29 December 2010

Black Breath, Blitzen Trapper

We're back from the holiday break, and ready to review some records...

Black Breath
Heavy Breathing
Released March 12, 2010 (Southern Lord)

Short Notes: Seattle metalers follow up acclaimed EP with solid Swedish metal throwback

Click Here To Watch The Video

I generally believe there are two main avenues for making a great album: be innovative, or be the best at what you do. Take, for instance, the last metal album on this list, the one from Agalloch. That's the first kind of greatness, something that non-fans can appreciate, even if they don't necessarily love it or feel a connection to it. Then you have this Black Breath album, which isn't anything new: the comparisons to early 90's Swedish metal (Entombed seems to come up a lot in reviews) are apt and there's more than a bit of late 80's thrash as well. It kicks some ass, even if it's a straightforward ass kicking, the kind you're (perhaps) embarrassed about. Heavy Breathing won't win any new converts to the style, but should satisfy anyone already initiated -- nearly the exact definition of a 'B' album.

This is the first album we’ve had in this little project that I would have never listened to otherwise. So I’m branching out. I’m also totally unqualified to provide a competent review, since I’ve got no context in which to put the album. Musically, it’s got some thrash (the drummer really likes his speed metal fills), with enough tempo shifts in-song (“Black Sin”) or slower tunes (“Unholy Virgin”) to keep it a little interesting. Honestly, my biggest surprise was to discover that this was an American band. The idea of a fast, anti-religious (and the images are replete, I tell you, and sometimes gratuitous), scream-vocaled metal band is, in my mind, clearly linked up with Northern Europe. So, if you’re not a metal fan, this isn’t the place to start. Otherwise, I defer to my man Lin. All I can say is that a thrash fan is probably going to find more to like here than an indie pop fan would have found in that mediocre Belle and Sebastian record. That’ll get you a B- in my gradebook.

Blitzen Trapper
Destroyer of the Void
Released June 8, 2010 (Sub Pop)

Short Notes: Attack of the mellow, from the band that brought you the “Black River Killer”

I really dug the last Blitzen Trapper record, and I went into this one with high hopes. It’s not a bad record, and I can see putting it on when I’m wanting something that sounds like a cross between the Grateful Dead and Stray Gators-era Neil Young (with a little Pure Prairie League in there for good measure), and I have neither on hand. This is a record that succeeds on its own (circumscribed) terms, and that will be enjoyable to folks that like this sort of earthy but electric mix of mostly slow and mid-tempo songs. But it’s not going to be at the top of my list, either.

I like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of modern musical history. The frustrating part of this is that I find myself half-listening to new music fighting the urge to switch over to their influences and getting the goods from the source. Destroyer of the Void is one of these albums, even if its influences are better amalgamated than most other mediocre releases. The title track is the most interesting piece here, the reviews calling it "prog," though it's more akin to Beatles-style prog than, say, King Crimson. So, in a way, the 'C' I'm giving this is misleading: it's not a bad album, I'm just not sure why you'd go with it over something else.

1 comment:

Lin said...

I found out about the Black Breath album from here: http://www.invisibleoranges.com/2010/10/black-breath-proves-patton-oswalt-right/

It's the video they were talking about...