Toronto’s Respire come across as more of a collective than a band, with guests making a total of a dozen musicians contributing to Black Line. Or perhaps orchestra would be the right word: opener Blight is a strikingly effective prelude that is wholly classical in feel, and the key role played throughout by Eslin McKay’s violin is accompanied by appearances from glockenspiels, vibraphones and a brass section at different points on the album.
On the other hand, Respire exist very much in the DIY tradition and sonic framework of classic screamo, with a fondness for ragged ferocity and vocals which range from anguished to venomous. Judicious use of blastbeats hint at a black metal influence, one that enhances rather than overpowers the inherent hardcore attack of tracks like Tempest or Cicatrice.
There’s no less power in evidence on quieter pieces like Lost Virtue or Flicker And Faint, during which Respire recall the mournful meditations of post-rock outfits like The Dirty Three or fellow Canadians Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The grace and beauty of these tracks, when considered alongside the torrential fury displayed elsewhere, lends Black Line the feel of an imaginary alliance between legendary Japanese bands Mono and Envy.
This startling album is a cathartic listen, for sure, but it’s the sort that is ultimately uplifting in its emotional crescendos. It’s altogether fitting that, in addition to its common meaning of taking a breath, the word Respire was once used to describe the recovery of hope after hard times. Much heavy music adopts a scorched-earth policy, but this is an outfit equally concerned with conjuring a more positive future from the embers.
For Fans Of: Envy, Deafheaven, Mono
Black Line is released on December 4 via Church Road.
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Posted on December 1st 2020, 11:33am