Elijah Nelson Bassist of Black Breath Dies

Black Breath, photo credit- Invisible Hour

Elijah Nelson, the bassist for the Seattle blackened death metal band Black Breath, passed away over the weekend. No cause of death has been revealed yet. The band last performed on New Year’s Eve, 2016. Several bands and artists started posting tributes to Nelson over the weekend when the news hit social media. Black Breath’s last album, Slaves Beyond Death, was released in September 2015 via Southern Lord Recordings.We send our condolences out to Elijah’s bandmates, family, friends, and fans at this difficult time.

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Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death


Placing Metal bands into neat, convenient little pigeon-holes used to be easy. However, with so many sub-divisions, sub-sub-categories and “core” bands out there these days, it’s become a virtually impossible, not to mention pointless and tedious, task.

Do I really want to know that band A is Hardcore Ambient Techno-Speed Viking Doomcore, or that band B are Progressive Christian Grindcore Electro-Folk? No, not really. All I want to know is which broader category they fall under. Because it’s easy and I’m lazy that way.

So, while Washington’s Black Breathare hardly the most eclectic band in the box, they do actually have a sound which makes that relatively simple task appear quite difficult. Although the immediate reaction would be to just lump them onto the Death Metal pile, one quick listen to Slaves Beyond Death (Southern Lord) shows they just have as much in common with Thrash, Doom, Crust, Hardcore, and even Black Metal.

Comparisons are usually an equally effective method of describing a band (“Band A sound like band B with bits of band C and D”), but again, this is made difficult by the volume of acts from whom Black Breath draw their influences. A quick namechecking of three or four bands quickly turns into a full blown list. There are nods and winks to other bands all over Slaves Beyond Death but never once at the expense of their core sound. Nothing sounds crowbarred in or there just for the sake of it. If you hear something familiar, it’s in there only because it fits.

Produced by Kurt Ballou (Converge) at his GodCity studio in Salem, Massachusetts, the album crawls, kicks, stamps, and screams abuse into your face like an enraged footballer. The production is as dirty and fuzzy as the guitar tone, yet also sounds crisp and clear, most notably on two of the albums (many) highlights ‘Seed of Cain’, and instrumental closer ‘Chains of the Afterlife’. ‘Reaping Flesh’ and ‘A Place of Insane Cruelty’ pulverize you in a variety of different ways, and considering the death rattle vocals of singer Neil McAdams, the lyrics are surprisingly easy to understand. Slaves Beyond Death is a slow to mid-paced affair for the most part, but never dull with the slower parts merely serving to accentuate the chaotic flurries of speed and aggression when they do arrive.



Creating An Odyssey: Eric Wallace of Black Breath

Black Breath, photo credit- Invisible Hour

Black Breath, photo credit- Invisible Hour

On their recent tour with Goatwhore,Black Breath (Southern Lord) guitarist, Eric Wallace had a quick chat with Ghost Cult prior to the Boston, MA show at Brighton Music Hall. With their latest release, Slaves Beyond Death (due out September 25), being announced, Eric expressed what could be expected from the upcoming record.

“Expectations… I don’t think I like that word. I like to approach other people’s stuff as open minded as I can and then be surprised. I realize it sounds like I’m setting the bar low but I mean there’s elements of stuff we’ve done in the past for sure and then there’s also kind of new takes on all of it. To me it’s more expansive in a way. Not like it’s going to be a prog record or anything! Sure the songs are all longer and stuff we haven’t done in the past that we’re trying out on this record and I think turned out pretty rad. I’m excited for it to come out because I think it’s cool and I want to start playing the songs more, live. I hesitate to say too much because I want to hear what others think of it. I mean what are you supposed to say? “It’s the heaviest record we’ve ever done! It’s gunna fucking blow your mind!” I mean it either is or it isn’t. It’s up to the listeners and how they receive it. We made a record that were excited about and I think I can leave it at that.”


Black Breath Slaves Beyond death abum cover

Eric also spoke highly of the continued success of recording with Kurt Ballou at Godcity Studios in Salem, MA:

“At this point we’ve spent the better part of 2 months there now over 3 albums. Pretty damn easy to work with him especially where we’ve toured with his band and recorded with him in that space with generally the same setup before. Not much arguing there as we just do it and if it doesn’t sound good how can we make it better. It goes pretty fast which is why we were pretty excited to go back for this record with the amount of work we’ve done, just building on that makes more sense than starting fresh somewhere else. It’s killer. I think it works out great. We did get it mastered with our buddy Brad (Boatwright) in Portland at Audio Siege. He’s been doing a ton of mastering for a lot of different bands, first time we went to him and that sounds awesome as well. It all turned out nice.”

Eric Wallace of Black Breath, photo by Evil Robb Photography

Eric Wallace of Black Breath, photo by Evil Robb Photography

Continuing on the topic of writing, and how it has evolved over Black Breath’s career: “With our EP we just threw what songs we had up there since we didn’t have a contract or anything. Basically let’s get this out there and see if it sticks. So we did that and got hooked up with Southern Lord. With Heavy Breathing we got together with Kurt since no one in the band had done that before and Greg from Southern Lord was really into the idea. Whatever songs we had after that EP through the touring up until the recording process, that turned into the album. The album itself was written well before we even got there really. Nothing specific up to this point really. With Sentenced to Life, I think we as a group consciously decided that we would sort of stream line everything a lot more as in trim the fat, shorten things up, get to the fucking point and then get out. And that was basically what we did with Sentenced. Make it to the point, shorten the songs, and get rid of the unnecessary stuff really. With this new album, since we already did the shortened approach to writing, we pretty much did the opposite approach on this one to expand and make way longer songs. Same style of riffs and song writing we had going, but how do we make this more of an odyssey? There’s a lot of tracks on the new album that has fast stuff and slow stuff but there’s a mix of both in almost every song so I don’t know what you would call that approach necessarily, but plenty of bands have done it.”