The Toronto group Respire sound inescapably compelling on their scorching new album Black Line, which is available now via Church Road Records.
The band mix a vibrant array of styles, from post-metal to screamo to orchestral music, and their creation feels strikingly organic. The components of Black Line don’t feel haphazardly pasted together in the slightest. Instead, the progressions and movements between styles across this album feel startlingly smooth, like a fine-tuned funnel for the emotional fire that sits at the core.
Although Respire sound undeniably physically intense, and their instrumentals feel rather staggeringly formidable in isolation, the group molds these elements into a searing exploration of what feels like metaphysical heartache. The melodies that emerge across Black Line feel like startlingly crisp musical reflections of deeply simmering emotional pain, like the metaphorical, mental equivalent of hiding behind a ramshackle shelter as a blinding thunderstorm rolls in. Within the world of the album, tension-inducing, howling winds strike in a steady, direct onslaught.
Although there’s a sense of stability, as Respire don’t sound particularly chaotic, the music doesn’t sound particularly restful.
The first minute and a half or so of “Tempest,” the album’s second track, is ferocious, carrying a kind of black metal intensity with a hardcore edge, and fierce intensity reappears at the opening and about halfway point of “Cicatrice.” Even in those blisteringly intense segments, the melodies feel emotionally powerful — Respire always sound poignant. The striking variety of instrumentation helps with establishing this feeling, as besides more traditional instruments, Black Line includes a vibraphone, violin, trumpet, saxophone, and more. In between those heavier segments, Respire perform a kind of orchestrally-infused, atmospheric post-metal. On “Embers to End,” the band incorporate one of those slower tempos into their monumentally heavy side, firmly establishing their emotional imprint. Across the album, Respire frequently deliver richly powerful crescendos.
Within the lush textures of their music, Respire seem to be exploring feelings like paralyzing sadness over the circumstances of ache-filled surroundings, which feels instantly lastingly relevant. The poignant, rich flourishes pretty much never end throughout Black Line — and neither do the ache-riddled melodies, expanding the pained contemplation out further and further, as if rushing throughout some ominously bleak city environment and finding desperation around every corner.
Within the music’s still powerful yet gentler moments, Respire seem to zero in on a sense of peace that can hide amidst the ruins of emotional stress. In an audio sample that appears on “Lost Virtue,” a speaker says, in part, that “even if we fail, there is an inner freedom that comes with defiance,” and the spirit of this “inner freedom” seems to sit squarely at the core of Black Line. Although the melodies across the album feel unmistakably pained, Respire also sound relentlessly powerful, performing in that complicated emotional space of pressing forward through the turmoil. At another lyrical moment that seems to powerfully capture the experience of the record, the speaker proclaims: “I want to stop running away from myself/ I want to feel the weight of it,” and this desire seems to fuel the musical explorations of Black Line. In a world of chaos, self-assurance can provide necessary strength.
Listen to Black Line below!