Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Firstborn - Lions Among Men

The Firstborn
Lions Among Men
Rastilho Records

Initially starting out as a black metal outfit (The band’s 1998 debut ‘Rebirth Of Evil’ was released under the name of Firstborn Evil), Portuguese outfit The Firstborn has been slowly evolving over the last dozen years to emerge with a sound and style that is completely removed from what they started producing - these days focussing on predominately Buddhist based lyrical themes, and music that is more akin to progressive/groove metal. Four years after the release of their highly regarded ‘The Noble Search’ effort, the quintet (Comprising of vocalist Bruno Fernandes, guitarists Nuno Gervásio and Filipe Lima, bassist Hélder Malícia and drummer Rolando Barros) are back with their fourth full-length effort ‘Lions Among Men’ - which is also their first release through Rastilho Records.
The first track on the album is the title track ‘Lions Among Men’, and it’s the first to show the progression the band has made to their sound in the years since their last release. The song begins with a long and slow building introduction that draws the listener in, before settling into a doom heavy groove that brings to mind Neurosis at their bleakest, albeit with some eastern influences heard within the intertwining swirling guitar tones and subtle percussion instruments. Fernandes’ vocals are a mix of harsh spoken word efforts and deep audible growls, which work exceedingly well with the dense eclectic sound mix that emerge from the band. Direction wise, the song showcases a greater groove and structured sound to anything from their former releases, and with the subtle eastern instrumentation incorporated into their sound more this time around, the whole track seems to tie in more with the what the band have long been producing on the lyrical side of things.
‘Without As Within’ doesn’t stray too far from where the opener left off, with the groove dominating the overall sound of the song for the most part. But having said that, the brief pockets of atmospheric passages that allow Fernandes to focus more on his clean voice do add a bit more variation to the up-tempo number to make it stand out as different.
The use of sitar (Provided by Luís Simões) on the Sepultura-like ‘Wantless’ is a welcome addition to what is otherwise one of the album’s more riff driven tracks, while ‘Eight Flashes Lances’ and ‘Nothing Attained, Nothing Spoken’ are the definitive stand out tracks on the album with their energetic up-tempo drive, and the best examples of where the band’s metallic sound and the dynamics of the eastern instrumentation work perfectly in harmony.
Finishing up the album is the instrumental piece ‘Sounds Liberated As Mantra’, which isn’t too dissimilar in direction to the above mentioned tracks in terms of incorporating eastern sounds into a traditional metal sound, but differs in that the band focus more on guitar leads and an overall progressive direction, which gives the song a sound different from the rest of the album - but in a great way.
‘Lions Among Men’ isn’t going to be the sort of album that will find a wide audience amongst traditional metal fans. If however you’re a fan of Neurosis, Sepultura or Australia’s own Alchemist, you’ll definitely find something of interest in the music The Firstborn conjure up.

For more information on The Firstborn, check out - http://www.lionsamongmen.net/

© Justin Donnelly