ALBUM REVIEW: 3 to Breathe aids ‘Survival’ of grunge

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First Posted: 7/7/2014

“What the heck is ‘progressive post-grunge?’”

It might seem like excessive genre hair-splitting, but that tag, which Wilkes-Barre band 3 to Breathe has adopted for itself, really does hit the nail on the head. The group’s sound, as exemplified in its long-awaited first full-length “Life After Survival” (available now on iTunes and Amazon), doesn’t fit cleanly under the cut-and-dry headings on your average record store’s shelves.

Album opener “Shipwrecked” introduces the band confidently, with brooding atmosphere to burn. It’s hard not to feel like you’re drowning as Nick Davison’s bubbling black bass lines swallow you from below, while frontman Mike Kaminski’s crunchy, chugging guitars build a wall around you and Cameron Lewis’ sharp, jolting drums shove you down again and again into the rising tide.

Melody reigns supreme, though. From the puking punk fury of “Shutter Island” and “Puppet” to the bouncy surf-tinged “By Myself” and the roiling ballad “Runaway,” songcraft is never lost amid all that atmosphere and unrestrained passion. Every track is an engine, moving methodically toward a crescendo of intense release.

While bands like Puddle of Mudd or Creed long ago ran the “post-grunge” label through the dirt, the “post-” prefix indicating now only derivative dilution, 3 to Breathe reminds us what post-whatever music should be. The band doesn’t use grunge as a formula to be imitated, but as a launch pad, a spot from which to rocket off into a great big universe of emotional exploration.

Kaminski’s on-a-dime oscillations between bruised, Maynard Keenan-esque croons and throat-wrecking, animal-in-a-bear-trap howls adequately summarizes the band’s nebulous nature. Influenced as much by eclectic, mind-bending acts like Tool and Clutch as grunge icons Nirvana and Silverchair, 3 to Breathe mixes in liberal doses of thrash, punk, industrial, stoner rock, and groove metal.

“Life After Survival” revives an exhausted genre, plunging deeper into the sound while simultaneously pushing at its boundaries from inside out.

3 to Breathe ‘Life After Survival’ Rating: W W W W W