The Breathing Process – Labyrinthian Review

A phenomenon risen in the last decade is the concept of “blackened deathcore.” While Winds of Plague’s cheesy keyboard licks copied and pasted atop chug-happy deathcore is business as usual,1 it wasn’t until bands like Make Them Suffer and Abigail Williams cranked up the moody -core brutality with black metal tropes in songwriting, drumming, and keys. More recently represented by bands like Lorna Shore or Mental Cruelty, blackened deathcore (if you accept it as a style) has become one of those quasi-sub-genres that fuses the oft-maligned “scene-core” and those of the “trve” style – a trve clvsterfvkk if you will. Quietly riding the wave is collective The Breathing Process, whose string of releases have contributed in small ways to this weird-ass style. Is Labyrinthian a-maze-ing or are they stuck in their own web?

Following a similar timeline to Arizona’s Abigail Williams, The Breathing Process began in the early 2000s as a metalcore outfit, then deviated more and more as the years went on. 2007’s debut full-length In Waking: Divinity offered a fusion of deathcore heft and abyssal atmospheres to ring in a new style, while second full-length, 2010’s Odyssey: (Un)Dead heralded my personal favorites, with tracks like “Leveler” and “Pantheon Unraveling” executing impressive balances of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Oceano, and Dimmu Borgir. Fourth full-length Labyrinthian is ultimately a mixed bag, struggling mightily with brevity and moments of stagnation but never compromising their pitch-black atmosphere.

One frustration with Odyssey: (Un)Dead was its mono-dimensional vocal attack, which made moments of instrumental lull extremely boring. Blessedly, Labyrinthian sees new vocalist Chris Rabideau providing fiery variety that elevates even its dullest moments. That being said, tracks like opener “Terminal” and “Heir to None” offer high-energy affairs with expertly placed breakdowns and monolithic riffs to weigh across its epic keyboard ambiance. Unlike former albums, it does feel as though The Breathing Process experiments with its assets instead of blending them, as tracks like “I Sleep, I Wake” and “Shroud” feel much like Hiss from the Moat-meets-Fleshgod blackened death metal fury, elevating its frenzy to nearly unhinged proportions. Perhaps the best moments here are the title track and much of “Atlas,” which makes a departure from either of its proclaimed genre preferences in favor of crystalline atmosphere whose appearance alongside deathcore brutality creates uniquely desperate and downright beautiful experiences.

Labyrinthian’s biggest struggle comes down to cutting the fluff. The Breathing Process’ albums have always been long, and the newest is no exception. Clocking in at fifty-four minutes, moments of miss have a tendency to outweigh the hit. Not that they do anything blatantly wrong per se, but Labyrinthian’s weakest tracks are frankly boring. “Wilt,” “A Savage Plea,” and “We, the Drowned” are most guilty, as their most exciting feature is the keyboard trills atop slogging riffs. Not breakdowns, not grooves – slogs. Open strummed guitar riffs dominate the runtime, their presence neither climactic nor interesting. Even interesting tracks are at odds with these moments, in that even they have their moments of frustrating mediocrity. Plus, deathcore itself is a genre of heavy-hitting and gym-friendly brevity, and much of Labyrinthian lacks the teeth. It channels its kvlt-friendly atmosphere to a T, but lacks the deathcore heft to provide more than blackened bottom-end escapism. Furthermore, I found myself comparing The Breathing Process’ latest to Lorna Shore’s Psalms album in its emphasis on pitch-black atmosphere, but it lacks the density, mystery, and songwriting chops to compete.

Don’t misunderstand: I enjoyed my time with Labyrinthian. But is The Breathing Process in a position to make waves instead of riding them? Unfortunately, no. Even at its best, it feels like barely treading water to keep things interesting. While the title track and “Atlas” are steady offerings of interesting and evocative melody alongside hellish tropes, they are too little, too late in the larger scheme. Other blackened deathcore outfits like the aforementioned, as well as Cabal and Hiss from the Moat are frankly doing things better, even if The Breathing Process offers a solid platter of aural comfort food. Labyrinthian does nothing to address the “clvsterfvkk” dilemma and is still yet to emerge from its own maze.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Releases Worldwide: October 8th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. “Fuck you, get the fuck out”
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