Much was expected of Black Breath ever since they exploded out of the Pacific Northwest like a, well, breath of fresh air, behind their self-released EP Razor to Oblivion. Oddly enough, though, at the time of the group's signing by Southern Lord, much was made of their hardcore roots (think Discharge, Disfear, and local heroes Poison Idea), instead of their even more pronounced death metal qualities -- in particular the amazingly abrasive and infectious Rot 'n' Roll style first championed by Sweden's Entombed on their 1993 watershed Wolverine Blues LP. The reason this bears pointing out is that Black Breath's debut album, Heavy Breathing, is almost entirely dominated by the death metal influence, and hardcore is relegated to a few vocal inflections from frontman Neil McAdams, who has otherwise embraced Cookie Monster growls along with heavy metal's typical horror/gore/fantasy subject matter. Subtract a few more cuts committed to putting Motrhead's decapitating speed bursts (or the classic D-beat, take your pick) through the death metal Cuisinart ("Eat the Witch," "Fallen," the first half of "Virus") and Black Breath's remaining material -- the dirt-encrusted riff of "Escape from Death," the title track's malicious melodies, the deliberate, elephantine grooves of "Unholy Virgin" -- sounds exactly like Sweden in the early `90s, not Seattle in the late 2000s. All of which is actually just fine and dandy since Black Breath's tunes are, for the most part, outstanding enough in their own right, making it easy to both forgive and forget the group's overwhelming inspirational debts. After all, it's only Rot `n' Roll, isn't it? Original or not, Heavy Breathing represents song-oriented death metal at its finest.