Black Breath’s full-length debut, Heavy Breathing, was one of those records that seemed to come out of nowhere, stamp its way into our consciousness through sheer force of awesome, and rightly claim its place as Thrash Hits’ fourth favourite album of 2010. Since then, we’ve seen Black Breath tear up dirty Soho basements on multiple occasions, and even triumph in the bright Summer sunshine of Sonisphere, and not once has our enthusiasm for the Seattle-based band’s worship of Swedish-sounding death-metal faltered.
When the news broke that the band’s second full-length album, Sentenced To Life, was just a few weeks away from release, we got on the blower and convinced the band’s drummer, Jamie Byrum (that’s him lurking in the middle at the back in the photo above), to talk us through their forthcoming new release.
Let’s start with the obvious question – why call it Sentenced To Life?
The song Sentenced to Life is probably the catchiest song on the new record so we thought calling it that would give everything a real classic and anthemic feel (Overkill, Blood Fire Death, Hell Bent for Leather [aka Killing Machine, for everyone outside the USA], etc…). Only time will tell if it worked. Also, that song (as well as a lot of others on this record) is about paranoia, death, misery, and life just being pointless in general. Seeing how this world is going to hell in handbasket, it all seemed fitting.
What have been your main inspirations when writing the new record?
I would have to say old school Death Metal, NWOBHM, English hardcore and crust, Japanese, Swedish, US hardcore, fucking Slayer, Dio-era Sabbath, Speed metal…
Listen to a new song by Black Breath as played live last Summer:
We heard a couple of your new songs when you toured the UK last summer – one magazine described them as “sounding cancerously lethal” – how would you describe the new material?
Well, that sure is an awesome description! Not too off the mark. The material is much faster than anything we’ve done. It’s a much angrier sounding record, but I think its still as catchy as anything we’ve done – just more pissed. There is also some ideas that we’ve never tried before. That was really cool to see come to life.
At the time of writing there’s no confirmed artwork for Sentenced To Life that’s been released. Can you give us a hint at what it’s going to be?
All I can say is that its not a found image like the previous two. Its something we made from scratch ourselves. Looks pretty old school and classic. You’ll just have to wait and see. We have a cool new logo too.
What prompted you to use Kurt Ballou as producer again? What was it about his production style that brought you back? Did you ever consider anyone else?
He’s the best in the world right now for heavy sounding bands. There’s no reason not to go outside of the fact we have to drive like over 3000 miles to get there, but oh well. I think this one came out way better than Heavy Breathing, and I’m pretty stoked for people to hear it. Kurt’s the man.
Watch Black Breath being interviewed at Scion Rock Fest 2011:
Why do you think “the Entombed sound” has bounced back over the last few years?
I’m not sure. I dont think there are that many bands that actually sound like Entombed outside of the production and guitar sound. I dont think we sound like ’em but they, like many bands influenced us big time. They had punk and metal influences and so do we. That band is fucking great
The stereotypical perception of metal bands from the Pacific Northwest of the USA right now is gloomy Wolves In The Throne Room-style ambient black metal. How accurate/full of bullshit is that perception?
That’s sort of accurate. That stuff still exists here but i think that whole kind of art metal and doom thing was a little bit bigger maybe three to four years ago. I never really cared for much of it, although Wolves are a good band. There are alot of great NW bands. Christian Mistress, Anhedonist, Deathraid, Murderess, Hellshock, Tragedy, Arctic Flowers, Lesbian, Bone Sickness, From Ashes Rise, Toxic Holocaust, Soundgarden….I think the scene here is much more of a crusty-metal-punk kinda thing, which is why I think it’s great.
Obviously your spot at Roadburn 2012 has already been announced, but is there any further news on the next European tour?
Yeah, we will be be in Europe all of April touring with some crushing Swedish bands, so be on the look out.
Black Breath’s second full-length album, Sentenced To Life, has been provisionally marked for release sometime in March on Southern Lord. And of course shortly after that, the band are going to tour Europe and UK again throughout April. OH HELLS YES.