting rather than great pile, but that doesn’t stop it being interesting.

Background: Another one where I was unsure where to list this – beeradvocate calls it an Irish Red, ratebeer a speciality grain, from the can I was going to call it an amber ale. In the end the grain influence seemed the most notable element so I went with that. Odd, as the reason I picked this up from Independent Spirit was that I hadn’t had a good amber ale in the while. Oh well, will keep hunting for something that expresses that style well. Also this is Gluten Free for those that affects. Anyway, first encounter with First Chop, went old school With Foo Fighters – The Colour and The Shape while drinking. Picking out great albums I haven’t listened to for a while.

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Tamnavulin: Double Cask (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: No age statement: 40% ABV)

Visual: Burnished bronzed gold. A few thick and fast streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Alcohol touch. Mild Baileys cream. Pencil shavings. Brown sugar granules. Rock dust. Water adds cake sponge and cherry pocked digestives.

Body: Slick. Honey. Raisins. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Rock dust. Light malt drinks. Smooth. Alcohol jellied feel to the middle. Figs and plums. Water adds more honey, golden syrup. Light menthol. Soft cherry. Sherry trifle and orange zest.

Finish: Malt drinks. Rock dust. Raisins. Heavier oily alcohol notes. Figs. Spotted dick. Vanilla toffee and vanilla yogurt. Dusty.

Conclusion: Hmm, I’m about to add water to this, but before I do that I’m going to get some thoughts down first. This seems decent so far, but I have a feeling that it is leaning very heavily into the barrel ageing to achieve that. The dark fruit notes from the cask are distinct and pleasant – figs, raisins and the like are laid over a smooth body with honey sweetness at its base. Similarly the vanilla toffee of bourbon ageing gives a sweet and simple backbone to this.

So when I say that it leans heavily on the barrel ageing it is because, under that there is something slightly heavier and rougher tasting in the alcohol notes, if not giving rough mouthfeel to match. Elements you would expect from a heavier, shorter still but here in this lighter and smoother whisky. This being my first Tamnavulin I’m unsure if this is due to young spirit being used in this, or if the heavier, more oily viscous rough notes are part of the house character. Either way these rougher and sometimes dusty notes are off notes that feel like they should not be present in the whisky.

Water brings a lot more out – zesty orange notes that are delightful, against softer cherry notes that give body. It uses both ageing barrels to shoot flavour out, but even now there is a kind of heavier, oily off note underneath everything.

At twenty quid for a bottle I’m not complaining too much, but for all its flavour range it feels like they are trying to paper over the cracks of the base spirit. I would be interested to see what they do with older expressions – if that cleans it up at all or if they still show there.

So, not super great, but packs in a lot at a lower price than most.

Background: Another first set of notes from a distillery. Though not my first time encountering this distillery, or even this whisky. I first tried this at a mates house as part of a whisky night at theirs. Later I saw in in Sainsbury‘s going for just over twenty quid a bottle, so decided to give it a proper try as well, at the whisky night I may have been a tad drunk. Looks like this was their first official bottling for a while, an expression aged in both bourbon and sherry barrels. Prior to that it think it was predominantly used in blends. Put on The Youngins – The Youngins Are Hardcore while drinking. Fairly short album of stripped down punk so I put it on loop so I didn’t feel the need to rush the whisky to match.

Thornbridge: Big Easy (England: Low Alcohol Pale Ale: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale lager yellow-gold colour. Small white head. Only a small amount of carbonation.

Nose: Soft pineapple and lychee. Soft kiwi and lime. Moderate hop character and low bitterness. Vanilla. Fresh orange juice.

Body: Chalky. Soft lychee. Fizzy feel. Dry malt character. Moderate hops and bitterness.

Finish: Fizzy. Chalk. Lychee. Moderate hop prickle and charring.

Conclusion: This doesn’t stand chilling down well – a light cooling works ok, but any more than that and it can get a tad rough, empty and temperamental.

