Holy shit, we’ve got a live one here! Feted for their bombastic re-working of the classic Entombed sound on previous albums, Seattle’s Black Breath have shifted up a whole clutch box of gears on third album ‘Slaves Beyond Death’. The Entombed reverence is still very much in the mix, but this time rather than being the main focus of the band’s sound it forms a lovely, buttery biscuit base atop which all manner of modern metallic goodness has been lasciviously dolloped.
The development of the Black Breath sound is such that had you heard the opening barrage of opening track ‘Pleasure, Pain, Disease’ without first knowing who it was you’d be entitled to think it was another band taking the Black Breath template and taking it beyond the realms of their straight-up, punk-infused D-Beat past. Neil McAdams’ vocals in particular are a startling but welcome advancement having gone from frenzied screaming to something more akin to early-era Death.
Black Breath have never been shy of hiding their love for Entombed and Dismember in their early sound and so it is that they proudly display a full range new influences with gay abandon. ‘Reaping Flesh’ is an out and out paean to early 90’s Floridian death metal, whilst the utterly brain-crushing ‘Seed Of Cain’ would have ended the world had it appeared on the Black Album in 1991. The song itself is nearly 7 minutes of breakneck riffing, scattergun drums and some of the most exhilarating solo licks committed to record in many a year. Classic thrash, black metal and a huge nod to the Gothenburg sound, popularised by At The Gates, are all in full effect – it’s a stunning display of heavy metal and deserves immediate attention.
For anyone concerned that this upshift in sound has taken Black Breath away from their D-Beat roots, there’s no need to be worried. This is an improvement on an already incredible band, Black Breath 3.0 if you like. It’s a perfect blend for metalheads who don’t like it too hardcore or hardcore kids who don’t like the metal to take over the speed. Witness the opening riff of ’Arc Of Violence’ for a lesson in how to get an audiences blood pumping from note one or the absolute filth of the ultra-slow headbang heaven of ’A Place of Insane Cruelty‘ for proof that some tunes are equally good for hair-swinging as they are floor stomping!
It seems that we get another band proclaiming their latest work as “the metal album of the year” every week but in the case of Black Breath they had no need to bother with such hyperbole. ‘Slaves Beyond Death’ is more than just the metal album of the year it’s the metal EVENT of the year. A mind blowing and resounding triumph from the incoming masters of metal!
’Slaves Beyond Death’ by Black Breath is out now on Southern Lord.
Words by Rob Fearnley.