We all know the feeling well. The time when the anger becomes uncontrollable. The time when your emotions take over, and someone who you didn’t even know existed rears his or her ugly head. We all know what it feels like to be possessed by the beast residing within. Ocean County six-piece Breathing Blue has captured these emotions in their debut full-length Inner Animal (Out June 26th).
Featuring the outfit’s signature blistering guitar leads and soaring vocals, courtesy of front man Justin Sanford, the album is a relentless, high-energy rocker that further solidifies Breathing Blue as one of the most promising young bands on the Jersey Shore.
The record kicks off with a bang in the form of the eponymous “Inner Animal.” Distorted feedback gives way to bassist Chris Dechert’s aggressive lead riff while the drums set the table for the sonic assault that is to follow. Muted guitar strumming joins the fray until Sanford triumphantly enters: “Shake away your sorrow/It’s the animal inside/The evolution’s all you know/A loss to what may hide.” The riff that leads this charge is true brilliance in its simplicity – there are no wasted notes, just the sound of high-octane Rock N’ Roll.
Breathing Blue is especially adept at crafting catchy fret-play. The group burrows into the brain with riff-like ear worms looking for an extended stay, as a three-pronged axe attack featuring Rob Bost, Rudy Meier, and Matt Basilotto combine with the thumping rhythm section that is Dechert and drummer Tyler Moellman who’s instrumental mastery draws in the listener with irresistible riffs and driving beats, effectively setting the audience up so Sanford can knock ‘em out. The band has a real gem in the charismatic front man – I’m absolutely convinced he would sound good singing the lunch specials off of a Chinese takeout menu.
As the album’s title implies, the songs deal with the duality of the human condition, the ability to conjure up this “inner animal.” Song titles like “Cages,” “Guerillas,” and “Creatures” reinforce the point. Each one is an example of Breathing Blue’s ability to wed powerful lyrics with equally impressive instrumentation. “If you can’t see it, you’ll never believe it” Sanford sings on “Blood and Bone.” As Sanford’s vocals become more aggressive, so too do the lyrics and guitars, each member in perfect step with the other. “Get back to human nature/Just let the music take you/Shake, this feeling, shake, this feeling” he pleads on “Human Nature.”
Some songs, like the aforementioned “Guerillas” make use of multiple layers of Sanford’s voice, creating cacophonous confusion that adds to the dramatic dynamic of the band’s sound. Breathing Blue do not just simply play songs – they create emotional soundscapes. Each note played, every drum beat, every word sung are done so with expert precision and purpose. This is a band whose members are prideful and careful while crafting their parts, and it shows.
The best example of Breathing Blue’s ability to rock the fuck out is the track “Money Grows on Trees.” Again we find another riff to be savored – within five seconds of playing this song you will understand exactly what I mean. In an album filled with supremely catchy, distortion-laden fret-play, this is the cream of the crop. No question. No contest. It’ll make the hairs on your arm and back of your neck stand up. It’s a siren call to action for Rock lovers everywhere. “Don’t you know that money grows on trees” Sanford questions with desperate aggression before the band drops into a series of chugging guitar work, tribal drums, and booming bass. While the song is a setlist staple in Breathing Blue’s live show, this re-recording has given the tune a fierce new edge.
Perhaps sensing that “Money Grows on Trees” was the album’s apogee of aggression, the final two songs take on a decidedly more emotional and reflective feel. “This Isn’t About You” is a scathing send-off, while the final track, “Everything You Needed,” is the most somber number of the bunch. Amidst a mournful, melancholy piano played by Sanford, he croons “Stuck in bed/And hear the clock tick/It aches your head/This body needs to move.” before transitioning to a more triumphant, “overcoming adversity” feel when the instrumentals pick up. “Yeah the moves are everything you needed.” As the song, and consequently the album, closes the line hauntingly echoes over a single barren guitar riff, eventually fading out into nothing.
Inner Animal comes full circle in this manner. Breathing Blue takes the listener from non-stop Rock to sentimental reflection, covering every space in between. Each member pours his heart and soul into his instrument, and the result is an album that is sublimely sincere. No track feels over the top or wrought with over-production. This is honest, straight-forward Rock N’ Roll.
MUST HEAR TRACK: “Money Grows on Trees” – Oh. My. God…THAT RIFF! This song is Breathing Blue defined – aggressive guitars, heavy drum beats, and Justin Sanford’s signature shout all rolled into a slick Rock N’ Roll package.