Ok, that is jumping in at the end, let’s wind things back a bit. The aroma on this is very nice indeed – soft fruit notes like falling apart lychee and pineapple chunks make up the core with a few gentle green and orange notes around the edges.

Of that the soft lychee is the main element that actually makes it through to the main body, and this brings us back to the start of the notes, as this is where the issue with chilling comes in. A tad too cool and it just feels chalky, fizzy and rough. The gentle flavours seem to need at least a little warmth to give them some grip.

Warmer it still has a rough touch, but it feels more like a hop bite than an off note, which lends a reasonable “beer” feel to this low alcohol drink. So, it is ok, not as good as the rest of the fantastic new wave of low alcohol beers that has come recently, but its gentler take on flavours is interesting. A lot of low alcohol beers go as big and booming as they can to compensate for the lack of abv body. Going for a gentle tart and citrus touched beer with a light hop bite is a commendable goal to go for to make something different.

It is not quite there yet. It is ok when warmer, but I hope they work with this one, as if they can master it, it will be a very welcome entry in the low alcohol range.

Background: Low alcohol time again! Healthy low alcohol drink day. Thankfully low alcohol beers are actually good these days, which makes life so much easier for beer fans like me. I’ve had a few bottles of Thornbridge’s low alcohol take but not really examined it, so after grabbing a few more bottled from Independent Spirit I decided to properly put it under the microscope. Put on The Germs for listening to while drinking – been a while since I’ve pulled out their stripped down, real DIY punk tracks for a listen.

Northern Monks: Amundsen: Monocromicon: Patrons Project 14.02 (England: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Creamy inch of coffee froth coloured brown head.

Nose: Light tart cherry. Milky coffee. Cocoa dust. Smooth. Cake sponge. Tofu.

Body: Tart cherry sour sweets. Tart black cherry. Condensed cream. Milky chocolate fondue. Tart apple sweets. Sweet grapes, both red and green. Chewy. Vanilla toffee. Plums and figs.

Finish: Tart apple sweets. Twigs. Milky chocolate. Cocoa dust. Tart cherry sour sweets. Slight bitter coffee. Milky.

Conclusion: This is interesting, I spoke in a previous set of notes about tart fruit notes in a beer making them feel slightly light, This has tart cherry sweets notes and tart apple sours notes a plenty, but the base beer is still hugely thick, creamy and sponge style chewy against that. It is a fight of flavours and feel that in the end comes out as a victory for the drinker.

What would be lightness in another beer comes across here as smoothness instead – while chewy and creamy the beer doesn’t feel super weighty because of that smoothing influence. At the base of the flavour is a bitter cocoa take on the imperial stout, a nice robust element so that the jelly sour sweet fruit notes aren’t sickly and artificial feeling due to a bit of bitterness behind them.

It is a wonderful worker of a beer, solid imperial stout bitter cocoa and slight coffee base, giving creamy and sweet thickness that then allows the unusual sour fruit sweet notes have a chance to work, and it is that little twist that makes the beer stand out.

The use of the sour fruit sweets character is great, it doesn’t overwhelm the imperial stout character, it just adds. The base imperial stout shows some dark fruit character already and it takes that and enhances it into a fresher, brighter style.

So, down side ? Well it may not be as heavy beer as some would like, as mentioned it is smoother rather than heavier, but it still packs some weight. That is about all I can call as possible criticism.

It is a great imperial stout, a different imperial stout and a superbly crafted imperial stout. It stands out even in the packed range of high quality imperial stouts as it is so different and yet still awesome. Grab it.

Background: Ok, I love the name, artwork, Death metal style logo and Necronomicon reference in this beer. It is also an imperial stout made with Cherry, Muscovado, cocoa and tonka beans. There was no way I was not buying this beer. It even comes with codes to listen to Nomasta metal tunes. Not heard of Nomasta before, but went to their band-camp page and had a listen while drinking. This was another one grabbed at Independent Spirit. It is also my second time drinking this beer, did it first time without notes and liked it so much I grabbed another can to do notes on.

