Based in the Doomgaze genre, the man behind Breaths, Jason Roberts, has released an album filled with counterpoints and thought-provoking themes. The music spans all across from fleeting dreamy Doomgaze to heavily distorted onslaughts with clean and growling vocals conveying lyrics of despair, anger, and sometimes the hope that is reflected in the title.
You can of course enjoy the album´s diverse music only, but reading the lyrics while listening gives you the full duality and contrasts of the album. In this sense, it is a concept album made in anguish over decades of thoughtless activities from you, me, the elites, and the politicians who are causing the Earth´s demise. We as citizens criticize the politicians for not doing enough. When they finally take action, it is likely that we in our selfish stupidity vote them out of office. It is summed up very clearly in a sentence from the second track: ”We’re waiting on the winds of change / Unsure which way they’re blowing”.
This second track, ”Winds of Change”, comes after the album´s Ambient foreboding opener, ”Degeneration”. It is a slow-paced Doom-ladden track with bright synths drifting above. The music is carried by a slow and steady rhythm section with clean vocals finding their place in the center of the song. The vocals are strong and clear hinting at sorrow and ache and they will lead us through the album singing lyrics that often contradict the atmospheric fleeting sense the vocals purvey. I´d like to dwell a bit on this song because it emanates the sense of an overture to the rest of the hour-long album. It shows how he can sway without effort through styles in one song using layers of music, but also the other aspect of his voice, the deep growling. And this is what adds immensely to the feeling of contrast and duality throughout the album. It manifests itself already in this song as its dense layers flow forward shifting between clean vocals and growls, sometimes they sing in harmonious simultani where the growls make a deep and disturbing undercurrent to the hope that we sense in the clean vocals. When the song simmers down to only light touches on the piano, the stillness after the dense music is eerie. It slowly surges onward again from the piano tunes with a slightly distorted guitar until a swell of wonderful heavy melodies supports the vocals singing along with that melody pressuring to go higher, searching to reach the drifting synths which give a sense of an enlarged upsurge before an abrupt echoing end.
The album continues with the fast-paced start of ”The Summit” where the clean vocals soon encounter oncoming answering growls from the depths below. While there was a bit of hesitant hope in the previous track, we now begin the climb into the despondent lyrics that more or less represent the message of the album, ”We love to hate one another / Why can’t we weed out the hate and find our/humanity”.
After this, the soft and ambient opening of ”Still in Dreams” comes as a relief. This song unfolds the wonderful sonics of Doomgaze that Breaths does so well, developing a thoughtful melody and lifting the atmosphere of the song. It is melodic, close to wistful before it breaks off with snarling vocals spitting disgust ”Such a disconnect / A misperception / I blame the architect / That designed this world”.
On ”We See You” Matt McGachy of Cryptopsy joins in with strong clean vocals showing an impressive range in the vocal department. The song has a heavy opening with fuzz and bass drums and the track is lifted and simmered through many layers of tumbling bass, heavy guitars, and synths. It might be the heaviest song on the album even if it is a song about reaching out. It rises upwards at the end with screams and growls harmonizing in the dense soundscape before an abrupt stop and the song ends with insisting vocals, “We see you” after the lines ”You’re not alone / It’s not just you”.
The album flows on with great songs to listen to and lyrics to reflect on like “The Road” with a crystal clear opening made by sparkling clean guitars introducing the vocals surging forward until it swells with the elevated chorus “Always hard to know / What’s waiting down the road / With no street lights / Who knows what we’ll find”. The middle section is a wonderful nod to Post-Rock before a counterpoint of ferocious onslaughts. On ”The Walking Dead” we dive headfirst into the snarl, growls, and blasting music of Black Metal for 90 seconds as a follow-up to the hard end of the previous and just to clarify that we now move further into the despair the album conveys, ”Throats slit! / Nail to the head!”
This goes on further with ”Flourish”, a dystopian, melodic Doomgaze track opened by a low-end bass and a snare drum supporting the resignated vocals between the surges and screaming growls. ”Squander” shows how the glissading music surrounds lyrical themes that contradict it. The same is true for the next song, ”Gone Mad”, where ambient effects and strumming electric guitars take the lead from the start to brace echoing vocals elevated above the layers of sound. This song leans on the ambient side of the music with clear reminiscent atmospheric sounds. But as with ”The Road”, there is a counterpoint with dense guitars and a low-end bass to lead us to the end. ”I know there will be nothing left / To see if we don’t turn it around”.
The album closes with the dystopian track ”Ruination”, reflecting the opener´s title ”Degeneration”. It launches with foreboding, strumming guitars and surges into diverse drumming, melodic bass, and distorted guitars hovering in the distance. The high-pitched guitar pushes away the heavy sonics to take the center part immersed in distorted sonics before the strumming guitar is back. The song turns into a version of its own with low-end sound effects and a foreboding sound surrounding the echoing clean vocals and slowly it fades away with the words “We’re killing us / We’re killing Earth / We’re killing her”.