Black Breath – Sentenced to Life

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Black Breath have made quite a name for themselves since the release of their first EP in 2008. They’ve used their Entombed influence to freshen up the HM-2 guitar tone, and have attracted fans from all over the spectrum; there’s something in their music for the death metallers, the punks, the stoner doomers, and beyond. Heavy Breathing was a solid debut, but the only moment that floored me was the intro to “Wewhocannotbenamed”.

The band’s second LP Sentenced to Life features their high-demand hybrid recipe, except with doubled intensity; they’ve gone heavier, louder and crisper. They’ve diversified beats, and show signs of evolving influences. The band and producer likely had a grand vision for the way this was supposed to sound. I imagine everyone sitting in a room, hearing the finished product and smiling at how great it is.

The album surges to life from the first faint sounds of ultra-distortion. Producer Kurt Ballou knows his guitars through and through, as they punch through the mix but remain coated in a layer of filth. The riffs may be straightforward, but they aren’t generic. The pleasant listening challenge is there. “Feast of the Damned” is the beast escaping the confines of the gate, a bold beginning that gets the blood pumping.

For vocalist Neil McAdams, a few more years of experience have translated into confidence in his craft. He’s mastered both the strenuous roar and the short, punctuated strike. The opening “augh!” on “Mother Abyss” lingers like a reluctant greeting. Followed by the frenzied vocal bursts and main bending riff, it shapes this track into a two-and-a-half-minute-long snarl. Then, without changing much at all, McAdams makes the catchy lyric on “Of Flesh” (“You’ll never / get enough…”) sound matter-of-fact. It’s subtle, but this discernible element in vocal personality adds depth.

Black Breath prevent any d-beat repetitiveness by switching over to steady grooves at the right moments. “Endless Corpse” features a cycle between scrappy tremolo leads and trudging doom. The transfer of potential and kinetic energy releases constant barrages of chained-up rage.

The album closes with the most expansive-sounding track, mimicking the format of Heavy Breathing. Each beat is deliberate, the rhythm constrained, and the solo the vibrant focal point. It’s a calming ode to the beast, containing it once again. Obey… until next time.

— Julia Neuman

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HEAR SENTENCED TO LIFE

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Black Breath – “Mother Abyss”

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Black Breath – “Home of the Grave”

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BUY SENTENCED TO LIFE

Southern Lord (CD, LP)

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