The Firstborn “Unclenching of Fists”

What exactly is The Firstborn you ask? They are a death metal outfit from Lisbon, Portugal. And why write about them here? Well if you’ve read some of the other posts here on this blog, I am a huge death metal fan. That’s partly where the title of this blog came from, but anyway, back to the reason I wanted to write this. The Firstborn has been around for many years now (over 10) and have been working very hard to get their music heard. What amazes me is they are not more known, because they are really top of the line I think.

What makes them really different though is the fact their lyrical content is not typical of a death metal band, it’s not all blood and gore and horror stories. No, the most recent CD “The Unclenching Of Fists” is actually a concept album, written with the Tibetan Book of The Dead in mind. I asked Bruno why they decided to use this as a concept and he says…

“We started out with a more aesthetic approach to the music in “The Unclenching of Fists”, being that our main concern was the music and not the concept within. But in time that came through as a bit shallow and disrespectful, even.So I decided to add more depth to the album, and started reading a bit… the Bardo Thödol was one of the first works I stumbled upon, and after reading it I felt inspired and immediately began writing lyrics. Looking back after having read much more, I see many naive flaws and maybe it wasn’t very wise to write about such an influential work so early in my research, but I see it as an “impressionist” approach and one that, while flawed, still retains the purity and wonder of my early discoveries.”

And like the book itself, this CD is a voyage to regions we don’t normally travel. I was curious and wanted know if there was something maybe a bit deeper, were the members of the band practicing Buddhist’s themselves?

“Although I still don’t consider myself a Buddhist, the fact is that ever since I started reading about it my views on life have changed considerably. That is why I don’t see myself as Buddhist in a religious perspective, but I definitely have learned much from what you could refer to as Buddhist “philosophy”. It’s odd that musings so detached from our “reality” in both space and time make so much sense, perhaps more now than ever. The simple approach to existence (and non-existence) that Buddhism conveys operates almost like an anchor on this miasma of materialism we live on. I think this is why more and more westerners turn to Buddhism nowadays, to find answers to their questions, and then to question their answers. Some may find its teaching too simplistic, but the fact is that the complexity of our existence often has the simplest answers. Understanding the principles of impermanence, suffering and no-self brings perspective to the petty mundane affairs we waste our lives dwelling upon.”

For those familiar with metal music, I would compare The Firstborns sound on this (The Unclenching of Fists) disc to early Amorphis, some influences of Nile and even hints of Morbid Angel. They don’t really stick to typical arrangements for this genre. There are off-time changes, slow chuggy riffs, speedy riffs, this band is all over the spectrum. Even the vocals go from gruff growling, to screeching banshees to a vocal style reminiscent of an 80’s metal band (or even more recent power metal bands). Comparisons aside, The Firstborn are doing something quite original. They are not playing trends and sounding like the millions of other metal bands out there. I am very excited to have heard that they are working on a new disc. Like a kid in a candy store, I had to ask Bruno when it would be coming out.

“Our new album, “The Noble Search”, should be out in early 2008. It’s a natural evolution for the band, as we’ve taken the experiences from our last album and refined them. Obviously some things worked better than others, and there are many possibilities we didn’t explore in the past… so it’s very demanding, but rewarding. I’ve drawn inspiration from the so-called “Buddhist Scriptures” for this album, which resulted in a less linear narrative but it opened many new soundscapes for the band. We’re still writing some of the material, but most of the songs to be featured in it are already closed. Before the album comes out we’ll also release a limited split 7″ with our Singaporean friends (Rudra), masters of Vedic Metal. They’re an excellent band and it’s a release I’m really excited about.

Hearing this news I’m excited, but lacking a 7″ player, maybe I can convince Bruno to burn it to CD for me, hint hint! Bruno did send me a rough version of a new song, “water Transformation”, and I’ve got to say it’s another great, epic tune. Musically what these guys are doing could be called nothing but genius. They mix layers upon layers of sound creating a larger than life sound. Almost everytime you listen you can hear new elements at work.

For those interested you can check out the sounds of The Firstborn on their MySpace page. But I’d recommend just buying the CD! If you are a fan of metal, looking for something that sounds like nothing else, The Firstborn are it. I am amazed they don’t receive as much attention, the deserve it and more. Good luck to the band and I wait (im)patiently for 2008 to roll around so I can pick up the new stuff from these guys.

4 Comments

  1. Well this is different, and an interesting concept too….but I haven’t listened to Death Metal in I think 15 years. Good for them though!

  2. I found this post to be very interesting, so I started leaving a comment but the comment started getting as long as the post itself so I just wrote a post about it! Thank you for putting this conversation up, it gave me something to mull over this morning.

  3. […] Kelly under Uncategorized  While I don’t listen to the death metal music genre, I found this post quite interesting to hear the musicians progression from basically using the Buddhist teachings as […]

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