1) The Ripper
3) Snap Dragon
4) Rat Bastard
5) Baptismus A Sanguine
6) Goat By The Throat
7) Pogo The Clown
8) Wolf’s Breath
9) Baba Yaga
10) Robot Monster
11) Bitch In Black
12) Jesus Speak
13) The Crimson Ghost
Having originally formed way back in 1992 under the name of The Fiends, Sugar Virus is a band that was recently brought to my attention with the release of their new album Wolf’s Breath. Having evolved over the past quarter of a century, the band advertises themselves as putting a darker and heavier spin on our beloved genre of horrorpunk. I’ve had Wolf’s Breath in my collection for some time now and been sporadically listening on and off, but just recently have I taken the time to sit down and really give the album a shot.
Right from the opener, The Ripper, the band does immediately go to work on giving that aforementioned harder edge to the genre. The Ripper is a driving tune that really does a good job of introducing the band to new listeners. It spotlights all the members of the band well with driving drums from drummer Evan Jones, in addition to a solid bassline provided by bassist Johnny Davis. The guitars from guitarist Spencer Lewis and guitarist/vocalist Jason Virus are solid and all of it comes together to compliment the vocals from Virus rather well. Following up on the opener is Kali which begins at first to seem centered around a hook until evolving into a much harder track, giving way to the harsher side of the vocals. Snap Dragon reverts back to the more melodic side of the band, and I found the song to have the sort of vibe to something you may have heard on an alternative radio station back in the ’90s, and I mean this as a compliment. The album continues this way with the band switching up a bit of the style on nearly every track, with highlights from the middle part of the album being the more melodic Baptismus A Sanguine and the entirely instrumental Pogo The Clown. Pogo features arguably some of the best guitar work the genre has seen in a long time, feeling almost like it would be more in place on a thrash metal album.
With Pogo almost seeming as an interlude between the first and second half of the album, vocals are reintroduced on the title track. Wolf’s Breath has a certain sense of heaviness to it yet not in the traditional sense. I can’t quite explain why, but the song felt like it had an air of sludge-style metal to it. The band follows the title track with an extended musical introduction before a slower track on Baba Yaga. At over seven minutes, Baba Yaga is not only the “Freebird” of the album, but may also be the longest song in the genre released this year. It’s also a standout track for the vocals of Jason Virus. By this point of the album you will likely have already made a decision on whether or not you are a fan of the vocals, but if you aren’t sold right away, this is the song you want to jump to.
The last third of the album kicks off from there, with Robot Monster featuring Virus‘s vocals really leaning into Danzig territory, an attribute which 98% of horrorpunk bands feature at some point in their careers. Bitch In Black is another song with some absolutely killer musicianship backing up the vocals. Jesus Speak begins with a leading and strong bass line, and also has a bit of that sludgy feeling again before exploding into the chorus. The album closes with The Crimson Ghost, which is shockingly not a Misfits cover, but it is fast much like that song. While it is a fun song, it may have been better to close the album with Jesus Speak instead. Not to say that The Crimson Ghost should have been cut from the album, rather that the prior track just feels it would have been a better way to cap off the album.
It’s incredible that this band has been around in some incarnation since 1992 yet I’ve just only recently discovered them. But I can say that after listening to Wolf’s Breath, I will undeniably keeping an eye on the band and whatever they may come up next.
You can pick up your own physical copy of Wolf’s Breath and the band’s other releases at their CD Baby page, or if you would rather go the digital route it is also available at the Devil’s Brew Productions BandCamp page. Also be sure to give the band a Like on the Official Sugar Virus Facebook page to stay up to date on the band.