Published Mar 26, 2010Proving the raucous force, fear-instilling aggression and head banging belligerence of their recent debut EP, Razor To Oblivion, were no fluke, death'n'roll outfit Black Breath finally issue a merciless follow-up with full-length Heavy Breathing. Smashing the worlds of Swedish death, gritty rock'n'roll, hardcore and even black metal into ten crazed tracks such as opener "Black Sin (Spit On The Cross)" and "Virus," Black Breath generate fresh excitement that could very well be defined as the new crossover. Sensible yet certainly not miserly with its energy, the album barrels forth, refusing to offer any sort of break while never completely wiping out the listener until its completion, thanks to an incredibly wily sense of when to attack with full abandon and when to abate just enough to create (heavy) breathing room. Additionally, the album drips with venomous contempt and cathartic rage, which Kurt Ballou has captured perfectly, creating a studio-quality document of the band's over-the-top live essence arguably unheard of since Lords' Fuck All Y'All Motherfuckers. Rooted in the same carnal grooves and barbaric riffing first encountered on Entombed's Wolverine Blues, yet bastardized enough to be completely their own, Heavy Breathing is an amazingly annihilating affront. (Southern Lord, www.southernlord.com)
How did Black Breath form?
Guitarist Eric Wallace: Two of us were working in a kitchen together. In order to assert dominance over the other minimum wage grunts [we'd] jam on the stereo loud enough to drown out even the rawest of hippies dining nearby. That led to the beginnings of Black Breath.
What do you feel you offer the world of music that was previously lacking?
We're not reinventing the wheel, but we're doing stuff we don't see around enough. There are currently far too many bands that A) aren't fast, B) aren't heavy, C) aren't loud and D) don't rip. This means too many boring bands taking up space that should be reserved for bands that are fast, heavy, loud and ripping.
Offer a chance to bang your head until all your dull normal world worries are a distant memory. We do our thing; everyone else does theirs, but in the end it's all rock'n'roll. I will say this: when I see a band play, I want to see bodies flying, heads banging and the masses growing wild, not a bunch of sitting or hand-holding or whatever it is the kids are into these days. Save that for church, nerd.
What are some of the prime sonic motivators for you guys?
If I could narrow down our prime motivators to one or two bands, we'd rip them off like crazy, over and over, and crank out albums every six months. As it stands, we're into way too much shit and thus have to figure out ways to rip off too many bands. It takes time. Trying to push our own creative interests while making sense of the total library of influences is inescapable once you've heard the music that has totally twisted our songwriting. What does Poison Idea have to do with Merciless? What does Danzig have to do with SSD? What do the Buzzcocks have to do with Autopsy? Black Sabbath? The Ramones? Tower of Power?
I hear everything from Dukes Of Nothing to Death Breath.
Death Breath rules! I'm not too familiar with Dukes of Nothing, but they sound like a party. Most of the guys work nights so it's usually after midnight when we jam. I'd say that's been an influence on songwriting. Both very bad and shockingly good ideas alike have been hatched around four a.m. when the deliriousness sets in.
Aren't those the best moments?
They have ended up on various cuts.
What about lyrical drive? People might assume an almost black metal approach given a tune like "Black Sin (Spit On The Cross)."
Neil [McAdams] writes the lyrics and I'll assume he's not taking too many cues from any particular black metal lyric sheet, but I guarantee he's drawing from similar influences as some of those vocalists. He's a sick, nasty dude with a morbid fascination of perversion and darkness. His lyrics follow suit. He's always writing wild shit; it's what he does. Despising Christianity isn't the craziest idea, but since none of us are feeling the weak-ass religious claptrap piping in from everywhere in this country, it's natural that some distaste for it comes through as well. No big deal.
Are you surprised that most feedback has been so positive with just one previous EP?
Not particularly. Don't get me wrong, the positive words are nice to hear, but we wouldn't be in this band if we thought it totally sucked. That said, it's nice to know people agree with us, right? To be fair, we didn't really expect any feedback when we recorded it; we had some songs and recorded them. The fact that people outside of Seattle, let alone the world, have heard the record is pretty wild. It also makes it easier to play shows and book things further than 100 feet from our house when people are into our record, so the linkage between people digging the tunes and helping us out with shows or whatever has been a nice surprise. Also, I realize four songs are not much to digest, so I'm sure we'll see opinions change when we have 20 or 30 more songs out.
How smooth was the process of realizing Heavy Breathing?
It was pretty simple. We had a bunch of songs ready, wrote the final couple just before we left on tour and recorded directly after. A bunch of the tunes were put on ice or just left incomplete and the rest made it onto Heavy Breathing. Zack ["Funds" Muljat, guitar] was stressing a bit because he was out of town for a good chunk of time while we were doing the final rehearsals for our summer tour and we figured we might have some sound check time to run through stuff, but that didn't pan out. We ended up locking ourselves in a friend's loft in Brooklyn the day between the end of tour and beginning of recording and ironed out some kinks, so everything was fine, in the end.
Anything you shocked yourselves with when listening back?
I actually listened to the unmastered songs a couple days ago and was pleased to realize they still rip. The mastered version is even better, obviously. Alan Douches ain't no slouch. We were really excited to record with Kurt Ballou, as it's a long trek for a Seattle band to get to Massachusetts just to make a record, but it was worth it. Everything sounds massive; Neil sounds completely insane. I'm still impressed with how long that guy can scream sometimes. I am a bit shocked the record is going to come out nearly a year after we recorded it, but one thing lead to another and that's how it goes. Luckily, we're not sick of the songs yet.
How did you manage to attain such a powerful, almost live feel to the recording? You can completely hear the bile on each tune.
That could be a product of us playing pretty much to our limits on that recording. The wheels are about to fall off at a couple points and I can definitely hear when we're pushing really hard. Also, even though nine straight days of recording seemed like plenty before we got there, we ended up rushing to finish some parts, so some looseness was left in there. I'm happy with how it turned out: tight without being too slick. (Southern Lord)