I know that when the pulpits of religious television entertainment need a scapegoat (haha… goat) to blame for the ruination of American youth they turn to hip-hop or heavy metal, because it’s easy. You can take if for face value, point fingers and convince anybody that you’re right, even if you have been beating the same inanimate puddle of a dead leftover horse for almost forty years. It’s effective, so why come up with a new poison?

Secretly, I think these people thank God for something like Reign In Blood, but so have the many anti-Christian/”Check out my horns” metal acts to follow in Slayer’s footsteps. I don’t necessarily believe that kids listening to metal are so much drawn to the Satanic message/imagery as they are aware that it inspires BETTER music. Southern Lord’s newest acquisition Black Breath, seem to realize this and their debut LP, Heavy Breathing, confirms as much while merging 80s metal nostalgia with hardcore’s grating vocalization and speed.

Listening to its first track, “Black Sin (Spit On The Cross),” I almost take the loud directive of screamer, Nate Adams, to “REJECT CHRIST! SPIT ON THE CROOOOOOSSSS!” as another way of saying, “Stop listening to shitty music.” Selective reasoning, I guess. Maybe they really do want you to “just say no” to Christ and share in the collective weight of that familiar old chip that’s been resting on malcontented, black-shirted shoulders and seminally generating album upon album since Reign In Blood came into being.

Having said that, Black Breath is undeniably formulaic to the point of almost seeming “obligatory,” but their aggression sells it. A song like “Escape From Death” exhibits a skull-rattling amount of force and speed. “I Am Beyond,” with its muddy swagger, slows down the pace but maintains a consistent level of pummeling energy. The title track, an instrumental used more as a set-up for the following “Children of the Horn,” sleekly reminisces about heyday Metallica with guitar solos made to creep and intensify. There’s enough power behind Black Breath that even their borrowed moments can seem refreshing.

“Unholy Virgin” slips a little bit, its foundation an almost laughable George Thorogood blues jam with some distortion thrown in because, well… because this is supposed to be metal. There’s redemption in the form of “Wewhocannotbenamed,” whose power riffs lead into a ridiculous high-speed assault to close out the album.

While they don’t really score points for originality, Black Breath’s debut is still strong, loud and wonderfully relentless. Heavy Breathing should appease many a fan of anything generally loud, and potentially corrupt more impressionable youth into becoming a new statistic in an old debate. No point in playing this record backwards: It’s all there to dissect and condemn.