Review Summary: With Life Reaper, I the Breather bare their fangs with their most expansive and consistently engaging effort to date.
Since their establishment, I the Breather have been often regarded as a solid, if not unspectacular metalcore band. Chunky riffs? Check. Half-time breakdowns? Check. Lyrics about pain and misery? Also check. None of that has really changed on their newest output, but to be honest, it’s not necessarily a bad thing; with Life Reaper
, I the Breather bare their fangs with their most expansive and consistently engaging effort to date.
To put it bluntly, These Are My Sins
and Truth & Purpose
lacked variation. Individually, the songs were pretty good, but in the context of an album, they became almost nauseating as you realized they all pretty much sounded the same. Evidently, the band realized this, as on Life Reaper, an increased emphasis has been placed on memorable melodic passages. That’s not to say that heaviness and technicality have been sacrificed for the case of catchiness. Far from it, actually; as was the case on the first two albums, I the Breather are at their absolute best when they put their heads down, lay down monster riffs, and bash your skull in. “Swine:Cult” is perhaps the best example of this, with its relentless, breakneck pace and frantic call-and-response verse between vocalist Shawn Spann and guest Ricky Armellino. Their breakdowns, which tend to be more of a gag in standard metalcore fare, are equally as vicious; the spastic, glitchy breakdown in “Self:Restore” in particular. As it stands, that’s a running theme on Life Reaper
, with stop-start riffs and guitar squeals around every corner. Elsewhere, the rhythm section of Conor Hesse and Aaron Ovecka aren’t particularly remarkable, but you can’t accuse them of doing a bad job at any point on the album.
Going back to the aforementioned melodic sections, Shawn Spann’s improved singing voice comes into play on well over half the songs. He does an admirable job carrying the choruses throughout, especially on the standout “Demon:Dreams” and lead single “Soul:Seek”. His lyrics still range from average to cringe-worthy (see: “Setting:Sun”), but as far as metalcore vocalists go, he’s about as good as it gets. His screaming vocals are vicious and wide-ranging, and he performs at a commendable level on every track. Generally speaking, I the Breather’s songwriting is much improved. “Shape:Shifter” is perhaps their most emotionally charged song to date, and its seamless segue into electronic interlude “Re:Volution” gives you plenty of time to sit back and reflect on the madness.
5 years into their career, I the Breather are not changing the game. As a band, however, they are operating at peak capacity, churning out a legitimately memorable and inspired effort. In an over saturated genre infested with clichés and gimmicks, that’s commendable all its own.