Black Breath – Sentenced to Life (Southern Lord Records)

Sunday, 24th March 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

Somewhere in Sweden, L.G. Petrov is shouting “Fuck!” Not because he has to rehearse “Out of Hand” with Entombed (which you should look up onYoutube if you are looking for the most fun and raucous Swedish death metal song of all-time), but because at long last, someone has come close to matching Clandestine and Wolverine Blues. Obviously, that band is Black Breath, who on their sophomore Sentenced to Life album sound about as Swedish as anyone…and they’re from Seattle. Fiddlesticks!

Going at it with a punk-like intensity, Black Breath take d-beat Swedish death metal back to the early 90’s and run it through the grinder. The pre-requisite buzz-saw guitar tone is totally prevalent and is thrust way up in the mix, and rightfully so – that’s exactly what the aforementioned Entombed and their hombres Dismember, Grave, and Unleashed used to do. But Sentenced to Life is not about the band’s adherence to the core Stockholm death metal elements – it’s about the furious rage the album stays engaged in over the course of 10 songs.

Because the album moves at an accelerated pace, the onus is often on breaking the speed up with bits of variation, like on the intro for the circle pit-ready “Feast of the Damned,” and “The Flame,” or the death ‘n’ roll pillage and plunder of “Forced Into Possession,” a song that once locked into its steamrolling verse, is next to impossible to stop, and is the close cousin to Entombed’s legendary “Wolverine Blues” (the song). In any event, speed totally kills here, with the title track, ultra-hot “Endless Corpse,” and “Doomed” leading the surge.

There is simply no way Sentenced to Life will get lost in the retro death metal shuffle. This thing is too pissed-off and ugly to make friends with bands who also want to re-invent the Stockholm sound, thus making it one of the year’s early must-haves. If anything else, it sounds infinitely more hungry than Entombed or Grave have sounded in eons…stranger eons, that is.

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