Heavy Breathing (Southern Lord)
Seattle metal punks BLACK BREATH seem like a decidedly offbeat signing for Southern Lord and may have been more logically placed on, say, Deathwish Inc. But that’s a surface view. They may not sound like your average BORIS, or SUNN 0))) or EAGLE TWIN, but Southern Lord always seems to have a few curveballs in their arsenal, and while their roster is heavily washed in doom and drone, it’s nice to have an offering that tastes completely different.
And BLACK BREATH are nothing at all like what SL faithful are used to sampling. Rooted more in hardcore and true, gutty punk, with some furious flourishes of NWOBHM, Heavy Breathing was destined to come out of Kurt Ballou’s God City Studios and might even help attract those kids who are spending their weekends at DIY matinees to Southern Lord’s catalog for something a little more sinister. Maybe we’re looking at cross-pollination. Or maybe this is all reading too far into everything.
The 10-track Heavy Breathing remains steeped in what BLACK BREATH unleashed on the world with the debut EP “Razor to Oblivion,” but adds more purpose, vitriol, and even Scandinavian death morsels onto an album that’s charging right out of the gates on “Black Spit (Spit on the Cross),” when frontman Neil McAdams snarls, “Reject Christ, spit on the cross.” Sure, sure, these sentiments are old hat in the punk/hardcore/metal worlds, but there’s something about the delivery here that feels fresh and meaningful, like arms are being taken up anew. It actually feels dangerous.
“Virus” catches a fiery riff that bleeds like very old Metallica (you know, when Cliff Burton was alive and aliens hadn’t yet carved out residences in James Hetfield’s and Kirk Hammett’s bodies … Lars, of course, remained untouched…); the title track trades paces between calculated stomp and gallop; and “Unholy Virgin,” despite an introductory melody that sounds like that unfortunate ’90s song “Black Velvet,” is the track that could break these guys, as McAdams yowls over a quaking skeletal bassline that eventually has elements slowly built atop it, making it into an unstoppable, deliriously catchy beast.
There’s a lot happening here, there’s violence over every hillside, and countless lands – from hardcore, to metal, to sludge, to punk, to death — are conquered on BLACK BREATH’s debut opus. Their urgency to reign supreme is undeniable, which makes BLACK BREATH one of the most exciting and promising bands any of the aforementioned genres have seen in some time.