Black Breath - Sentenced To Life
Record Label: Southern Lord
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Imagine lying bound in the middle of a train track. The air is fogged and thick and the clouds overhead are dark with rain. In the distance a faint whistle cuts through the dense atmosphere and a light parts the fog. The earth shakes beneath your shoes and with a menacing rumble comes the train. 240 tons of steel ripping through the air and through your fragile frame as if it were made of paper. Black Breath's Sentenced To Life is the audio equivalent. From the start the album is a skull-crushing barrage of blackened hardcore terror that runs the gamut from crust punk vigor to thrash metal madness. Behemoth riffs caked in grime rain down like artillery fire over earth shattering drums and a howl of gravel-throated vocals. "Feast of the Damned" wastes no time kicking things into top gear with a crunching power chords that give way to frantic tremolo-picked black metal riffs and tight percussion, while "Home of the Grave" is a groove-heavy track that drives home the band's knack for heaviness like no other.
Granted there's little variation on Sentenced To Life. The aforementioned characteristics define the overall feel of the album with little deviation. No moments of respite save for the occasional slower-building song that contrasts with the more uptempo ones. This is far from a drawback though as the record is one of extremes - loudness, heaviness, intensity- all executed exceptionally well. Recorded at the hallowed grounds of Godcity Studios (home of producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou) Sentenced To Life's sound is a clear example that both Ballou and the band know their stuff. The music sounds raw but never underproduced or lo-fi, with just the right amount of dirt and grime to illustrate the crust-metal aesthetic of the band. Often such music will overpower the vocals but not this time around. Everything is mixed and mastered just right, each song its own dark and foreboding atmosphere of tension and anxiousness. This is an important facet of the album as in the hands of a lesser producer the sound might've been too far on either end of the scale: too produced, or not produced enough, both factors that too often weigh down otherwise great recordings.
Comprised of members of bands such as Go It Alone, Shook Ones, and Blue Monday, Black Breath are a world apart from the triumphant and self-empowering aesthetics of the members' hardcore backgrounds. Though the common theme of anger and aggression are still present this is anything but dogpile-ready hardcore. This is bang-your-head-and-give-yourself-whiplash-while-throwing-the-horns-so-hard-it-breaks-a-bone-or-two-ready blackened crust. Unrelenting, unforgiving, uncompromising, Sentenced To Life is a brilliant slab of metallic hardcore aggression that is sure to catch the attention of fans of metal and punk alike, bringing fans of heavy music of all sorts together in the pit. Just be sure you have your sleeveless denim vest and black metal patches ready.