Review: Black Breath

Black Breath Sentenced to Life Southern Lord

I have moved around a lot since the year 2000, and I have two major regrets. The first is that I left Portland, Oregon several months before From Ashes Rise moved there. As it was, I never managed to see them, which rankles. The other regret that I have is moving out of Seattle, for a lot of reasons really, but most prominently because I managed to leave town right before Black Breath came on the scene. Sure, they’d been around since 2005 (I left town in 2008) but who really pays attention to what’s going on in Bellingham? Well, not me at any rate.

Since their first EP Razor to Oblivion 2008, Black Breath have gone from strength to strength. Their approach has been consistent and pretty straight forward: up tempo deathmetal along lines similar to early Entombed. True, Black Breath never quite gets the really ripping guitar sounds of Left Hand Path era Entombed, but one would be hard pressed to name anyone who does. This is not to say that Black Breath can be numbered among the legions of Entombed imitators. They create a style that is all their own, both musically and lyrically. The riff structure their songs bespeaks the influence of the metal tinged hardcore and crust of the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in its West Coast incarnations. There is a lot to like here from a pure, headbanging perspective. Chugging guitars thrash along over thudding double bass and the vocals have a tortured quality without descending into incomprehensible guttural gurgling.

Sentenced to Life is the band’s third release with Southern Lord. When the Captain and I first discussed it, his comment was “more Slayer, less Entombed.” He definitely has a point here. Listeners will notice this right from the off. The opening grind on “Feast of the Damned” recalls Hell Awaits, although it is more compact and doesn’t quite descend to the same dark depths. The similarities continue when the song kicks into gear. Once again, this is a matter of positively taking up influences rather than slavish imitation. As the disc continues, the familiar crust influences come to the fore again. It doesn’t seem like there is quite as much single string riffing on Sentenced to Life as on previous releases, although it is by no means absent. The heavier reliance on chordal riffing adds weight to the songs. What certainly has not changed from previous efforts is Neil McAdams’s vocal style, which is still desperate, angry, and vicious.

In this correspondent’s humble opinion, the world needs more Slayer loving hair farmers and these guys fill that bill to a tee. For fans of blistering thrash this disc will be meat and drink.

Magadh

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