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.



Hate Eternal – Infernus


Every three years or so, I get to experience a strong feeling of déjà vu. I find myself re-living the past through a sequence of emotions not unlike the Kübler-Ross model for the five stages of grief. It coincides with the release of each new Hate Eternal album, but instead of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, my sequence usually only consists of three stages.

ANTICIPATION – I just know there’s something special inside singer/guitarist Erik Rutan which will eventually cause my ears to explode with dripping, orgasmic joy. Could this be it?

DISAPPOINTMENT – After ten minutes, I realise it’s following the exact same pattern as all the others. Great musicianship but not one truly memorable song.

RESOLUTION – deciding once and for all that this will be the last Hate Eternal album I listen to.

Yes, of course I know that’s rubbish. It wouldn’t be a cycle if I didn’t repeat it, and Infernus (Season of Mist) definitely makes me think I’m doing it all over again for a good reason with its frenetic opening track ‘Locust Swarm’. All the usual trademarks are in evidence straight away. Pummeling blastbeats, angular, atonal riffing and Rutan’s roaring vocals are all present and perfectly correct. Second track, ‘The Stygian Deep’ begins like a less subtle version of The Satanist (Metal Blade) by Behemoth but quickly becomes its very own snarling beast. ‘Pathogenic Apathy’ comes along to keep things moving and contains a couple of very tasty riffs. ‘La Tempestad’ follows, but no matter how fast and frantic it might be, it doesn’t really do a lot and things stall a little. However, the quite magnificent title track arrives next, and that beautiful noise you can hear is the sound of Behemoth and Morbid Angel having a baby.

Unfortunately, things start to unravel pretty much as anticipated after that. None of the remaining songs are that memorable or pack any real punch and we soon find ourselves back in all too familiar Hate Eternal territory. Sure, there’s some pure Morbid Angel loveliness during ‘Order of the Arcane Scripture’, ‘Chaos Theory’ is actually a very enjoyable instrumental, and closer, ‘O’ Majestic Being, Hear My Call’ isn’t a bad song by any stretch, but there just aren’t enough highlights to salvage an otherwise forgettable second half.