When listening to Firebreather’s self-titled debut album, it becomes immediately clear that the Swedish trio really love themselves some Matt Pike. There are plenty of bands out there co-opting the guitar tone and songwriting of Sleep and its spin-offs, but I can’t think of many others who marry that signature bottom end sludge with the busy drum work or gruff yowls of High on Fire. It’s enough to make me wonder if they had ever thought of calling themselves Firespitter instead…
However, a different songwriting approach does keep Firebreather from straying too deeply into doppelganger territory. With the exception of the occasional upbeat intrusions on “The Ice Lord,” the debut is completely devoid of High on Fire’s prominent thrash influence. Instead, the four songs here are driven by monolithic riffs set to dragging tempos. Comparisons could be made to doomy staples like “Warhorn” and “Bastard Samurai,” but the longer song lengths and drawn out deliveries lends comparisons to Sleep’s drone-leaning compositions.
With that said, the band still needs to work on their songwriting. Each of the four tracks on here does show off some different moods and dynamics but the actual riffs and vocal lines aren’t always memorable. The opening “Fire Foretold” stands out for its particularly solid riff set and “The Ice Lord” is the most energetic track, but neither track is quite at a monumental level just yet. The eleven minute closer “Release the Lava” is also worth noting, if only because it may be the most badass title song of the year.
If High on Fire ever decided to make a full on doom album, it would probably sound a lot like Firebreather’s debut. The production and performances are tight and fit the sound they’re going for, but the album lacks a certain spark and the songwriting doesn’t do a lot to make the group stand out. Fans of all things Matt Pike will likely get a kick out of this, especially if they prefer High on Fire’s slower albums, but I hope the band will be able to harness the energy that would make them a real force to be reckoned with.
“The Ice Lord”