Firebreather
Firebreather EP

I got pretty into Sweden’s crusty, forward-minded sludge thrashers Galvano during their demo days, so much so that I gladly did a press release for them when the opportunity came about.  From those lo-fi (though sonically noteworthy) demos to their piledriving, farewell full-length, Trail of the Serpent, Galvano were a gem of a doom-y metal band that sadly flew under the radar for a lot of sludge/doom fans.  Hailing from the melodic death metal capital of the world (Gothenburg, of course!) molded the band’s sound into an interesting little artifact that had a unique identity and thankfully that identity lives on with Firebreather’s Self-Titled EP debut.

Galvano guitarist/vocalist Mattias Nööjd leads the trio and he’s more than ably supported by bassist Kyle Pitcher and drummer Tommy Hanning (who has since been replaced by ex-Galvano basher Fredrik Käll).  Opener “Fire Foretold” introduces Firebreather’s mission statement with a godless vengeance.  White noise and whipping wind samples bleed into Pitcher’s diseased, plague-stricken bass lines that practically lead the charge into a blues-drenched guitar groove that’s like Sleep’s Holy Mountain run through Asbestosdeath’s sickened swells of pain.  Blink n’ you’ll miss ‘em guitar licks (like the one heard at 1:05) throw in the mildest dash of Swedish goodness but they dissipate quickly into a messy, mid-tempo doom thrash that’s straight off the first two and best (for my money) High on Fire records with the vocals even walking that Pike/Lemmy line in the form of deep, ornery bellows.  Hanning goes all out hesher on his kit with chest-rattling tom rolls, dedicated 4/4 doom beats and warm, well-enveloped snare smacks…the guy is like a fuckin’ octopus and he leaves his mark in every corner of this tune and EP for that matter.  3:19 sees Mattias ripping into a swift little lead that’s again a nod to the Gothenburg guitar gods but he takes the next part down his own path of demented, dog-faced sludge riffing that will be familiar to fans of Cavity, Kilara and Bastard of the Skies’ cinderblock thickness.  The thrashing breakdowns get even more aggressive as the song dissolves in an acid rain of quaking, distorted bass skronk, scrappy solos and a demonic tornado of concussion causing fillwork.

“Emerald Eyes” splatters brains into cherry pie by sending a feedback spike through the eardrums, followed by a festering sludge riff on the bass and urgent drum strikes that slowly ratchet the tempo towards insanity.  Fuck originality, once the main riff takes hold it turns into a sludge lover’s porno crossed with a snuff film; towering Cavity/EHG/Kilara/Molehill/Brainoil/Cruevo/IronMonkey inspired blues bends broken in half by busy, torso bustin’ fills (nastier than the genre norm) are front and center and the chord progressions take all of the directions you’re hoping that they’ll take from the get go.  In fact, as much as these guys reckon of the English scum-sludge scene they also employ the finest below the belt tactics of the American slime division (audible nods to Bay Area, NOLA, Florida and Alabama crusty blues sludge in full effect).  Despite Mattias’ vocals really ringing of Pike/Lemmy there’s a weird intonation to his voice that adds a heartbreaking, emotional note to the proceedings (see 4:15).  He manages to ring extra depth and sorrow from a seemingly limited range in a way that’s similar to Crowbar, Deadbird and Shitfire.  He doesn’t change pitches as much as he warps and mutates the canvas he’s working on.  A saddened, heart reaping solo again washes the music in the Swedish waters of melancholy…that is until a grumbling bass line usurps the rest of the instrumentation, pushing the guitarwork heard beyond that pivotal bass movement into a higher-pitched, minor key as Tommy thrashes out a propulsive tom-tom polyrhythm that showcases supreme dexterity and manic handiwork while piling on the snare and kick drum in his leisure time.

Slayer meets 16 meets Slave Traitor in “The Ice Lord’s” thrash-y, hardcore sludge kickoff riff.  The sheer density of the music is undercut by a bleak, blackened ambience that sees the guitars working in spacey, cosmic texture shifts that the pulverizing beats and growling bass grooves coalesce around.  Hanning’s a monster, plain and simple; his relentless precision and accuracy on the skins is both merciless and progressive.  Though the instrumentation is dirty, hogslop doom/sludge when it slows or hangs on those delicious mid-tempos; the atmospheric touches and loose production renders an icy, Swedish frostblast to the twitchy thrash and doom beaten hardcore bursts.  11+ minute curtain-closer “Release the Lava” is the record’s most experimental cut.  Echo, delay, reverb and wah hypnotize the opening guitar riffs with a bewildering strangeness and snakecharm the listener’s mind into a state of permanently whammied psychosis with mean hammer-ons and pull-offs giving way to soul eating sludge interjections.  They really psyche out and explore every branching path of this build from murderous sludge lurches to melodic little splatters of lead guitar.  You could try and go for the easy Neurosis comparison here but they incinerate that notion as quick as you can think of it.  Tribal toms lay into a crippled, cross-eyed thrash attack that’s swallowed whole by ironclad, dissonant doom riffs, another dollop of blackened ambience and those weird vocal ticks that run the gamut from spiraling depression to hateful fury as Mattias twists his tone quietly but noticeably.  Psychedelic texture is obliterated by a riff to end all riffs that graciously repeats itself and is a giant of unadulterated, crusty blues swagger.  This beast also contains the best solo in the band’s arsenal.  Just when you thought 4:12 brought in the riff to end all riffs, Nööjd takes it one step further with the one at 8:27.  It’s a fuckin’ doozy fluidly merging thrash metal tunings to doom metal pacing while Tommy goes bonkers smashing it into place.  Fuck, then there’s another change at 10 minutes that does it again…goddamn!

Firebreather are even better than Galvano.  You really hear Mattias’ guitarwork, songwriting and even vocals reaching the next level.  Hell, everybody in this power trio is playing at the top of their respective games.  There’s nothing you haven’t necessarily heard before on this EP (this is kind of a full-length in disguise, by the by) but the way the elements are put into place combined with the quality of the song compositions, the ungodly power of the riffs and a versatile rhythm section that frequently takes the lead…well, it’s as good as it gets.  With a band this sludgy you wouldn’t expect hooks aplenty, yet this shit is catchier than The Clap and downright fatal if you catch it.  I’ll be looking forward to whatever these sickos do next that’s for sure and this EP will certainly have a spot on the year end list.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
November 16th, 2017

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