Wednesday 11 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Firebreather - "Firebreather"

By: David Jupp

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/10/2017
Label: Suicide Records

Firebreather switch between galloped bludgeon, half-time bang and once Mattias Nööjd detonates the riff bombs, unsurprisingly, big ol’ horns occur

“Firebreather” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing:

1). Fire Foretold
2). Emerald Eyes
3). The Ice Lord
4). Release The Lava

The Review:

The manner in which you discover music is important, especially in this era of faceless Spotify playlists and algorithmic recommendations. Through these new channels the romance of discovering a killer band has sadly, to an extent been lost. Be it via a friend lending you his copy of a debut record or perhaps stumbling across a hungry support act at a show, the process of your introduction to music can often amplify your attachment to it.

For me, with Swedish sludge duo Galvano, it was the later. To be specific it was Desertfest 2015 and I was in the Black Heart killing time before Orange Goblin. I noticed a steady stream of beards heading upstairs to the small stage and figured I would see what all the fuss was about. What I was met with at the top of those stairs, was 40 minutes of the best sludge metal I had heard in years. It was brutal of course, but more importantly it was considered, intricate and progressive.

Galvano were a few weeks’ shy of releasing their sophomore triumph ‘Trail of the Serpent.’ So accidentally seeing a band perform, at their zenith, with such a juggernaut of sound was not only exciting but something special. After the show, I legged it to the merch-desk and parted ways with fifteen quid for a distinctly underwhelming and wonkily printed band-tee. This is a testament to how good that show was.

Fast forward almost year and I’ve devoured both ‘Two Titans’ and ‘Trail of the Serpent.’ Galvano are now firmly one of my favourite bands, but there is a deafening silence coming from their camp. Suddenly singer/guitarist Mattias Nööjd announces his new band ‘Firebreather’ and I’m not going to lie, I was gutted. I know it sounds adolescent, but because I had spontaneously followed that beard-highway to the dark, Galvano were my band, they were gone and I couldn’t believe it. I had only seen them once. So, over a year on, it is with trepidation and a hint of sadness that I approach Firebreather’s self-titled debut.

Fire Fortold’ stirs with blowing winds and a full-fat bass stagger. Seconds later Mattias Nööjd detonates the riff bomb and unsurprisingly, big ol’ horns occur. After another weighty tease from Kyle Pitcher’s bass, Tommy Hanning sets drums to flay and Nööjd’s guttural yell pounds into view. For the next seven minutes Firebreather proceed to switch between galloped bludgeon, half-time bang and most encouragingly, for any fellow Galvano fans still in mourning, interesting guitar interludes. Track one is an absolute rager.

Emerald Eyes’ opens with Pitcher and Hanning marinating in a low-end batter. Nööjd rapidly storms in with a descending riff that ominously misses the mark, luckily the verse makes a driving entrance and horns are restored. As the song reaches its peak Nööjd deploys one of his trademark guitar-runs and again the Galvano grief subsides. It’s this ear for melody in the fray that made ‘Trail of the Serpent’ such a brilliant record and Nööjd such an impressive guitarist. Whilst it seems like the proggier arrangements from his previous band have been replaced with a more direct approach, it is Nööjd’s ability to inject emotion as well as epicness into a song that set Galvano, and now seemingly Firebreather, apart. As ‘Emerald Eyes’ hits its sixth minute a flicker of musical familiarity kindles in the ear which I will come to later.

Lead single ‘The Ice Lord’ opens with Nööjd’s guitar hammer-on pulling at the reigns. Moments later Pitcher and Hanning’s rhythm-centaur breaks free and the albums stand-out beast hurtles forward. In a genre where tales of war and mythology are so often told, it requires a certain standard of song to not induce eye-rolls. Fortunately, the pace and pummel across ‘The Ice Lord’s six minutes is just outstanding. At minute four as the song flanks left, a slower interlude sees Nööjd roar ‘the oldest vision from this mountain, the eyes fill up the sky, a reign of blood.’ Just as Galvano knew how to accentuate their heft with the contrast of slow builds so do Firebreather and this ancient imagery sits perfectly in such a titanic outro.

Until now Firebreather have taken a more even and direct approach to arrangement so album closer ‘Release the Lava’s sprawling lurch and climb is a welcome about face. In the songs final third Nööjd’s melodic runs rear their head again, only this time they’re accompanied by Hanning’s nomadic slag-bass. The song forges home on a thunder of half-time riffs, like a fatally wounded warrior desperate to outlast the beast. Adam Burke’s stellar artwork is particularly apt here.

Perhaps it is the romance of not knowing what awaited me atop those stairs back in 2015, or maybe it’s the marauding arrangements Galvano affixed to their riffs. But for whatever reason I had never noticed the striking similarity between Mattias Nööjd and Matt Pikes’ vocal. Much like Matt Bellamy of Muse’s breathing, it is something that once heard, is impossible to forget, and it’s only accentuated by Nööjd’s narrowing of the space between Firebreather and High on Fire’s sound. The question is if it matters?

For me that aspect of familiarity glimmers throughout the record but at no point does it feel like pale imitation. I can imagine that this is an issue that will be ignored or emphasised by previous exposure to Galvano. Firstly, any comparisons to High on Fire are always a compliment but more importantly for the Galvano fans amongst us, it is their ghost that flickers in the heart of this record. Luckily, it just a flicker as Firebreather’s debut bludgeons to its own beat.

I am sure that somewhere soon, a riff-nerd will look up from his beer and instinctively follow the beards. Up the stairs, into the darkness and on, to a killer new band: Firebreather.

“Firebreather” is available here

Band info: facebook