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Black Breath - Sentenced to Life - 95%

Goldensundown, December 7th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Southern Lord Recordings

Not content with sticking to shoving crust punk in with Entombed styled HM2 guitar worship, as seemed to be the trend with a lot of the bands in the punkier end of the death metal revival spectrum; Black Breath have brewed a sweltering pot of the above mentioned crust, ‘Entombed-core’ with hefty elements of hardcore and thrash metal. Having retained this niche sound on their 2008 EP, their debut full length (Heavy Breathing 2010) and this sophomore effort, they’ve essentially hammered out their craft to as close as perfection as humanly possible.

The HM2 ridden guitars have the well known chainsaw tone and are extremely visceral as they play out the well crafted death metal riffs, along with some thrashier sections and tremolo picking; Endless Corpse a prime example of this latter point. The drums evoke crust, d-beat, thrash and death metal drumming styles effectively and the vocalist (Neil) belts out harsh hardcore styled vocals that suit the crust and death elements of Black Breath to a T. As for the song writing, its dynamic; while having mid to fast paced, razor sharp songs, they blend slower passages which grip you and hammer you down before slamming back into full gear, again look to Endless Corpse (probably the most dynamic song on the album) for how they achieve this.

The mid-paced songs (Home of the Grave, The Flame, and Obey) all are extremely crushing to make up for their sheer lack of intensity that the faster paced songs contain. Not to mention that the songs are catchy, I’ve found myself singing (well as close to singing as one gets for this style) lyrics from Home of the Grave and the like, which speaks volumes of the song-crafting ability that this bunch have. The production is off the wall, there’s no issues in determining the crunching bass from the guitars, nor when everything kicks into gear do the drums override the vocalist, etc and it retains a crusty quality that helps keep the album covered in the right aesthetic; no one wants to hear pristine clean production on a crust/death metal album, hell, the word crust alone should imply that.

The only flaw here is less an issue with the band’s ability to perform, write or anything but more so that combining death metal and crust punk is nothing new or original and has been done many, many times in this revival movement; the redeeming qualities being the extra genre additions and the song-crafting and intensity. Pick up if you dig your death metal sounding like it was made by the corpses of crust punks who were raised by members of Entombed and crossover bands.

Originally written for in 2014.

Strong Stuff - 88%

volvandese, October 11th, 2012

I've noticed some disagreement over how exactly this band should be labeled. Crust punk, thrash, and death metal seem to be the prime contenders, so to a certain extent the band sits on an intersection of those three. I'm personally most inclined to say death metal, but that's just me. Fortunately, this difficult-to-classify sound is not so much the product of mixing several separate elements as it is the result of a band whose sound hearkens back to the early days of groups like Possessed when death metal had not yet fully clawed its way free from its thrash roots.The crunching guitar frequently employs the oh-so-famous Swedish buzzsaw tone of Entombed et al. This is not constant, though it crops up pretty often. The drumming is rock solid and paces the music well, not really going into extended double-bass pounding but instead maintaining a more varied approach.

In my opinion the great strength of this group is their vocalist. His hoarsely bellowed assault has real intensity, and remains understandable at least part of the time. Like the rest of the band, the vocals are an echo of the early death metal groups who really shouted and attacked with their voices rather than relying on deep cookie monster growls to make them sound tough and scary in the absence of genuine energy.

You probably think, from the way I've described this album, that lack of originality is its big weakness. Well you'd be right to some degree, but mostly that's because apart from its somewhat "retro" sound, the album doesn't really have any noticeable flaws. And while it does sound very much like it should have been released a couple decades ago, it doesn't come across as a clone or a copy. The group has its own personality, the songs are distinct, and they mix in just enough proto-death to keep their album from sounding like the bulk of the new old-school imitators. Unlike many other bands that employ the buzzsaw, I don't feel like I might as well be listening to Dismember. That's a refreshing statement to be able to make.

Very strong thrash/crust/death metal (mostly death metal) album from an up and coming band. Rooted in the classics but not bound by them. I really enjoyed this and I hope to hear more from them in the future.

(Originally published on

SENTENCED! Sentenced to life! - 92%

Andromeda_Unchained, June 11th, 2012

This isn't normally the type of release I'd expect from Southern Lord, and all I can say is fuck. Yes. This is just about as mean as you get, absolutely furious Swedish-styled death metal dripping with influence as diverse as first wave black metal all the way over to hardcore and cross-over thrash. Whilst this could put off genre purists, I can assure you that if you're looking for some hard and heavy aggressive, thrashing death metal Black Breath deliver the goods like a knuckle-duster wielding Mike Tyson punch to the face.

Reminding me of country mates Repugnant who I fucking love, as well as Dismember, Entombed, and of course copious amounts of all our first wave favorites à la Celtic Frost, and so on so forth, Black Breath really do boast an almost overtly aggressive sound. The vocals help this, and whilst they could be a prospective sore point, the vitriolic almost hoarse shouting which sounds a cross between the more throaty growls of old school Swedish death metal singers such as Matti Kärki, and the shouting style common of some hardcore acts is absolutely perfect for the music offered upon Sentenced to Life.

