Even for those of us who like both things, metal music and breakfast may seem like an odd combination. Couldn’t soundtracking a meal with roaring vocals, speeding guitar, and salvos of death and destruction mess with your digestion? Metal also has a reputation for being night music: the perfect accompaniment to heavy drinking, suburban mischief-making, or just staying up till sunrise, rocking out alone in your bedroom with Morbid Angel’s Covenant blasting through your headphones. The stereotypical metalhead seems like a person who would sleep through breakfast.
The thing is, not all metal sounds like death metal—and the overwhelming majority of metal fans are neither Beavis nor Butt-Head. As it turns out, plenty of metalheads enjoy not only cooking, but breakfast. And they see their love of food as inextricably connected to their love of music.
For Lars Gotrich, a metal-loving writer and producer at NPR, music is an essential complement to the experience of cooking. “Food is such an important part of who we are as a culture,” he says. “It is a very familial and communal thing—and music is a familial and communal thing.” Combining the two has become part of his job; Gotrich hosts NPR Music’s WAXnEGGS, a Facebook Live show where musicians visit his home to cook breakfast, talk, and perform.
“I think that people who are deeply involved in metal are in constant search of thrilling music and feelings, songs that shake their whole being,” explains Annick Giroux, the vocalist for Montreal-based heavy/doom metal band Cauchemar. “The same thing with cuisine—why settle for shitty, basic food when you can have food that can give you shivers and bring you to a whole other level?”
In 2009, under the nom de cuisine “Morbid Chef,” Giroux published Hellbent for Cooking: A Heavy Metal Cookbook, which collects recipes from a broad range of metal bands, including Anthrax, Gwar, and Eyehategod. For her, the essential metal breakfast includes four elements: 1) “Something extreme,” maybe blood sausage. 2) “Some sort of alcohol to get rid of the hangover.” 3) Music. 4) “Sharp knives!”
But not every metalhead feasts on flesh. Brian Manowitz, the Seitanic Spellbook author and Forever Dawn mastermind better known to the Internet as Vegan Black Metal Chef, became a YouTube sensation by delivering meat- and dairy-free cooking demonstrations in full corpse paint. “I don’t necessarily eat what traditional people call traditional breakfast food, for breakfast,” he says. “In adulting, there are no rules.” A suitably metal attitude.
When Manowitz does happen to be in the mood for typical breakfast food, he tends to gravitate toward a vegan classic. “Tofu scramble is far more amazing than people think, if done right. If not done right, it’s horribly bland and crappy,” he says. Aside from making sure you spice the tofu, a successful scramble depends on solid prep work. “Cut the tofu really thin, and press the water out,” Manowitz advises. Then, “sautee that in a vegan butter, so it crisps the outside a little bit and gives it more of an egg-like taste and texture.”
It’s not a metal breakfast without music, though. Giroux tends to gravitate towards the lighter side of her record collection in the morning, picking ‘70s bands like Budgie, ZZ Top, and Thin Lizzy. Judas Priest’s Sin After Sin isn’t just her favorite album of all time—it’s also her preferred cooking soundtrack. “It makes me cut onions and tomatoes much much faster,” she says.
Gotrich’s Facebook Live show has its roots in a meal he made four or five years ago. “I was listening to Mount Eerie’s Wind’s Poem”—the indie band’s metal-inspired album—“and thinking about what I wanted to make for breakfast,” he says. “I knew I had some Humboldt Fog cheese, and Mount Eerie evokes fog for me in every single possible way. So I made a toad in the hole with Humboldt Fog cheese and prosciutto, and cooked it in sage sausage leftovers.” When he tweeted about the pairing, people loved it. As he continued to post breakfast-and-album combinations, followers started asking him to include pictures of his meals. “Wow, that is the most millennial thing I’ve ever heard,” Gotrich thought. But he obliged, uploading photos of beautiful breakfasts in front of beloved record covers to Instagram and tagging them #WAXnEGGs. Eventually, NPR Music asked him to turn the concept into a talk show.
Gotrich’s Instagram archives reveal a particular fondness for egg-based brunches and a love of music that spans multiple genres, from punk to jazz to experimental. “When I pick out music to listen to when I’m making food, it’s usually when I’m just waking up and I need something to ease me into the day,” he says. So, when it comes to metal, he favors bands like drone metal pioneers Earth “because of the slowness and the meditative nature of [Earth founder] Dylan Carlson’s guitar work.” Still, a classic heavy metal album, like Pentagram’s Relentless, occasionally makes its way into his breakfast routine. “Sometimes you just need to rock the fuck out when you’re making some eggs,” he explains. “Metal is a natural energizer.”
At Crow’s Nest in St. Louis, devotees of the restaurant’s popular weekly metal brunches seem to agree. “It’s not the typical thing that most people go out and listen to at a restaurant, especially at ten in the morning,” Kenny Snarzyk, a bartender and manager at Crow’s Nest, admits. Even so, he says, “not everyone there is this diehard metalhead.” The crowd that flocks to consume the restaurant’s “decappetizers,” “mercyful plates,” and “Judas feasts” doesn’t seem to mind Snarzyk’s 80-hour Spotify playlist that spans just about every metal subgenre.
The concept behind metal brunch, which has been going strong for almost four years now, was simple: “We wanted to listen to metal and eat breakfast,” says Snarzyk, whom the local Riverfront Times named St. Louis’ best bassist in 2012. “There’s a handful of metalheads who work at the place, and nobody around seemed to be doing anything like it, so we figured, ‘Why not listen to death metal and eat omelettes?’” In fact, the Crow’s Nest isn’t the only restaurant that has thought to combine metal and brunch. Giroux points out that Graffiti’s, in Toronto, also hosts weekly black metal brunches.
Metal may seem a world apart from what we think of as brunch culture, with its khaki-wearing WASPs and throngs of basic Sex and the City fans getting trashed on bellinis. But, as Gotrich jokingly points out, “Bleeding yolks is pretty metal, too.”