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Black Breath - "Heavy Breathing" (CD)

Black Breath - "Heavy Breathing" CD cover image

"Heavy Breathing" track listing:

1. Black Sin (Spit On the Cross) (3:30)
2. Eat the Witch (3:53)
3. Escape From Death (4:10)
4. I Am Beyond (4:25)
5. Virus (4:21)
6. Heavy Breathing (2:52)
7. Children of the Horn (3:12)
8. Fallen (3:46)
9. Unholy Virgin (5:34)
10. Wewhocannotbenamed (4:30)

Reviewed by on April 9, 2010

"While Black Breath does quite well for themselves with the jagged riffs and deafening mayhem, they also work well in maintaining a calculated sonic attack."

Black Breath is a thrash band only in theory; their true form, revealed on debut album “Heavy Breathing,” lies somewhere between thrash, sludge and Danzig-inspired blues. The last part of that sentence may cause some inquisitive questions to arise, and that is to be expected. No, there isn’t any crooning or up-tempo harmony that will get the toes-a-tapping; it’s more like a bluesy sound with a dirty veil covering its face. These moments aren’t plentiful on the album, as the band tends to stick with the speedy thrash riffs and hardcore barking. However, it’s the idea of having this variety that signifies “Heavy Breathing” as a successful launching point for the Seattle quintet.

“Black Sin (Spit On The Cross)” is actually two separate songs in one; a prime example of the dual nature of Black Breath. A vicious yell, one of many on “Heavy Breathing,” welcomes the listener into the overwhelming stench of evil. The production is clear, yet maintains a fuzzy rawness that accentuates the dark vibes. While the first half of the song is uncompromising in its towering fury, the second half veers off with an intense chunky riff, before the band brings it on home with a reprise of the opening. All of this is achieved in less than four minutes and is an auspicious sign for things to come.

While none of the other songs are split up like the first track, they seem to progress with a fluid passion with no thought in sticking to the same sound. “Escape From Death” brings the tremolo-picked riffs out in full force, but keeps the quick leads and catchy lyrics on standby. “I Am Beyond” is a mid-paced rocker with a stomping melody guaranteed to get heads banging, while the title track carries over the immense heaviness with a tortoise pace.

All of this builds towards the tour-de-force of the album, “Unholy Virgin.” A sleazy haze washes over the track, as the band gets their groove on for a tale of a blasphemous little wrench. The song has a loose blues-rock feel to it, one that the band seems comfortable with. Nothing sounds forced and the six minutes feels like only half that length. It’s the only track that strictly goes away from the thrash undertones on the rest of the album, but it’s a venture that pays off.

Those who don’t want to hear any groove in their music will find much of the album to suit their moshing ways. “Children Of The Corn” and “Eat The Witch” are the token fast numbers, while closer “Wewhocannotbenamed” pulls a complete U-turn from the vibes of “Unholy Virgin” in shaking a little aggression back into the mix. A few surprises do pop up, including an 80’s hard rock-inspired guitar solo on “Virus” and the wicked drum work in the early portion of “Fallen.”

The lyrics are cheesy as hell, with the choruses mostly being the song title repeated over and over again. Hell, if it works for bands like Nile, it can work for Black Breath. What doesn’t work are the occasional bouts of repetition, especially with the extended outro to “I Am Beyond” that turns into an abrasive version of the Energizer bunny. The vocals could use a little work too; while the harshness factor can’t be denied, the tendency for drawn-out monotonous screams seems to be a favorite means of vocalization.

An album that could have used more sultry blues and less straightforward thrash, “Heavy Breathing” is nonetheless a sharp debut album. While Black Breath does quite well for themselves with the jagged riffs and deafening mayhem, they also work well in maintaining a calculated sonic attack. Another song or two like “Unholy Virgin” would have been appreciated, but the band is able to garnish credibility and a strong musical foundation no matter what style they are performing.

Highs: Bouts of bluesy madness, tight thrash onslaught from start to finish, a great 80's-inspired solo in "Virus."

Lows: Lyrics are cheesy at times, repetitive moments, drawn-out monotonous screaming.

Bottom line: Mixing thrash with bluesy rock, Black Breath has put together a strong debut album.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)