Slaves Beyond Death
25th September 2015 - Southern Lord
01. Pleasure, Pain, Disease
02. Slaves Beyond Death
03. Reaping Flesh
04. Seed Of Cain
05. Arc Of Violence
06. A Place Of Insane Cruelty
07. Burning Hate
08. Chains Of The Afterlife
Of all the existential horrors imaginable, an eternal afterlife of servitude has got to rank as one of the most depressing. Such is the prospect laid out by grim Washingtonians Black Breath in Slaves Beyond Death, their crushing third full-length album.
D-beat hardcore is a genre attempted by many, but mastered by few. The band’s previous efforts have shown them to be more than capable, matching razor-sharp riffs with the kind of ferocity that strikes fear into the hearts of men, women, children, kittens and pretty much anything with a pulse.
Slaves Beyond Death very much continues this tradition. As usual, it’s also so very sonically satisfying. A lot of Black Breath’s punch comes from the crispness of their signature sound: every chord is crunchy and thick; every note purposeful. The wandering quasi-solo in “Reaping Flesh” is a great example: ponderous of pace, it squeals as it descends the scale, wallowing around near the bottom but always bitingly clear. It also shows what a fantastic job has been done on the production; horror is coming to you, and you’re damn well gonna know the precise what and when of your damnation.
There’s also a satiating, sometimes literal simplicity to Black Breath: their songs are generally named after their central, often repeated lyric; “Burning Hate” sounds like fire and pure loathing; and Neil McAdams’ very breath is very likely black before he brushes his teeth in the morning – his rasping growls certainly evoke the image, at least. If Black Breath were a monster, they’d be one that attacks you from the front and shows you your own innards, rather than creeping around in the shadows like a namby.
Defying hardcore convention, the eight songs on offer all cap five minutes, and reaching to nearly eight at the album’s apex. Fluid songwriting aids in the full exploration of each idea, and whilst it’s not groundbreaking in any particular sense, it’s assured and self-aware; Black Breath know exactly what they want to do, and wring the maximum effect from each track. Half-time riffs backed by double-time percussion evocative
Closer “Chains Of The Afterlife” sees them really let lose however. Utilising that trademark Black Breath sound, Slaves Beyond Death evolves into some kind of progressive death metal monster. Tonally, it actually feels a little out of synch with the rest of the record, however ties to sections in other songs, particularly “Seed Of Cain“, become apparent with more detailed listening, so it’s no tacked-on afterthought.
Slaves Beyond Death carries the incredible Black Breath legacy on to new heights, eking deathly new energy out of the blackened hardcore genre. Like its title implies, it commands from beyond the grave, snarling and barking with terrifying vigour. Damn your wallets or damn you souls; the choice is yours.