By Adrien Begrand
Black Breath seems like an odd fit for Southern Lord Records. After all, they’re not even close to the doom, drone, black metal, and stoner rock that the trendy label has specialized in this past decade. However, hearing the Seattle band’s re-released debut EP, this just might turn out to be Southern Lord’s best signing in a very long time. In direct contrast to the vinyl geek-pandering Boris, the polarizing Sunn O))), the outwardly environmentalist Wolves in the Throne Room, and even the sludge of Lair of the Minotaur, Black Breath is the kind of metal that’s devoid of any pretension whatsoever, just five scruffy guys hunkering down and coming up with some of the most bracing, rewarding circa-1985 retro metal you’ll hear these days.
Heavy enough to immediately draw comparisons to early Celtic Frost, capable of evoking the contagious speed of Slayer’s Show No Mercy and the death ‘n’ roll of Entombed, not to mention boasting just enough of a Discharge influence to keep things loose and slightly sloppy, Razor to Oblivion is 14 minutes of pure swagger that has us wishing it was at least twice as long. Well, that’s what “repeat” settings are for, and we’ll gladly crank these four songs over and over: the title track is a rampaging exercise in d-beat ferocity, “Fatal Error” switches from pure Motörhead fun to a towering Bathory-esque break, the ferocious “Beneath the Crust” wastes no time in out-thrashing the popular Skeletonwitch, while “Murder” is the kind of mid-tempo stomper that used to get fists pumping 25 years ago and is certain to incite mosh pit mayhem today. All the while, vocalist N.T. Adams howls away in a voice that effectively shifts from hardcore barks and Quorthon-esque sneers, turning out to be as fitting a metal/punk hybrid as the rest of the band. This EP an extraordinary first effort, and considering that the band’s debut full-length (due out early 2010) is being produced by the great Kurt Ballou, it immediately establishes Black Breath one of the bands to watch in the coming year. That new record can’t come soon enough.