Wiper and True: IDLES: Joy As An Act Of Resistance IPA: Collaboration Series 14 (England: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Dark caramel brown, with visible sediment bits floating within. Thin off white head.

Nose: Palma violets. Fresh blackcurrant. Lime cordial. Black-cherry jam. Cake sponge. Light hop character. Strawberry.

Body: Palma violets. Cake sponge. Blueberry. Blackcurrant cordial.

Finish: Lime cordial. Blackcurrant cordial. Cake sponge. Palma violets. Light earthy bitterness. Slight rocky to charring notes. Pepper. Sage and generally herbal.

Conclusion: This doesn’t feel super IPA like, it owes more to the special ingredients and seems to just use the IPA character as a dry drinkable base to work from, albeit with a bit of cake sponge weight from the malt load.

The blackcurrant is tart and gives a lovely, natural tasting, fruitiness but that tartness the fruit brings make the body feel a tad lighter with it. You do get a lot for that trade off though – the flavours are fresh, backed by light herbal notes for some range.

While it is a good set of flavours it does feel like the base beer could pull its weight a bit more as the berry character is very dominant. What I do like in though is a subtle palma violet sweets style character, an element that adds a kind of noble hop like character throughout the whole beer. Now I know violets were used to make this, but I’m fairly sure violets don’t taste like the sweets palma violets. I think. Amy which way I love this slightly odd, sweet note and what it adds to the beer.

I have to admit I would like a slightly brewed up, slightly higher abv version of this. Something to give a bigger body to contend with the thinning the blackcurrant brings – but, I am still enjoying this as it is. Slightly light but still a drinkably dry body, nice fruit tartness and light herbal complexity really works for the beer overall.

So, it could be improved on, made to be a great beer , but as is it is solid, different and still worth drinking.

Also IDLES fucking rock.

Background: So, Wiper and True are rock solid with their beers – love them, The Kernal of the south west in my opinion. Loved them for ages. IDLES, the band, I only found out about within the past few months but now love also – their new album that this beer is named after is a work of anger and emotional vulnerability that spits in the eye of toxic masculinity with a mix of the Clash and post hardcore punk. So yes I was going to buy this when I saw it at Independent Spirit. Anyway this is an IPA made with hibiscus, blackcurrant and violet. Ok, not what I expected – as you can probably see from the bottle they list IBU, hop choice, malt choice, all the info you need to know about the beer, which I always appreciate. So I put some Spice Girls on while drinking this…juuuust kidding, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, natch.

Douglas Laing: Provenance Single Cask: Bunnahabhain 10 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 10 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Clear, slightly greened brackish hue. Very light coloured.

Nose: Thick, salty, slightly viscous oily notes. Brown bread. Fish oils. Light broth. Wet rocks. Greenery. Water makes more salty, smoother, more rock notes.

Body: Honey. Rocks. Salt. Alcohol warmth. Gentle peat. Slight dry medicinal to strong alcohol character. Mature cheese, peppery. Butter fat. Water makes smoother, saltier, drier and less sweet. Vanilla and vanilla toffee. Slight lime.

Finish: Brown bread. Dry. Dry vodka. Gentle peat smoke. Water adds slight lime, vanilla and white chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok, Bunnahabhain is generally an unpeated whisky, I know that. This still tastes lightly smokey, ok? I cant lie on that one! It isn’t a meaty smoke character. But there is still some. Anyway, got that out of the way.

Neat it is a thick, kind of fish skin oils touched, slightly alcohol warm thing with big honey sweetness against a salty, rocky Islay character. The higher alcohol feel makes it a tad drying, which doesn’t quite match the sweeter character but it makes a simple, comparatively gentle Islay flavour set with a nice oily, thick mouthfeel.

