Black Breath: Skull crushing goodness

by Rodney Lotter 

On the surface, the story of Black Breath does not seem all that uncommon for a band with its origins in these parts. Various metal dudes who mostly worked in the service industry got together, and started shredding. Eventually they began playing shows in Bellingham and Seattle, became very good at what they did and then moved away to the big city to give their musical career a good shot.

Typically, it does not work out too well, as far as being rich and famous goes. But, then again, most bands do not really care about that part. Black Breath sure as hell don’t. The touring around the world, making records and playing in front of tens of thousands of people in the process, that is the important part – and that is the part that Black Breath has achieved.

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

In the past few years, Black Breath has played in musical festivals, and have toured with legendary metal acts, signed to the influential Southern Lord record label out of Los Angeles, have even made some famous fans along the way (comedian Brian Posehn comes to mind) and had a concert review show up in none other than the New York Times (which, sure isn’t that “metal,” but it’s still badass that a band like Black Breath would even be mentioned in one of the world’s largest media outlets.)

So far, the band has released two full-length albums under the Southern Lord label, with a third album scheduled for release in early 2015, according to guitarist Eric Wallace. He said the new album does not stray much from their older material, with the only major difference being how extended the song structures are when compared to the more punk-leaning, smash-and-trash-for-a-few-minutes-and-then-on-to-the-next-song mentality.

“We tried a lot of ideas on this record that we wouldn’t have attempted in the past, so it was exciting trying to figure out how to push ourselves and our own creativity while still trying to sound like ourselves,” Wallace said. “It’s not completely different, but it’s a progression of sorts. This time around we went for a more musical-odyssey approach, which we had never really attempted before.  Navigating through the whole process felt more like an experiment to us because we really weren’t sure what it would sound like in the end.”

Wallace described the “progression of sorts” as lead singer Neil McAdams’ vocals being more “maniacal and disgusting than ever,” some subtler rhythm parts from bassist Elijah Nelson, a mixture of 70s metal and double bass drum mayhem from Jamie Byrum, and some intricate harmonized parts from Wallace and the other guitarist in the band, Mark Palm. Wallace said the new album does not have a name yet, as they usually base the name of the album off the cover artwork that is done for it. The artwork is in the process of being finished, he said.

The band will be hitting the road for a little warm-up tour in January, playing shows in Bellingham, Vancouver, B.C., Portland and Seattle, and then Wallace said they will be travelling all over the world for the foreseeable future.

Touring is a large part of what Black Breath does and how they have reached so many fans, and it is very much how they have made any semblance of a living while doing it. Being on the road for a month or two at a time requires taking time off work, and then having to adapt back into normal life with a job and rent once they get back home to Seattle.

“It always takes me a week or so after a longer tour or multiple tours to readjust to “regular” life,” Wallace said. “It’s kind of an alternate reality at times, being on the road. There is only one ultimate goal for every day: put on a good show. That’s it. So the rest of the time is spent trying to entertain yourself through the monotony of drives and flights and not enough sleep.That being said, if musicians in 2014 and 2015 could still rely on actual money from album sales, and not just the millionth of a penny for the streaming of an individual song or the zero pennies for illegal downloads, our lives might look a little different when we’re at home.”

But, alas, that is the reality of being a musician these days – even for a band on a popular record label and thousands of adoring fans. And, either way, there is not that much to complain about.

“Getting to play alongside childhood heroes, or in some cases becoming legitimate friends with them, it’s a wild experience,” he said. “From playing to thousands of people at festivals with headliners like Kiss, to playing to far fewer people at strange run-down venues in far-off countries with bands you grew up listening to is hard to describe. Equal parts nervousness, excitement, giddiness, embarrassment, but you never really want those moments to end.”

Black Breath brings thrashy hardcore-influenced metal to Bellingham at the Swillery on Jan. 17. For more about the band, see blackbreath.com.

Published in the January 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine