REVIEW: Heavy Breath “Muddy Life” [EP]/New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper

One of my jobs in the music industry is a live audio engineer at a few different venues around Connecticut. So I see a lot of local acts on a regular basis. Although I have a certain amount of respect for all my local musicians, there are a few bands that are just so incredibly awesome that I really look forward to seeing. Heavy Breath is one of them. I was introduced to them last year when they opened for Old Man Gloom at the Space in Hamden, CT. They recently released an EP titled Muddy Life, which will be coming out on a 12-inch this spring on Battle Stag Records and is available now on their bandcamp page.

THE RECORD: Heavy Breath Muddy Life Battle Stag Records

Muddy Life cover art

With a name like Muddy Life, I was expecting slow sludge, but I think a truer description would be a roundhouse kick to the gut. I like the contrast between the screams and the more melodic vocals on “Chekhov’s Bomb”, a track that also name checks the album title (“Complacency is enemy because this is Chekhov’s bomb/It’s a muddy life”).

“Be The Prometheus” is my favorite track of the three. It’s got those fast, punk rock drums with heavy, slower guitar riffs in between that I totally dig.

and of course, as someone who works in sound on a regular basis, I think the mix is well done on all of these tracks. Sometimes sludgy guitars get lost in a mix but all the instrumentation is heard really clearly and well-balanced.

Even the artwork is awesome- I am a big fan of vikings, so the combination of a horned helmet and a battle axe make for an awesome cover. I was told that it’s actually a screencap from the most recent season of Dexter, so I don’t know if that’s what’s going to be on the cover of the physical album. If it’s not, I hope there horns involved regardless.

My only negative thing to say is that there’s only 3 tracks. They totally leave me wanting more. I guess I’ll have to check them out live again, because Heavy Breath is a band that needs to be cranked up and rocked out to.

THE BREW: Imperial Stout Trooper- New England Brewing Co.- New Haven, CT

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I’m definitely a lover of stouts. They are my favorite beer style and although I enjoy plenty of them, the Imperial Stout Trooper is my favorite. It’s made right in my home of New Haven, CT AND the name is a Star Wars reference. What’s not to love? But even if it was made somewhere else and wasn’t Star Wars-related, it’s a great example of the stout style. The color is almost black, with a thin tawny head. Aromas of sweet milk chocolate, smooth, creamy mouthfeel. It’s great aged, or cask-conditioned in bourbon barrels.

THE PAIRING: I try to pair local bands with local brews whenever possible. This in-your-face EP needed a big beer to drink with it. Nebco’s Stout Trooper, like Heavy Breath’s music, is massive, but it goes down easy. Delicious on the ears and palate. Some stouts are tasty but sometimes too intense and difficult to drink. Kind of like some hardcore and metal bands. Heavy Breath’s music has a lot going on with it, but one of those qualities is a sort of punk rock sensibility that draws you in immediately. I would probably drink this beer either before or after seeing this band live, but not during because I wouldn’t want to pit it out with a tulip glass in my hand. And let’s be honest, this isn’t a band you’re going to watch live and stand still for.

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LIVE HOPS: Q&A With Modern Merchant

Modern Merchant will be performing Tuesday, February 26 at Cafe Nine in New Haven with Caveman and Computer Magic. I chatted with Modern Merchant about their upcoming record, playing shows, and of course, what beer the band drinks.

You have a new record called For The Fields coming out. You’ve already made one track, “Like Minded” available on your bandcamp. Can you tell me what to expect from the rest of it?

The final stages of releasing our record are taking a bit longer than we expected so we will be releasing it March 30th.  We will be handing out download cards at the Cafe Nine Show for two free songs as a gesture of our gratitude for anyone coming out to see us.  We would tell you which two songs but why ruin the intrigue?

Each song on “For the Fields” definitely has its own flavor, a few are dark and noise, others are a bit more crisp.  Overall there are plenty of 3-part harmonies and dynamic shifts.

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I’ve heard a lot of compliments on the album artwork for this and I really
like it too. Can you tell me a little background behind it and who did it?

 The artwork was designed by the incomparable Brian Cook (thecookblog.com) who has done the majority of our gig posters and also designed our demo cover.  We wanted something that stood out. Brian always creates really tasteful artwork and we couldn’t be more grateful.  He’s basically an honorary member of the band at this point.

The art is really open for interpretation, but here’s how we see it: The majority of the tracking for this album was done in the woods during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy; we then mixed it during a blizzard up in Buffalo, NY.  Even amidst the pandemonium of these storms, we somehow managed to make something cohesive, and suppose the red letters could symbolize our stedfast bravery during that chaos.

I know you [bassist Mike Skaggs] personally from being an audio engineer. How does that
experience affect the recording process with Modern Merchant?

 Think of how a mechanic works on their own car.  We know how we want it to sound and feel and the engineering experience just helps get that sound more efficiently.  That or drive ourselves crazy, its a double edged sword.

You guys did a brief tour in September- are you planning on touring again
in support of the new record?

Definitely.  We’re planning a short tour at the end of April and working on a bigger tour for this summer.  We had an absolute blast in September and can’t wait to get back on the road.

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I understand that the band as individuals resides in Brooklyn and
Connecticut. Does being in two different states add a different vibe to the
songwriting?

It definitely allows us to cross-examine ourselves a bit more than if we were to always be playing in the same room with one another.  Basically we have to constantly record each song as we are developing them which has worked really well so far.  We always manage to come together at the end – that’s what’s most important.
Your hometown shows in New Haven are always a great time. What’s your
favorite part of playing locally?

We love the enthusiastic crowd and playing for friends and family.  It’s also great that there’s such a tight-knit music scene — bands really support one another other.  And the pizza… bacon, broccoli and mashed potatoes from BAR!

And of course, the beer blog question du jour, what beer will you be
enjoying after the show?

We typically drink IPAs (Sea Hag) but this cold weather is making us want a good stout (Left Hand Milk Stout).

You can check out Modern Merchant’s music on their Bandcamp page, or just come out to Cafe Nine and see them live! Tickets are $10 and are available at Redscroll Records in Wallingford, online, or at the door.