Black Breath / Victims / Tormented @ Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff 04.04.12

A metal masterclass from some of the best in the business.

Apr 4th, 2012 at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff / By Huw Thomas
Black Breath Metal has diversified. Nowadays, the image of an average metal fan has to encompass everyone from denim-clad old-skoolers to the Wire-reading music nerd with a taste for the extreme. Whether this is a good or bad thing can be a source of furious debate, but it definitely results in a more varied ecosystem. Case in point: tonight’s line-up makes for a compelling taster menu of just what’s going at the noisier end of the musical spectrum right now.

Tormented deal in good, old-fashioned, completely unironic death metal. How you feel about this will depend entirely on your reaction to bullet-belt sporting guitarists and song titles like ‘Vengeance From Beyond the Grave’, but from where we’re standing it’s just dandy. Crustier than a dreadlocked baker, Tormented grind and thrash through a short but intense set. They plough their own unreconstructed furrow and are therefore pretty much timeless.

Tormented’s Swedish compatriots Victims add another layer of texture. Their breakneck, hardcore-inflected noise never dips below 100mph, provoking some tentative slam dancing in the gradually gathering audience. Definitely a band worthy of further exploration, they are blessed with a bass sound that could make any fan of loud noises weep a single tear of pure joy.

Kicking off with a ferocious ‘Feast of the Damned’ from thoroughly excellent new album Sentenced To Life, it is clear from the first moment that Black Breath are going to absolutely crush it. Much has been made of the band’s debt to Entombed, but the sheer grin-inducing heaviness on display here renders such comparisons irrelevant.

They do monolithic, molasses-thick riffs as irresistible as continental drift and impossibly fast, balls to the wall thrash. On a towering ‘Endless Corpse’ they do both in the same song. It is glorious.

At their most ponderous and grinding, we are treated to a vision of the entire audience snapping their heads forward and back in beautifully spontaneous display of coordinated slow-mo headbanging. As the pace picks up, crowd surfing is gamely attempted in a pit not quite dense enough to support it.

But for such a dark hued band so committed to handing out aural beatdowns, the overall Black Breath experience is surprisingly accessible and inclusive. While they’ve got some undoubted ‘chops’ they never descend into needlessly fiddly fret-wankery and their obvious pleasure at being here is infectious. Your reviewer’s companion for the evening, not necessarily the biggest fan of metal, emerged with ringing ears to declare them his new favourite band. That’s the best thing about Black Breath; they’re heavy enough to satisfy the metal purists but also generally awesome enough to satisfy everyone else too.