I’ll always contend that the most exciting part of consuming music is discovering something new – an artist or band or record that just completely enraptures you – like you found the world’s greatest secret and can’t wait to share it with anyone and everyone. That’s Respire – the Toronto sextet that’s turning heavy music on its head. The band’s new record, Black Line, is 41 minutes of pummeling drums, jazzy time signatures, and swelling horns. It’s exhilarating blackened screamo with the ethos of Broken Social Scene – Respire burns down the boundaries of what extreme music can be. Below, the band walks us through their impactful new record track-by-track.
Black Line begins as the year 2020 did, with distant sounds of growing fire. We wanted to create a prelude in the operatic sense, a counterbalance to set the stage for the drama to come. Our lives have become an endless cycle of tragedy, watching one devastation unfold after another. Written-in-studio and recorded at the start of the year, during the Australian bushfires, BLIGHT, our densest orchestral work to date, is an attempt to convey the distant removal of disaster, the ever-numbing horror that is life in the great decline.
”Tempest,” and the album at large, mark a shift in our thematic subject. While our lyrics have previously focused inward, Black Line looks out – begging the possibility of authentic recovery in a world growing increasingly ill. TEMPEST is about reclaiming agency in a world we often feel like mere spectators in – a world that abets the rise of fascism and drives climate catastrophe. It’s about finding peace in spite of it all, in the inevitability of destruction, death and decay.
Life corrodes. We are the decay always present, coded into our genome, the cancer begging its host’s downfall. What is it to live in 2020? We continue to destroy, to corrupt and brutalize our world even in the face of annihilation. We deny science in a pandemic, deny our privilege even as the victims of our social order surpass the millions. Destruction is our calling card, and it is also the theme of our final act. Let the great upheaval begin. Let the flags burn at the top of their poles. “Cicatrice” is about willing the end of society’s ills.
Our last album, Dénouement, was fundamentally about individual hope. The possibility of being better, of being free of the afflictions that bind us to our misery. It was in effort to find virtue, a light unwavering, present even in the murky depth of addiction. But what of our society? The common threads that bind civilization all come together in violence. Our only history is one of dominion and subjugation, played out through the injustices of one “government” to the next, always in service of the few at the peril of many. Where is virtue to be found?
With “Kindling,” we wanted to create a distinct pause, an intermission from the chaos felt all around. 2020 has brutally ripped off the veil to reveal the crossroads which we stand at. It is all too easy to lose ourselves in the overwhelming weight of tragedy. We must collect each other and the things that matter most. We must breathe, and move forward, together.
”Embers To End”
As immigrants and minorities, we are raised with the distinct pain of losing; of losing our homes, our connections to family, to origin, to belonging. Perhaps due in part to this loss, we continue to turn the other way as more and more of our own lose everything. From the staggering share of COVID infections within lower-income “essential worker” class to the ongoing detainment of migrants in pseudo-concentration camps, it has never been clearer who the expendable members of this social order are. There is a lesson to be learned from our loss – if it happened to us, it can happen to you.
”Flicker And Faint”
All this tragedy, all this pain, all these futile attempts of maintaining control over the inevitability of destruction and decay – where does it lead us in the end? Our world will see a sunrise without any of this, without any of us. In our fight against finitude we create monuments feigning the timeless dominion of man, but nothing is timeless. We have this one life before our own eventual end, this one opportunity to find true meaning and live however authentically we can.
”To Our Dead Friends”
Our pain is not by accident. Our afflictions are but mirror reflections of the true nature of society – of the incessant drive on individual prosperity over communal benefit, of brute success at the cost of everything and everyone else. We are isolated, forced into our competition, left to blame each other for the inescapable alienation we feel at every juncture of the rat race. We let greed take over, we numb ourselves with substances, we close further in – we lose sight of any authenticity. “To Our Dead Friends” is a reminder of the isolation felt in addiction, and the empowerment felt within the communal – within support and mutual aid, mutual respect and recovery.
”Catacombs Part II”
Nothing is permanent, and everything is passing. Our world is dying, and our systems will continue to fail us. Even in the face of such desolation, there will forever be a shining light in our communal bond, always hope for the things that could be in the purity of love. We escape addiction by building community, we empower voices by collecting them as one. There is immense power and relief to be found in allowing oneself to be together with others. It’s time to embrace the ones you love, hold them close, and march headfirst into the next chapter – even if it may be our last.