Water does a lot of good, removing the harsher alcohol notes and the accompanying dryness, but it also strip out the more interesting flavours. The sweetness becomes more gentle and the odd oily, butter fats and peppery notes are lost.

Water makes it the easy drinking Islay, still showing a light peat smoke (I have no idea how), gentle sweetness and light salt. Easy to drink but most of the fun is lost. Id say the more interesting texture and flavour of the neat whisky makes it worth the slighter harsher notes that come with it. Give it some time to air, to get rid of some of the rough fumes, but drink neat – it makes for a reasonable attempt at a balance.

It isn’t a standout of the Islay world, but it really shows the non chill filtered style with a very nuanced mouthfeel that would otherwise have been lost. The slight mature cheese notes seem to be one of those extra elements and one I find fascinating. Apart from that it is generic light side of Islay flavour, good mouthfeel and some rough notes.

Not bad, not must have, but a decent take on the light end of Islay.

Background: Been digging these hip flask sized Single Cask bottlings for a while, a chance to get to know a whisky reasonably without dedicating the cash to a full bottle. Though I have had so many now I needed to ask for help from the lot at Independent Spirit so I could look up online which ones I have already done notes on. Bunnahabhain is an interesting one, a generally unpeated Islay. Not one I have had a huge range of experience with so this was chance to try and sort that. I’d been watching Kaizo Trap tons recently so put on some Leslie Wai music while drinking. Mainly Paradigm, the track from Kaizo Trap. This was distilled Oct 2007 and bottled Dec 2017.

Unity: Quorum Brune (England: Belgian Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Brown/ Moderate brown bubbled head with lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cardamom. Black pepper. Chives. Paprika. Very spice led. Greenery.

Body: Cardamom. Malt chocolate. Menthol touch. Liquorice touch. Light chalk. Milk chocolate. Light yeastie character.

Finish: Mint leaves. Menthol. Malt chocolate. Chives. Milk chocolate and milky coffee. Some yeast character. Vanilla.

Conclusion: This opens up overwhelmingly dominated by the spice side of things and it isn’t a good look. The cardamom notes are interesting, but intense. Most interestingly they seem to interact with the rest of the beer to create a wider range of spice notes. However, as always I feel that spice should be an element of the beer, not the whole beer as this first appears.

Time helps it find its feet. It has a gentle malt chocolate to milk chocolate body with a light dash of Belgian yeast funk. The spice is still fairly heavy. But now more mint to sage in how it comes across. The balance is better, it is still heavy on the spice but the base beer shows itself reasonably.

As a beer it seems fairly simple – malt chocolate notes, yeast funk, a little coffee late on but not a huge amount. Much as I find the spice use too heavy done, the beer really relies on it to give it some range.

So, it is an average beer that uses unusual spice slightly excessively. I’m not hating it, at least after the first few moments, but it lacks both complexity and subtlety. It seems to lose a lot of the joy that comes from the Belgian Bruin and the spice can’t fill that hole.

Background: What to list this as, ratebeer lists it as a an Abbey Dubbel but it seems a tad too low abv for that and not quite in style. Untapped calls it Belgian Brown Ale, which seems closer – I’m going with a more generic Belgian Ale for now. Bit of a cop out but it fits. Anyway, I’m always interested in other countries re-interpretations of Belgian styles so decided to grab this from Independent Spirit and give it a go. This is made with Cardamom and cocoa nibs. Drank while listening to Sabaton – Attero Dominatus, been a while since I listened and music that includes songs about smashing Nazis is always good for the heart.

Mikkeller: Beer Geek Fudgesicle (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Pours thick with a small brown head. Still main body.

Nose: Creamy to condensed cream. Liquorice. Bitter coffee. Marshmallow. Toffee.

Body: Creamy fudge. Liquorice. Bitter cocoa. Marshmallow. Chewy. Light rougher nut character. Praline.

