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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

First Born’s ‘Evilution’ actually fit to survive

Published: October 14, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

Two weeks ago, I read an article in The Hoot about raw metal band First Born and their most recent recording effort, “Evilution.” What I read not only irked but also frustrated me.

Like many other students around campus, I found the First Born album sitting in stacks on the benches in the student center—most likely through the efforts of a street-team organization—and, on a whim, grabbed a copy.

The first thing that struck me was the artwork of the cover. Perhaps it’s a point of contention among modern music journalists, but I personally love the classic metal artwork used on First Born’s “Evilution.” Aside from a clever title alluding to the musical sway of the album (which, let’s face it, many albums lack these days), First Born decorated “Evilution” with a series of three skulls, each progressively more symbolic than the last. The first, most likely belonging to a Neanderthal, symbolizes where we’ve been. The middle, a simple human skull, symbolizes our now. But First Born’s cleverness becomes cemented in my head when I look at the third skull, the one closest to me in the picture. With widened eye sockets and grotesque teeth, this can only be the skull of a demon or goblin, symbolizing our descent into darkness and evil. Perhaps this all is a little far-fetched and not what the First Born members had intended, but that doesn’t detract at all from the great artwork of the album cover, reminiscent of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood,” Megadeth’s “Peace Sells … but Who’s Buying?” or Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast.”

Yet my description of the simple attributes of the album cover are where my agreements with the previous First Born article in The Hoot stop. From the start, I was irked by the terminology used to describe First Born as a band. Comparing the album to other “laughable death metal albums” is a complete erosion of what the album is about. Perhaps death metal is a little outside the reach of the mainstream, but that doesn’t stop it from attracting legions of followers worldwide. As was explored in the rockumentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey,” death metal, with its roots in New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), speed metal, and classic hard rock. Death metal also has offshoots in the realms of thrash metal, black metal and power metal; it is a genre all its own not to be confused with the sounds of the other genres. To mix and match these terms completely derides the subtle but important differences between them and in such a way patronizes the bands that make the distinction.

If the confusion of musical terminology wasn’t enough to frustrate me, I was completely put off by the patronizing way the music itself was described. Calling the album nothing that “hadn’t [been] heard before,” the author derides the album’s vocalist for “want[ing] to sound like Bruce Dickinson [the lead vocalist for Iron Maiden] but [not] hav[ing] the pipes for it.” What the focus here seems to miss, however, is that the lead singer does in fact possess the falsetto talents to create an interesting combination of high-pitched wails alongside raw, guttural growls. To me, the sound seems like an interesting mix of Pantera and Judas Priest, with the latter showing influence in the falsetto vocals. Rob Halford—the lead vocalist for Judas Priest and the possessor of an eight-octave range—is clearly a strong influence here, along with the aforementioned Bruce Dickinson.

Yet it’s not just the vocals that are pushed aside without any real analysis. The guitar work, too, seems to slip below the radar of the article, causing us to suffer greatly in missing out on some great metal chords and note progressions. With clear influences like Dimebag Darrell Abbot (Pantera), Glen Tipton (Judas Priest), Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden), Steve Clark (Def Leppard) and Kirk Hammett (Metallica), I am more than a little impressed by the screaming guitar notes on the album. Songs like “Dimensional Traveler in Time” and “Feed the Insane” demonstrate some of the best attributes of speed metal: fast guitars, rumbling bass and drums, and blasting vocals laced over everything. With solos bordering on influences like the Scorpions and Motörhead, First Born achieves their clear goal: to make a heavy metal album reminiscent of the golden age of metal with all the frills and bells attached.

As for the lyrical themes of the album, no, they’re not anything special or existential but that doesn’t mean they’re terrible either. The typical heavy metal topics apply: relationships, anger, disdain, philosophy, death, despair and redemption. Yet these are the topics that buoyed such classic albums such as Scorpions’ “Love at First Sting,” Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” and Anthrax’s “Spreading the Disease.”

I’m reminded of a more classic form of Disturbed’s sound, trading in the alternative metal aspect for the thrash metal exterior. I would highly suggest listening to this album. If you’re a metalhead, I suggest it even more. Here I’ve found a modern band that brings me back to my first discoveries of Metallica and Iron Maiden. It gives me a giddy hope that real thrash metal isn’t dead and that there are new bands out there making new albums every day that could be the next “Ride the Lightning” or “Bomber.” That’s a good thought to help me sleep at night.