As mentioned previously, I’m still a relative newcomer to the wonderful world of heavy metal; I’m fairly confident its origins can be traced back to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (although, according to some seasoned headbangers I recently ended up arguing with, most definitely not the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”), and I know what NWOBHM and USBM stand for, but when it comes to the myriad sub-genres and what is or isn’t “cool” or “authentic” I’m certainly no expert. In fact – and don’t tell anyone this – you could put me in a room with a bunch of corpse-painted, leather-clad longhairs for an hour and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you whether they were from Sweden or Norway! Still, I know what I like, and Black Breath’s killer 2010 debut Heavy Breathing – one of the first contemporary metal albums to really click with me – has been a regular fixture on the Foam Hands stereo for the past couple of years. Refining their combination of old-school thrash and hardcore brutality, the Seattle five-piece’s second long-player Sentenced To Life – produced once again at God City Studios by Converge’s Kurt Ballou – sees the band dropping the bluesy rock & roll throb of old in favour of a wider variety of tempos and textures; from the overdriven chug of raging opener “Feast Of The Damned” to the galloping “Home Of The Grave”, multi-part doom symphony “Endless Corpse” and the clean guitar solo that closes the triumphant “Obey”, the album is full of surprisingly cerebral arrangements and classic rock flourishes that in no way sacrifice the typical Black Breath ferocity. It’s a nasty, agressive hell-ride – “Mother Abyss” opens with an explosion that leaves the listener feeling like they woke up in the middle of a plane crash – but it’s a shit-load of fun and packed to bursting point with moments that display real growth; a considerable improvement on an already awesome debut. Now, is this the part where I throw my devil horns in the air…?
Sentenced To Life is out March 26 on Southern Lord