The Firstborn
The Noble Search

How many genres fold in other cultural sounds and themes as energetically and creatively as metal? We’ve got it all: Ancient Egyptian death metal (Nile) and Christian progressive black metal (Extol). Metal from both the Middle East (Melechesh) and Middle Earth (Summoning). An entire seagoing army of epic Viking folk bands (Thyrfing, Aes Dana, Moonsorrow, take your pick). And enough Satanic, gothic gobbledy-gook to shake a goat’s skull at. We’ve even got trollish polka black metal (Finntroll), possibly one of the world’s most obscure sub-sub-sub-genres. But Buddhist metal? (And from Portugal, no less?) Well, that’s a surprise.

Even more surprising is how aggressive this epic, ambitious release has turned out to be, given the subject matter – an exploration of the Buddhist scriptures and the inner journey towards enlightenment. I was expecting something airy and expansive – heavy on atmosphere and post-rock landscapes of the mind’s eye – but it appears The Firstborn’s take on this transformation is much more tumultuous.

The Noble Search blasts truth-seekers with a roiling, sludgy brand of melodic death, with a heavy Mastodon/Gojira influence – right down to the churning Brann Dailor drum fills. In fact, there’s little about the monstrous opener, “Illumination of the Five Realms,” that outwardly communicates Buddhism at all, at least not until a sitar and chime comes in towards the end. Later tracks like “Flesh to the Crows,” “In Praise of Reality” and the frantic title track, bring even choppier, chaotic sounds, pulling from the blastbeats of black metal and the angular riffage and wreckage of post-hardcore. Other phases, like the dismal crush of “Water Transformation,” or the hypnotic, maniacal mantra in “Sunyata (The Wisdom of Emptiness), slow to a more contemplative state, but without sacrificing the menace that makes the rest of the journey such a blazing, dangerous revelation.

The vocals are equally as muscular and powerful, ably switching between a gruff snarl and more demonic screams (some courtesy of Proscriptor from Absu). There’s also a slithery, guttural clean vocal which might take some getting used to – it seems like an attempt to capture the otherworldly croak of Tibetan throat-singing. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just comes off as too elastic and distracting, like someone’s left an Iced Earth record to melt in the sun. Given the other elements at play, I’m usually able to let this odd vocal treatment go by, although I hope vocalist Bruno Fernandes tones it down on future releases, because everything else here is fantastic.

Definitely one of the more unique efforts I’ve heard this year. For those of you always on the lookout for something new, go and meditate on this one.

Written by Jordan Itkowitz

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 7th, 2009


  1. Commented by: LoftComplication

    Their last album “Unclenching Of Fists” was pretty damn stellar as well. i had no idea they were releasing anyhting i will def. check this out.

  2. Commented by: ceno

    Never heard them before, but sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review, Jordan.

  3. Commented by: timshel

    Such a well written review — once again, Jordan, you’ve made me check out a band I would’ve passed over otherwise. Didn’t Yob explore the Buddhist thing also? I seem to remember some lyrics inspired by Eastern spirituality on “The Unreal Never Lived”, but I could be wrong.

  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    thanks guys, appreciate it. hope you enjoy it.

    and yeah I bet there are other bands who have touched on Buddhism/Eastern philosophy. In fact, after doing some more poking around, I found a band called Rudra that bases its music off the Vedic manuscripts.

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