Finish: Cocoa. Marshmallow. Fudge. Toffee. Hot chocolate. Butterscotch,

Conclusion: Ok, this is very creamy, big, sweet, thick and …very liquorice touched? Ok, there is one element I did not expect in there. Wonder if you can guess which one?

Though in the description above I have kind of reversed the order. From the first moments after pouring the beer I was surprised that a beer with such a sickly sweet name as Fudgesicle opened with such a strong dry, savoury set of black liquorice notes in the aroma.

As you sip your way slowly through the beer it becomes easy to see how it earned its name though. – there is very thick marshmallow to condensed cream mouthfeel and flavours that create a very heavy and chewy beer. Oddly the fudge flavours are probably behind the more bitter cocoa in the list of flavours by intensity, but there is still definitely enough creamy fudge for it to earn its name.

It is also slightly savoury backed – a the liquorice grounding never really goes away. It works well at keeping the beer from becoming sickly sweet, but I will admit I would have preferred a different grounding notes as the liquorice can get wearing over time.

Now it is still bloody enjoyable – one note in the sweet flavours side of things, but very thick and well done. A simple, but enjoyable party of a beer where everything is layered over with sweet heavy creamy weight.

Not Brunch Weasel level awesome, but a creamy, heavy beer that is technically impressive in the grand scheme of things, even if not every element is to my tastes. It you want sweet boozy fun, grab it. With polish I think they could take this even beyond that if they manage to add a few layers. As is, I loved my time with it, even if it is a tad simple.

Background: So, I am a huge fan of the Beer Geek series, with Beer Geek Brunch Weasel probably still being my favourite, and still one of the best imperial stouts of all time. So, when Independent Spirit got in this oatmeal stout made with cocoa and vanilla it damn near leapt into my hands. This was done by contract brewing, rather than at their new USA based brewery, hence still listing it as Denmark where Mikkeller is based (I generally gave up listing by where it is contract brewed as that just got confusing). Put on Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance while drinking. Amazing album, a kind of Clash meets post hardcore punk with emotional openness, self respect and utter contempt for toxic masculinity. Great stuff.

Mikkeller San Diego: The G.O.A.T. (USA: IIPA: 12% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Some sediment. Large peach touched head that leaves suds.

Nose: Pine cones. Pineapple. Oily. Resinous. Light cannabis. Sage. Vanilla custard. Wheaty bitterness. Peach. Sushi rise and pilau rice.

Body: Peach. Creamy. Strawberry. Oily, resinous bitterness. Slight olives. Cake sponge. Brown bread. Light pepper.

Finish: Oily bitterness. Flour. Olives. Slight charring. Lots of hop oils. Good hop character in general. Greenery. Honey. Slight pepper and rye. Brown bread.

Conclusion: This is so very, very average. Which is highly disappointing for two reasons. The first being that usually Mikkeller blows my expectations out of the water with beers like this. The second is that this beer costs over ten quid. I expect a hell of a lot more when I am dropping that much on a beer.

I mean, I do enjoy the beer – when I say average that isn’t some passive aggressive way of saying bad, trust me on that. It uses New England style creaminess but being a triple IPA it is far more full bodied than they usually are – oily and slightly resinous to give a very solid hop backing to the main peach sweet body.

It is decent, ya know. Thick in a cake sponge kind of way with slightly peppery grounding, moderately oily and resinous in a way I would not usually associate with the New England style of IPA. In fact, if I was just going by the base texture/body/mouthfeel etc then I would be saying that this beer is very well done. It has a nice balance of savoury and sweet, spice and sponge, elements mixing for a nice balance, feel and weight.

The problem is that on top of that well done base is a simple peach and vanilla set of sweet notes that just don’t excite at all. There is no real progression, no spark, nothing I haven’t seen done better in a thousand IPAs before. It is a pity as so much is done right on the technical side of brewing – impressively done but with a very mediocre set of flavours used that do not show that impressive brewing off at all.

