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The Firstborn - "Lions Among Men" (CD)

The Firstborn - "Lions Among Men" CD cover image

"Lions Among Men" track listing:

1. Lions Among Men (8:48)
2. Without As Within (9:13)
3. Wantless (6:01)
4. Vajra Eyes (7:22)
5. Eight Flashes Lances (7:08)
6. Nothing Attained, Nothing Spoken (8:53)
7. Sounds Liberated As Mantra (7:19)

Reviewed by on April 27, 2012

"If 'Lions Among Men' could be boiled down to one word, it would be this: boring."

The Firstborn is touted as an “avant-garde black metal” band over at the reliable Metal Archives, but their new album “Lions Among Men” has very little of what could be conceived as black metal. This is groove metal, and not the fist-pumping, Pantera kind; the kind that drags on and on like watching the film August Underground at half speed. Sitars bring a Middle Eastern/Indian flair to a few songs, but that does little to justify the exuberant lengths The Firstborn get out of this material. If “Lions Among Men” could be boiled down to one word, it would be this: boring.

It would be a lot easier to disparage this album if the musicians were untalented or if the band was comprised of newbies working their way through a first album. However, The Firstborn has been around for over a decade, and is capable of solid music. Each song has the basis for a spectacular result, but with the average song crawling out to seven minutes, the quality isn’t consistent. The band has done lengthy songs before, but not a whole album worth of them, and this inexperience shows in dull affairs like the title track and “Vajra Eyes.”

Whether it was blind luck or some greater hand at work, the last few songs shine more diligently than the first half. “Eight Flashes Lances” puts on a speedy display that punches the album with an energetic fury, bookended by a fantastic guitar solo that creates one of the few lasting memories left of the album. Closer “Sounds Liberated as Mantra,” largely instrumental in design, emphasizes the Middle Eastern style and does so without getting too overbearing. Having an album with songs like this would have created a bigger success for The Firstborn.

Instead, the album gets off to a grueling start and never picks up steam from there. Imagine sitting down and preparing to give “Lions Among Men” a listen, not knowing anything about the band prior. Excitement builds up, as the listener wonders what The Firstborn is going to sound like. A slow-churning riff fades in, and things look promising. Then it goes on for a minute: two minutes: three minutes: four minutes, and nothing of note happens. By the time the whole band rouses to life, it’s as exciting as hearing your significant other tell the story of their day for the 456th time.

That’s the only impression “Lions Among Men” left on this writer. It’s a sour listen, taking an hour to get through, and having nothing discernible to latch onto. If it wasn’t for having to review it for this site, “Lions Among Men” would have been left collecting digital dust in an iTunes folder. It’s not the worst album heard this year, and it’s bound to be perceived as a winner by a certain audience, but “Lions Among Men” is more of a chore than a pleasure to take part in.

Highs: A few decent tunes near the end of the album, band is more than adept at their instruments, a few sharp ideas peak up

Lows: Forgettable sound, each song drags on needlessly, takes forever to pick up momentum

Bottom line: A dull and trepid album from The Firstborn, "Lions Among Men" won't find much of an audience besides their long-time fan base.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)