Review Summary: I, The Breather tread water with their Sophomore full length Truth and Purpose
Sounding familiar can go two ways for a band’s signature sound. I, The Breather have made it no secret through their playing style that they enjoy melodic metalcore a la August Burns Red. They use identical guitar tunings, incorporate melodic riffs and leads over top of basic chugging patterns, and formulate their success on energetic live shows through punchy breakdowns. Fortunately for ITB, they have still managed to craft their own sound through the two records released by Sumerian Records. Despite utilizing the aforementioned ABR template, they add a bit of technical production wizardry much like their labelmates in Periphery.
For anyone who has seen I, The Breather live, a huge part of their sound is their guitar tone. One of the few bands with this low of a guitar tuning that hasn’t resorted to 7-or-8 string guitars, I, The Breather instead opt to change the sound coming out of the guitar instead of the guitar itself. In addition to sounding dense and rich, the tubular sound generated by the rhythm section is catchy, choppy and distinct. The staccato playing style of the rhythm guitarist and bassist accentuate the crisp, clean drumming style very well and provides a sturdy backbone for the up-tempo playing style. Contrasting the fairly simple rhythm section is quick runs and melodic riffing by lead guitarist Justin Huffman. The legato, angular riffing style is a wonderful contrast to the very abrupt choppiness of the rhythm section, though at times the textural contrast is short-lived. At times the lead guitar strays dangerously far into familiar territory, as seen on the last track (“4.12.11”), something sure to initiate comparisons to this band’s contemporaries.
As previously noted, the band thrives with a fast, driving sound as seen in “Mentalist” and “False Profit.” When the band slows things down, the most notable problems are Spann’s vocals and the incessant chugging. Vocalist Shawn Spann thrives in a breakneck pace, with his high-registered, unbelievably nasally vocals hastily and harshly delivered on top of the musical landscape supporting him. The slower tracks “Judgment,” “Bruised and Broken,” and “Meaning” suffer from poor vocal spacing and open chord monotony, making the middle of the album quite honestly a bit of a drag to listen to.
Another questionable but limited addition is the usage of clean vocals. Becoming something quite cliché among younger metal and hardcore bands, I, The Breather’s cleans are ill-advised. The ridiculous amounts of studio reverb added to make them palatable probably signals that they should never have been included in the first place. Despite such ignominious clean vocal plugs, the vocal performance is solid. While Spann’s vocals are sure to rub some listeners the wrong way, they are genuinely passionate and personal, something similar bands struggle to achieve (Cough, Periphery, Cough).
In summary, I, The Breather will probably gain a lot of new fans from this record. It is catchy, fast, passionate, and great for a quick drive in the car or the gym. While the band comes close at times to encroaching on their contemporaries, they still manage to squeeze some their own sound out of it.