“We did pass up a truck in Utah carrying a load of uranium hexafluoride, which is physical radioactive material. Pretty sure when we passed him he was playing on his phone while driving. So that was inspiring. Other than that, everything else has been normal,” said vocalist Neil McAdams, sharing an interesting story about his band Black Breath’s recent tour supporting Goatwhore this past summer.
Since this tour, the band has dropped their latest album Slaves Beyond Death and have been touring in support of this. While the band is no stranger to touring, they have found themselves sharing stages with a wide variety of bands and ready to take on any challenge. Their next venture will take them on a support slot with Decapitated across the US.
Drummer Jamie Byrum shared his thoughts on their touring history:
“[We are] all over the map. In Europe we feel we’ve played with more metal bands. Over here we’ve played with more bands that come from a DIY background. We’ll play with anybody,” he said.
“We like to keep things within a community of people that we know,” said McAdams.
“We’re not exclusive to playing with metal or hardcore bands. We’d prefer to play with bands with diverse lineups, especially on tour when you have to listen to it every day,” concluded Byrum.
He shared some of their early shows where they were paired up with some unlikely bands.
“I think early on shit was weirder. We’d play at hardcore festivals and we’d play with straight up hardcore bills with youth crew bands or positive clean-cut hardcore bands, and we’re trouble dirtbags getting drunk in the parking lot. We definitely weirded out people at those kinds of shows, but we don’t really do those kinds of shows any more. All of those kids who were creeped out by it are alcoholics now.”
Coming out of the Seattle area, the members cut their teeth musically surrounding themselves around a wide array of bands of all genres. They described their upbringing and how an open minded scene helped bring together their peers to create a unique group of people.
“We grew up in communities where there’s a real diverse music scene. When the whole huge grunge movement died in the mid 90s, we were in high school and there were all of these bands. There were all of these metal bands playing. We grew up with all of these old school thrash metal dudes and they would be playing. We would be hanging out with them. We would go to these hippie jam concerts. Indie got huge so you would see a lot of that shit,” explained McAdams.
“Everyone garage and punk and indie band was playing in basements. Everyone was getting drunk. It’s very DIY,” said Byrum.
“It’s a whole shit mix of stuff. To me it’s never been a huge division between hardcore and punk and metal and all of that shit. You’re all pissed off about god and fuck the police and the state and shit…I don’t know why you can’t all get on the same team,” added McAdams.
The band is signed to Southern Lord, a label better known for its eclectic roster but more for its extensive doom and stoner rock acts. While they are one of the few death metal oriented acts on their roster, Byrum found that it worked to their advantage to push their name out even more and did not feel like an oddity within a roster like theirs.
“There are a lot of bands on there that doesn’t sound like anything [like what’s usually on Southern Lord]. I don’t think it’s that weird. I just like the idea of being on a label run by somebody with a similar background as a friend. We are friends with bands he chooses to sign so that helps,” Byrum said.
In recent times, the Northwest area has become a hotbed for musical acts once again and a string of new bands have been making noise throughout the scene. While many of those bands fall upon the rock side of the heavy music genre, bands like Black Breath have helped to revitalize a scene that has quietly produced some good bands over the years.
Seattle is an area better known for the grunge scene in the late 80s into the early 90s, producing iconic names such as Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, along with heavier names such as Queensryche and Sanctuary. So how much has changed since that era?
”It’s not very big. There’s a lot of people that are into metal but there aren’t that many good bands. I don’t know if there’s ever been that many good metal bands from Seattle, compared to Los Angeles or San Francisco. There’s Metal Church and The Accused and the classic bands. I guess there are a lot of metal bands,” said drummer Jamie Byrum, about their current Seattle metal scene.
“There’s a good core community of people there who are dedicated to doing it but it’s still a small thing,” said vocalist Neil McAdams.
“There are good metal bands but there’s not a shitload of them. There’s never been a shitload of them,” added Byrum.
Being a band that incorporated healthy parts of metal, hardcore and punk, Black Breath came up playing a wide variety of shows locally, including the Rain Fest, and eventually expanded into touring across the country. Their time spent on the road helped them spread their name and their music to newer fans along the way.
Since their start in 2005, Black Breath have crafted their sound around a variety of extreme sounds such as thrash, black and death metal with punk and hardcore influences rubbing off on them as well.
“When we started out, we were playing hardcore so that’s where I came from. As we got better on our instruments, we started playing more metal,” explained Byrum.
One of the aspects of their sound that often comes up is the comparisons to the early 1990s Swedish death thrash sounds that Black Breath employed into their music through their first couple of albums (2010’s Heavy Breathing and 2012’s Sentenced to Life). While he admits to liking some of those bands over the years, he also says there was more to that than just modeling themselves around that specific sound.
“We’d think anybody who’d like those bands – I mean we like those bands so I don’t think it’s so weird for someone to compare it to it, or it’s not a bad thing. I don’t necessarily think we sound like those bands particularly, but there are some similarities and we’re definitely influenced by them by those bands.”
Another obvious element in Black Breath’s sound is the downtuned guitars that play a big role in shaping the way they create their music. They said that their interests in punk/metal crossover sound played a key role in bringing that into their music, and they continue to build upon that onto their newer songs.
“At first it was more hardcore hard rock. We were heavily influenced by Poison Idea and bands like that. But then, I guess from the get go we were always like how can we be more intense for every writing session, so naturally it rose to that. That’s when we became a crossover band,” said Byrum.
“Just keep pushing the envelope and trying new things. I don’t think it’s that interesting to keep putting out the same record over and over again,” added McAdams.
Leading into the writing and recording of Slaves Beyond Death, they talked about their sound has grown since the first two albums and bringing in new ideas has helped mold their sound.
“The vocals are different. They’re not hardcore vocals. That’s a big one,” said Byrum.
“It’s just a different kind of record so we needed a different kind of approach,” said McAdams.
“There’s way more guitar. The guitar playing is way more rooted in old school heavy metal and hard rock than in death metal, whereas early on it was just fast power chords [versus] now it’s most just riffs all the time. That’s a noticeable difference,” added McAdams.
Lastly while the band name was taken from a Repulsion song and also a reference from JRR Tolkien’s works, they shared a story from their earlier years where they attempted to work in satire into their music. While this was a one time show in the beginning of the band’s history, McAdams clarified that Tolkien’s stories has no influence within Black Breath’s music or lyrics.
“This was a long time ago when we were still doing our hardcore demo stuff that we had put out. We did a show at the bar where I worked at. It’s a real tiny place and I retooled the titles for the songs. I didn’t change the lyrics but when I was introducing the songs I changed them as much as I possibly could to be some sort of Lords of the Rings reference. But that was one time eight years ago. So I would say no. As much as I appreciate Tolkien that’s not a direction I’d want to go.”
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