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Album Reviews : Black Breath – Heavy Breathing

By on February 22, 2011

Good ‘ole Seattle – a hot-bed of music styling’s throughout the ages! The birthplace of the supernova of the fret board – Jimi Hendrix, a veritable breeding ground for grunge in the 90’s, spawning juggernauts of modern rock in Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees and Alice In Chains. Home to indie rock royalty in the form of Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse and in the last decade; post-hardcore luminaries These Arms Are Snakes, The Blood Brothers and The Fall Of Troy.

Wait…am I forgetting something? What about the bastard, mongrel child of the Seattle “scene”. The band that launched a thousand more, and have been uncompromising in their punk rock ethos and blatant in their disregard for genres over the past 28 years!? That band is known as the Melvins. To document their sound, influence and impact on other groups over the last three decades, would fill this entire piece. The reason for giving attention to the Melvins (which is long over due), is down to the fact that they have been the most underrated, insidiously heavy band to come from Seattle. That is, until now…

Introducing Black Breath –  a band with firm foundations in the punk rock “DIY” mentality (released their debut EP “Razor to Oblivion” in 2008, on their own label Hot Mass Records). A band who know exactly what it’s like to tour the sewers, and languish amongst the dregs of society. And this familiarity, as they say – breeds contempt. Black Breath sound like they have violent contempt for everything and everybody; this is evident throughout their full length debut for Southern Lord Records.

A large part of their misanthropic sound can be credited to producer extraordinaire and Converge riff-fiend – Kurt Ballou (Trap Them/Kvelertak/Nails). His ability to capture the raw inner-core of a band’s live sound, while maintaining instrumental clarity, makes him one of the most thrilling minds in the business.

A serious attempt at rupturing eardrums ensues with the feral blasphemy of “Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)” – a crossbreed of Swedish death metal, hardcore and the facetious Satanism of Venom. Comparisons to Venom are warranted in the delivery of the vocals. Like Cronos on songs such as “Countess Bathory”, singer Nate McAdams has a fetish for repeating memorable vocal refrains and he delivers them through the vocal chords of someone who consists solely on a diet of glass and razor-wire. Bear witness to these mantras on tracks; “Eat the Witch” , “Unholy Virgins” and “Children of the Horn” (presumably a pun on the Stephen King short story turned 1984 film, and not a reference to a possible Ron Jeremy youth club!).

Black Breath are at their most exhilarating when dropping those chugging buzz-saw riffs that Entombed made famous. Their impact when augmented with blackened-punk sections (similar to the first wave of black metal), makes these Seattleites highly derivative yet mercilessly dangerous as heard on “Virus” & “Escape from Death”.

This group of gutter-punks visibly wears their influences on their tattered sleeves. This is not a negative, quite the contrary; it’s an endearing quality (well, as endearing as a bunch of extreme metalheads with a penchant for beating you around the head with contusion-ready riffs can be).

Take album highlight “I am Beyond” – a barefaced homage to Pantera. It is almost in “cease and desist” territory! Just listen for the “Domination”-aping breakdown to hit, it comes across as if the Pantera classic has been filtered through the languid approach of Down. It’s brazen yet totally triumphant, and the same can be said for “Heavy Breathing” as a whole! 7/10

Band: Black Breath
Album: Heavy Breathing
Year: 2010
Genre: Thrash/Crossover
Origin: USA
Label: Southern Lord

Track listing:
1. Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)
2. Eat the Witch
3. Escape from Death
4. I Am Beyond
5. Virus
6. Heavy Breathing
7. Children of the Horn
8. Fallen
9. Unholy Virgin
10. Wewhocannotbenamed


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.