September 28, 2020

By BRADLEY ZORGDRAGER

How do you follow up an album that opens with a song called Black Sin (Spit on the Cross) as Black Breath did on 2010’s Heavy Breathing?

Apparently you have your- self a Feast of the Damned and just eat the whole damn crucifix.

Ironically for an album titled Sentenced to Life – a play on the phrase sentenced to death, suggesting that liv- ing is worse than dying this album is particularly life-affirming, as Black Breath is playing better than ever before.

Although Southern Lord Records previously released almost exclusively slow metal, such as doom or drone metal, this album furthers the label’s descent into blast beats and proves that faster is (usually) better.

Even the slow songs on Sentenced to Life feel a little lifeless; the opening riff of The Flame seems more than a little influenced by its counterpart passage in Megadeth’s seminal hit, Symphony of Destruction, and it doesn’t get much hot- ter throughout. And though the next song, Obey, takes the black metal path to slower tempos, to greater success, it still does- n’t measure up to the album’s faster moments.

The first three songs speed by with nary a moment’s relent or chance to stop head- banging. By the time Home of the Grave comes around, the chance to bob, instead of bang, your head is a welcome relief.But the respite is brief, as Sentenced to Life is an album that’s as strenuous on the neck as it is on the ears – and that’s meant as a compliment.

If thrashy death-influenced blackened hardcore sounds like an unnecessarily long genre description, that’s because it is. But in this case, it’s also perfectly appli- cable, though you could just call it heavy.