The production is ideal here, with the guitars utilizing that Swedish buzz-saw guitar sound which you can't help but love, and the drums sound natural, really smashing through your speakers. Couple this with a bass sound measuring on the Richter scale; a recipe for pure destruction is formed. Black Breath also treat us to a nice variety of sounds across the album's admittedly short run time. We have tracks such as the pugilistic madness of "Mother Abyss" to the doom of "Endless Corpse", as well as the straight up Swedish death metal styling of the title track.

Black Breath really deliver the goods upon Sentenced to Life and fans of the more violent strains of thrash, and obviously old school Swedish death metal need this. Hell, this boasts suitable crossover appeal to fans of crust too, definitely some crusty vibes going on here. This is the kind of album you headbang to from start to finish, and I shudder to think how much destruction these psychopaths could create live. Without a doubt one of my absolute favorites this year, Black Breath seriously fucking slay, and I really wasn't expecting it. If you like your metal hard, heavy, raw, fast, vicious, and dripping with fucking acid then get this now. Now if you excuse me, I'm off to scrape my face from the floor.

Originally written for

Black Breath - Sentenced To Life - 90%

tcgjarhead, May 19th, 2012

In 2010 Black Breath released Heavy Breathing, and album that to this day is still kicking my ass. I heard a track on a best of 2010 podcast by the Requiem Metal Podcast fellas and sought out this band. Once I got my hands on that album it quickly became my favorite release of the year. Well the guys (who happen to be from my neck of the woods) are back with their new release, Sentenced To Life.

What do we get with Sentenced To Life? BB follows the the same template laid down by Heavy Breathing, with a tweak or two that come off as positives. The band still plays a genre bending form of death metal and hardcore punk. Make no mistake, this is NOT deathcore as you know it. This is old school swedish death with a punky/hardcore edge to it and a bit of thrash for good measure.

The guitars have that warm fuzzy chainsaw guitar tone so well known as a staple of the Stockholm bands. This continues to be one of the best imitations of the Sunlight Studios guitar tone I have heard. The production works in synergy to create a very heavy sound that compliments the death metal style the band plays in. Its crunchy, fuzzy, and just plain nasty sounding.

One of the tweaks I mentioned before was an improvement in the drumming. Check out Of Flesh for some sweet blast beats, which I don't believe were very present in the last album. Even still a further improvement would be to add more blast beats. But definitely keep it in moderation, too many bands these days abuse the hell out of blasts. I have no complaints about the drumming overall, the snare has a nice bite to it and the double bass thumps along perfectly. And as for vocals? Neil McAdams kills it again with his hardcore screams. These aren't your wussy hardcore vocals you would expect these days, these are throat shredding screams.

What I love most is the length of the songs. BB seems to have found the perfect general length for songs. Over half of the songs on the album don't make it past the 3 minute mark. These are short bursts of aggression that are headbangable to the max. I mean they are so catchy its almost sickening. Another note would be the placement of a couple songs. Endless Corpse is a much slower song than most on the album and for much of the track it stays in the realm of doom. Following that as almost a brutal contrast is the blistering Mother Abyss that just rockets away with its incredible riffs.

I'm so pleased with Sentenced To Life and Black Breath should give themselves a pat on the back for another job well done. Two incredible albums in a row, no sophomore slump for them. STL has aggression, the catchy factor, the heavy production, and is actually fun to listen to. If this band didn't catch your attention with Heavy Breathing then Sentenced To Life should be front and center for any fans of old school death metal. They have found their niche and continue to perfect their sound.

Originally reviewed @

Sentenced to Life - Black Breath - 95%

SinsofInsanity, March 28th, 2012

Now most bands can pretty easily fit into a category. Slayer is thrash, Mayhem is black metal, Vader is death metal, etc. Some bands are a little more difficult, like Poland’s Behemoth, which are one of the few bands to be described as blackened death metal. Well this band is fucking impossible to categorize. There is so much going on here. The vocals are nothing but pure crust punk. The music has tinges of punk but is mostly a wild mix of old school death metal, thrash metal, crossover thrash, and doom metal. The best description I can really come up with is crossover-thrash-death-doom-crust, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Submissions of possible genres are greatly appreciated.

This album basically picks up where its predecessor left off. Same people, same studio, same producer (Kurt Ballou of the metalcore band Converge does another amazing job). This album however is shorter than it’s predecessor, clocking in at just over half an hour. The longest song here is actually just over five minutes. This means that most songs are short bursts of pure anger, angst, and all the evil that this band can pack in.

The opening track “Feast Of The Damned” does a quick fade in and then gets right into the music. The vocals are really punky here. Something that your bound to notice is the double bass drumming, it appears on just about every song. I’m always torn about double bass since sometimes it just sounds like its throwing off the tempo but the drumming here is immaculate. It seamlessly shifts from double bass to drum roll to pounding to machine gun, all in a fifteen second span.

This album seriously gets going on the title track. The song has a really great riff and a chorus that was made for singing along to. The buzzawing guitars here are really great but at no point do they drown out anything else. They are always crisp and clear.

This is a really excellent album. I’m glad to see that Black Breath hasn’t fallen into the sophomore slump. This band seems to be quickly rising in the metal community, they recently played Austin’s SXSW and were nominated for Metal Hammer’s Golden God award for best underground band. This is one of the best releases of this still new year.