The Firstborn - The Noble Search
Major Label Industries
Progressive Metal
8 songs (45:45)
Release year: 2008
The Firstborn, Major Label Industries
Reviewed by Goat

As ‘Prog’ as Progressive Metal can be, few take the bother to look back to the roots of the genre in the 60s, when artists such as The Beatles wrote Pop songs with Eastern scales and instrumentation. Well, The Firstborn, hailing from Portugal and with some of the most blatantly Buddhist lyrics ever written, appear to want to change that. Opening track Illumination Of The Five Realms bursts in like recent Mastodon, drum histrionics barely covered by Sludgy riffing and Bruno Fernandes’ vocals, but it’s the sitar towards the end of the track that really makes you sit up and take notice, adding that promised Eastern tinge and being oddly reminiscent of one of Behemoth’s weirder moments. Following track Water Transformation alternates a more laid-back style and going all riffy on us, the overall effect somewhere between Gojira and Alchemist, with frequent dips into Death Metal. Before The Firstborn, members were in an occult Black Metal band called Firstborn Evil, and moments of Black brutality do crop up here and there, especially on the inappropriately-named Bliss.

Of course, one has to wonder what old Siddhārtha Gautama would make of his teachings being put to violent, Thrashy, Sludgy Metal like this. As defined and declarative as Bruno’s vocals can be, this is still more than enough to make any local Buddhists you play this to less than happy. Still, what I wanted most from The Noble Search – Progressive Eastern Metal! – did just about exist enough to make this an enjoyable listen. Moments like the ending section of the aforementioned Water Transformation are Proggy and Eastern enough for most people, and the variety in the songs is excellent. Touches like the tribal drumming and sitar breakdown in Flesh To The Crows (featuring the vocal talents of one Proscripter McGovern) are good, but all too often the band break into heaviness without having a specific strategy in mind. Where a group like Cynic make it obvious that they work out each section of each song strenuously, The Firstborn seem to throw stuff together because it sounds cool. The whispered section in Sunyata (The Wisdom Of Emptiness) is one example; if those riffs were any deeper, it could be mistaken for dreadful Nu-Metal. As it is, the fact that it’s backed by some nifty percussion helps it a lot, but this is not as good as it wants to be.

Despite that, as mentioned, The Noble Search is a good listen, assuming you go in with low expectations. On a mere Metal approach, the band have put the work in, tracks like In Praise Of Reality bristling with Tech-Metal ambitions. Yes, I’d have much preferred ten-minute epics written around glorious themes that used the Eastern instrumentation properly, but for what it is, this is far from poor. It’s hard to imagine another band singing lines like ‘With stainless jewels blazing in the sun of the Buddha’s hand/He bestows consecration to his foremost children’ without even a hint of mockery, but you get the impression that The Firstborn take this all very seriously, and really, Buddhism is one of those religions that it’s hard to criticise. Yet as close as The Firstborn have come in The Noble Search, they’re quite a distance from nirvana.

Killing Songs :
Illumination Of The Five Realms, Water Transformation, In Praise Of Reality, Bliss
Goat quoted 71 / 100
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