I have been a fan of Seattle's Black Breath from the moment I heard the breakdown riff on the ripper "Black Sin (Spit On The Cross)". There are many bands that utilize the retired Boss HM2 distortion pedal, and there are many clones of said pedal due to its explosion in metal and hardcore. After multiple listens of 2010's Heavy Breathing, I discovered the debut EP Razor To Oblivion, which was 4 blistering tracks that could have only been better had Kurt Ballou had his hand on the mixing board. While that never came to be, Ballou has recorded the rest of the band's records, including 2012's Sentenced To Life. I won't spend more time praising the mixing skill of Ballou, I've done that enough on previous reviews. I have waited nearly 3 years for a new record, but don't take this fanboy's review as a biased account,Slaves Beyond Death is fucking heavy.

Opener "Pleasure, Pain, Disease" fades in with that signature guitar tone, before breaking into an uptempo assault with double bass and a chugging riff. The intensity continues to build, going nearly 2 minutes before the gruff vocals of frontman Neil McAdams kick in. McAdams has a more black metal tonal quality to his screams on this record, while still sounding like whats present on previous albums. The guitars have a more dominant midrange and cut through the mix to really make the heavier parts stand out. Headbangers will really get going on title track "Slaves Beyond Death", which has a catchy yet dissonant verse riff that dominates both the beginning and the end of the song. Call me crazy, but I have found many riffs throughout Black Breath's catalog that strike me as a subtle nod to early Metallica, most notably the Ride The Lightning era.

This past January, I had the privilege of hearing a couple of these songs live at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, which was a one off show the band did immediately after recording sessions for this very album. (I HIGHLY recommend catching a show here, the intimate atmosphere is fantastic) There is definitely a more epic feel to this album, with the shortest song clocking in around 5 minutes. The overall 50 minute record is nearly 20 minutes longer than its predecessor. The long intros and more prominent lead guitar sections are a welcome change from the 3 minute, upper tempo ragers of the past.

The song most likely to induce the mosh has to be "A Place Of Insane Cruelty", which has a slow crushing intro and verse riff that is still stuck in my head. While arguably being Black Breath's heaviest album yet, it also displays the most progression in the band's sound. This progression is clean guitar intros on TWO songs, but these clean passages are merely interludes to the abrasive assault present on 98% of the record. Hardcore kids and older metal heads that still possess the denim vests with Entombed patches on them can definitely get into this. Hell, I wish I could grow long hair so I could bang my fucking head properly while punching my steering wheel to "Reaping Flesh".

Simply put, Slaves Beyond Death is a crushing 50 minute record that is worth any fan of heavy music's time. Pick it up on September 25 from the folks at Southern Lord Records, preferably on vinyl like I'm going to. Gonna have to grab that Sunn O))) repress too but I digress.