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October 5, 2004

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Jade Tree is starting to hit the hard stuff - the musical equivalent of grain alcohol, the kind that burns in your throat like battery acid. Breather Resist is a screamo outfit from Louisville, Kentucky that's so loud it makes the Blood Brothers run for cover. The record label that brought you the bleak acoustic work of Pedro The Lion and the warm, fuzzy emo of The Promise Ring now introduces a reasonable facsimile of the Jesus Lizard; only instead of the demented story-telling vocals of David Yow, we get interminable yelling and screeching.

It's too bad the vocals, or what passes for them are so far up front in the mix. My philosophy: if you care so little about them - and the lyrics - that all you do is scream unintelligibly, bury them. They're no good to anyone. Pare back on the words and take a seat, Steven Sindoni. Let the dense, turbulent guitar work of Evan Patterson — you may know him from the National Acrobat and Black Cross — seethe and roar, like in "An Insomniac's Complexion" or "Honest To God", two wasp nests of sound so frenzied you feel like you're in a riot. Or, sit and watch Patterson's Allow for the powerful squat thrusts of Nick Thieneman's bass to heave and groan, like in "A Social Worker's Nightmare" or the Shiner-esque "As Far As Goodbyes Go." And quit smothering the quick-change time signatures and heavy, ebb-and-flow dynamics, especially in the titanic, Dead Meadow-like "Amphetamine Praise", that kept me surprised and riveted.

There is a pattern to Breather Resist's brand of hardcore mayhem that emerges after a while, and that routine wears on you. Often, at the beginning, is chaos: hard-charging guitar gathers steam and mauls you like a lion. The drums fly apart like parts of a machine that's been stressed for so long, it simply explodes. All the while, the bass pulverizes you like a trash compactor. Then, suddenly, Patterson comes riding in from out of nowhere - like some cowboy - and lassos this raging beast, calming it by throwing thick blankets of power chords over its back. It still makes for interesting music, but once you've figured it out, it loses some of its power to amaze.

But that's small potatoes. The real problem here is the vocals. You know how some hardcore singers actually sing from time to time, maybe when the beat drops out, and you see the actual eye of the storm. That's a good time to change things up, to stop the screaming and let loose with a sinister whisper or something raspy. Study what Mike Patton does. Or, better yet, hire yourself a female singer, like Isis does, to add haunting, soothing textures. But, that's not Breather Resist.

I understand that you have to shout to be heard above the raucous din. Maybe the problem is that I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the genre - it is called screamo, after all. Maybe the reason why the Blood Brothers' popularity is on the rise is because people want to hear vocals that sound like their being rammed through a wood chipper - chords being shredded like exculpatory files at Enron. I guess I'm not one of them.

Lost At Sea

Peter Lindblad