ALBUM REVIEW: Respire – Black Line

Release Date: December 4th 2020
Label: Church Road Records
Website: None available


Over the past decade, in the shadow of the massive emo revival which began to really gain traction in the late noughties, there has been a steady, equally inspired resurgence in nineties screamo, or “skramz” to the cool kids.

Bands like Loma Prieta, Ostraca, and Soul Glo have all made bold and successful attempts to rejuvenate the underground scene and genre, with a combination of nostalgic adoration and modern ideals. There’s even been reunion tours from the likes of pg.99 and City Of Caterpillar, further cementing the vitality and beating heart the scene still firmly possesses.

Another act, who since their inception in 2013 have continued to mature by both confrontational and compositional standards, is Canadian collective Respire. Infusing a decidedly blackened approach, with full on orchestral sections elevated by continuous use of everything, from violin and trumpet to glockenspiel, they’ve managed to majorly standout in an ever-expanding sea of blackgaze/screamo groups now flooding the scene.

With ‘Black Line’, the band’s third full-length and the follow-up to 2018’s immense ‘Dénouement’, this Toronto based sextet finally live up to their self-proclaimed “post-everything” moniker.

Singles ‘Tempest’ and ‘Cicatrice’ both stand as epics, with movements and sections swiftly shifting like a Lovecraftian opera, but that isn’t to say every piece is on such a grand scale. Penultimate track, ‘To Our Dead Friends’, is a surprisingly succinct and more melodic affair, recalling early era Chiodos if rooted firmly in screamo aesthetic.

Album highlight ‘Flicker And Fade’ recalls the similarly styled, now-defunct orchestral screamo collective I Would Set Myself On Fire For You, with its gorgeous string arrangements slowly swelling around increasingly unhinged vocals before peaking at a crushing summit of aggression and transcendence. The caustic dual vocal dynamic provides an unnerving and near constant barrage of high-pitched shrieks and guttural growls that grind against one another in a feudal despair filled argument that neither side has any notion of escape from.

One word that you’re bound to see linger around discussions of ‘Black Line’ is “cinematic”, and it’s because it truly could not be any more apt. The cataclysmic crashing of angular, dissonant, and simultaneously lush guitar riffs and serene post-rock orchestral seances are both mesmerising and staggering. It’s as if a screamo band wrote the score to the end of the world, encapsulating all of the apocalyptic chaos and final fleeting moments of beauty within a sonic structure (that caters to hardcore).