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Sunday, November 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 47.0° F  Light Rain Fog/Mist
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Black Breath: Sentenced to Life
(Southern Lord)

Seattle's Black Breath hammer a lot more than two years' worth of maturing and muscle-building into Sentenced to Life. The band proved well rounded enough on 2010's Heavy Breathing, balancing hardcore's fury, death metal's grinding tightness and black metal's whirring tremolo-picked guitars. They grounded it in straightforward hard rock, aiming for as much fun as they did rage.

Sentenced still keeps clear of being trendily extreme, but thinks bigger. Producer Kurt Ballou gives this one a newfound polish and mass, and the band grow into his treatment. "Endless Corpse" centers on a hammering snare, but without that tripping-over-itself feel that hardcore drumming sometimes has. Fast as it is, the track's dynamics build with an ominous patience. The band do themselves a favor when they slow down just a bit, especially with the cruel groove of "The Flame."

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