The Firstborn is an amazing extreme metal band emerging from the underground scene in Portugal. The Unclenching of Fists is their third album, but they took over four years to write and record this challenging concept piece, which is based on Bardo Thodol - The Book of the Dead. Highly influenced by the Tibetan culture and history, the band employs a wide range of Far Eastern musical elements to create wide soundscapes. Tradional Tibetan instruments such as the sitar, flute and whimsical horn sections are woven together with the band's extreme metal roots.
Though originally a black metal band, on this disc, The Firstborn sounds more like a combination of death, black and post-thrash metal, often using vocalist Bruno Fernandes' voice doing low grunts, some brutal screams, high-pitched screams, and even clean vocals during some points. Fernandes has a very versatile vocal style, sometimes going for the laid-back spoken passages, while in the heavier cuts, doing scary guttural vocals.
At first listen, the music seems rather primitive with a very crude sound to it. Numerous plays, however, unveil its thick soundscapes enriched by layers of sampled vocals, acoustic pieces placed carefully below the incessant drum and lead guitar work, a distant female choir, and on top of it all, an intense vocal performance that gets better with every spin. I realize this may be a very challenging listen to some, but I much appreciate the way the band have forged themselves a new path in order to stand out among an overly populated genre of black and death metal. That said, the oriental instrumentation and atmospheric textures will sure remind people of other bands like Nile, Melechesh, Orphaned Land, and Mezarkabul, but since all these bands are also great in their own way, many listeners will embrace the similarities.
It should be, however, noted that The Firstborn's music flows in much more desolate and grim musical environment, often retaining its black metal roots in this respect. Add to this the powerful blast beats and somewhat tribal drum work on "Path of the Mindwalker" and the proto-black shrieks and tremelo picked guitar riffs on "Fire Channels". More technically advanced songwriting also permeats the album on the
relatively catchier cut "To Roam the Endless Plains" thanks to the brief clean-sung vocals or the perfect harmony between deep growls and solemn singing on "The Roaring Voice of the God of Death". The fierce riffage littered with mind-twisting time signatures on "Of Time and Its Absence" is akin to Nile songs, while the synth-enhanced darker tracks like the instrumental "Perception" and "Voyage" with a sick guitar solo are the band's testimony to creating bleak, cold post-black metal with intense songwriting. Recommended to those who like extreme metal bands that aren't afraid to explore new musical territory. This is much better than most black and death metal I've heard all year actually.
- Torn from Within (Awakening)
- To Roam the Endless Plains
- Path of the Mindwalker
- Fire Channels
- Movement for Practicing the Way
- The Roaring Voice of the God of Death
- Of Time and Its Absence
- Ten Offerings to Mahakala
- Golden Libation
- The Unclenching of Fists