So, a wonderful base that does absolutely nothing with it. As a standard price IIPA I would call this worth grabbing in a pinch, but not one of the better ones. At its cost this is not worth it at all.

A great base, a very average beer overall. Lots of good ideas that I hope they use later in a more exciting and hopefully cheaper beer.

Background: You know when I bought this is didn’t know what G.O.A.T. meant. I was wondering if it was like S.P.E.C.I.A.L from the Fallout games. Anyway, I googled. It means greatest of all time, but I’m guessing most of you already knew that. My finger is on the pulse of modern culture. Anyway, while Mikkeller usually contract brews their beers at other breweries this one is from their own brewery in San Diego. Which is kind of obvious from the breweries name. I am stating the obvious here. Other obvious facts, this was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit in Bath. I get a lot of beers there. Had been to see Garbage live recently, and found a new band called Honeyblood as one of the warm up bands, so was listening to some of their stuff while drinking – nice alternative indie pop kind of stuff, light but far from empty if that makes sense.

Northern Monk: Wylam: Moobing On Up (England: IIPA: 10% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy opaque apricot. Large loose white head.

Nose: Peach. Apricot. Peppermint and menthol. Mild bitter hops. Hop oils. Palma violets. Resin. Vanilla.

Body: Resinous. Creamy peach. Peach melba. Oily hops. Dried apricot. Peppermint. Menthol. Grapes. Cream. Prickly hops underneath. Blood orange. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard.

Finish: Hop oils, seeping dark bitterness. Resin. Heavy hop bitterness. Grapes. Menthol and peppermint. Blood orange. Charring. Gunpowder tea.

Conclusion: Ok, this is cloudy, is it a NEIPA? Or at least a Tripel IPA style of NEIPA? If so I may have to temporarily revise my opinion of the style.

From the first moments of pouring it is oozing peach and apricot notes as the aroma seeps out of the glass. There is a kind of menthol, peppermint note that I was intrigued by, but simultaneously I was worried that it would get wearing over time.

I shouldn’t have been worried – while the fresh fruit notes are accompanied by those menthol notes as we head into the body there is a lot else in there to contrast it – from cream to blood orange notes. It is very fresh and fruit up front, but it hints at resinous elements and hop oils already, elements that are going to play a much bigger part as time goes on.

The bright, creamy front sinks into resinous, oily hoppiness – a slow progress that assimilates and overwhelms the menthol notes. It lets them be interesting at the start, but moves them out of the way before they can overstay their welcome. It does keep the fruit, but builds up the oiliness, and bitterness slowly so you don’t notice until it takes the front and it is kicking your throat out. In a good way.

Then it allows the malt through, soft sweetness with toffee and such balancing the now “dank” oily hop character. In the last few moments rougher notes come in – charring and gunpowder tea – what would be off-putting if they had arrived earlier but gives just a final pep as the beer is heading out. This beer is lovely, intense and with a huge range.

It is such a fine beer, that if the bullshit tabloid articles were true, would definitely be worth getting moobs to drink (or … foobs? Hmm, that probably doesn’t work. i tried for not assuming all beer drinkers are blokes, anyway …) . I am very impressed. So much so I am tempted to imitate the can and throw an unironic dab. It is that good.

Background: I missed out on “I Like To Moob It, Moob It” – a beer taking the piss out of the ill researched articles in papers about hoppy beers giving you man boobs. It sold out damn fast, and seems to have bloody good rep. So when I saw this brewed up triple IPA version, hopped with Citra, Ella, Vic Secret, Enigma and Topaz I figured it was definitely worth a grab. Though I nearly made a mistake – with it being high abv I thought it would be ok to sit a short while before drinking, thankfully I overhead in Independent Spirit that it had a short three month best before, so managed to drink it before it went out of date. From past experience I figure the beer would be fine, but I always feel I should try and do notes while the beer is still in date, to be fair to it. Since it is the 20th anniversary this year, I put on Garbage v2.0 yet again. Bloody awesome album.

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