Review by Jason Guest
Having been referred to as “Avant-garde black metal”, the residue from Portugal’s The Firstborn early days as a black metal band – called The Firstborn Evil – may still be present in the band’s aesthetic grandeur and the vehement delivery of the songs, but not the underlying philosophy. Far from dancing on the grave of humanity, The Firstborn have long been taking inspiration from the teachings of Buddha and his Tibetan offshoots. Add to that a strong sense of melody and the use of Eastern instrumentation and what you have is a band that are masters of making music that’s quite special. Lions Among Men, their fourth full length, demonstrates The Firstborn’s intuitive writing, song-craft, and ability to weave thought-provoking lyrics with enchanting melodies played against intricate rhythms.
With songs ranging from six to nine and a half minutes in length, lapses are usually to be expected, yet these guys manage to maintain and stimulate interest throughout all seven tracks. The predominantly slow- to mid-paced tracks are elaborately arranged with an array of textural diversity and so have an organic feel, each one growing slowly and naturally taking shape. So where songs of such length easily fall foul of technical indulgence, The Firstborn’s technical proficiency is balanced with their proficiency at creating deep layers rich in texture as well as substance. The unusual structures and surprising twists and turns occasionally move the music into the unpredictable, the dense, heavy atmosphere lightened by the mystical melodies. Where the darkness remains in the riffs, these are countered by the use of Sitar, an instrument that colours the album with a ritualistic element. And Bruno’s vocal performance, from the heavy and aggressive to the clean and melodic, brings an interesting dimension to the aesthetic, his theatrical delivery (similar to that of Primordial’s Nemtheanga) on ‘Eight Flashing Lances’ brings an air of the dramatic to proceedings.
With Lions Among Men, The Firstborn have managed to avoid the clichés of those who choose to “experiment” with their sound. There’s not one filler here, nor is a moment wasted. It’s been four years since their last album – 2008’s The Noble Search – and that time has been well spent. Fantastic production, fantastic songs, and fantastic performances. Definitely worth your time.
- Lions Among Men
- Without as Within
- Vajra Eyes
- Eight Flashing Lances
- Nothing Attained, Nothing Spoken
- Sounds Liberated as Mantra