posted on 4/2010 By:
It seems like only months ago that I reviewed Black Breath’s debut, Razor to Oblivion, and in the relatively brief time since that EP’s release late last year, Black Breath has undergone a stylistic change. Whereas Razor was mostly thrash, cut with some hardcore and crossover, the band’s first full-length Heavy Breathing finds Black Breath hopping off the overcrowded thrash bandwagon and onto the Swedish death metal bandwagon, the wheels of which fell off some years ago. Fortunately for Black Breath, quality never goes out of style.
Black Breath’s stylistic makeover runs deeper than merely adding a Boss Heavy Metal pedal to the signal chain: The band has adopted tremolo picked riffs as a prominent compositional tool and developed a stronger melodic presence in its sound. Yet, while the thrash elements have been greatly deemphasized , the band has retained many of the hardcore elements that were present on Razor to Oblivion, not the least of which are Nate McAdams vocals: McAdams continues to employ raw-throated shouts rather than adopt a death metal growl. Other hardcore elements crop up throughout the record, such as the gang vocals in “Virus” and the simplistic riffing in “Children of the Horn”. It is no mean feat that Black Breath succeeds where so many bands have failed in combining hardcore and death metal in a manner that is not an insult to either genre.
Heavy Breathing is rife with the snarling, rusty chainsaw-styled riffage that made the “Stockholm Sound” famous, and tracks like “Escape from Death”, “Eat the Which” and “Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)” bristle with the old-school brutality of prime Dismember and Entombed. Surprisingly, however, it is the album's more melodic moments that prove most memorable. Heavy Breathing’s instrumental title track, for instance, has a soundtrack-like quality, featuring lead guitar melodies that masterfully morph from somber to sinister as the track gets heavier. The intro to “WeWhoCannotBeNamed” with its funeral procession pacing and sinuous solo, captures the feel of the classic outro to Entombed’s “Left Hand Path”. Another shining moment is the solo on “Virus,” the bluesy, southern sting of which seems to come out of left field, but, in the end, proves undeniably infectious.
Originality is obviously not Black Breath’s strong suit, but well crafted, memorable songs and a passionate delivery are more than adequate substitutes. I hesitate to call such a derivative album essential, but for those who never tire of the Sunlight Studios sound, and for anyone looking for a neck-snapping good time, Heavy Breathing will deliver. As an aside, I am curious to see if Black Breath continues in this style on its next release or if the band makes another chameleon-like change. Part of me hopes for the latter, as Black Breath’s take on doom metal would almost certainly prove interesting.
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