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sabato 8 marzo 2014

Lord First - The Wordless Wisdom of Lord First

#FOR FANS OF: NWOBHM, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate
Although the words "Lord" and "Fist" are each powerful standing alone, their juxtaposition as "Lord Fist" can be construed as somewhat homo-erotically suggestive, especially considered in the light of the title of the third track, “Velvet Gods” (more on this track below). I don't know if this was the band's intent, i.e., are they first openly gay metal band? If so, in this day and age, I would think that their music should speak for itself regardless, as when Rob Halford publicly outed himself years ago, he amusedly commented that no one noticed his S&M stage regalia (leather and studs) as being derived from the homosexual subculture of the 1970s. Yet he lost no popularity in his standing as the "Metal God" as a result of that personal revelation. I have noticed that vocalist sticks primarily to his lower register except for one high scream introducing the break on "Velvet Gods". It's clear that whoever is handling the vocal chores has a competent singing voice, although most of the melodies are rather monotone, in that regard, and could use some harmonies on the song choruses and refrains—we do hear some of this on “Velvet Gods”, but it sounds like multitracked unison vocals of the same voice, not the harmonious combining of several different voices. Upon later re-listenings I discovered that there actually are some subtle harmonies buried in here, they are the same voice, and they fail to grab the listener’s ear (I couldn’t detect the harmonies until I played the song back through headphones vs speakers in my car). Based on this, I assume that one of the instrumentalists (probably the rhythm guitarist) is also the vocalist? It is refreshing to hear heavy music without the requisite death or black metal percussive growls, which seem to have become de rigeur in all metal subgenres save for power and progressive metal. Even symphonic metal seems to have adopted the juxtaposition of an operatic female vocalist on some verses contrasted against the guttural, neo-percussive vocal growls and rasps which have become so common on so much metal music today. However, that having been said, the vocal timbre doesn't stand out as its own instrument, particularly as the vocals are practically buried in the mix on the first track. This leading track, entitled “Lord of the Night” starts off with a hammered-on riff--removing the pick attack--along with glissando chord accompaniment. It then breaks into a thrash beat, with numerous high speed repeating atonal riffs over the top of the rhythm: almost a 'Maiden meets Slayer meets Dragonforce' kind of vibe, except the overall recording has a very demo-ish sound to it. The drum kit is pretty dry, but the snare, instead of having a sharp 'snap' to it, instead has a 'boxy', amateurish tone, that is distracting from a band trying to present itself as a metal band. The guitar distortion on the rhythm guitars sounds like a weak, early-mid 1960s kind of rock distortion, neither scooped nor having the heavy bottom expected from heavy metal guitars on modern-day recordings. The lead guitar's tone sounds almost like a mild, jazzy overdrive, sort of out of place in these type of compositions. The second track, “Headless Rider” starts off with a drum beat with a bass riff which sounds like an homage to early Paul Di’Anno/Steve Harris-era Maiden. First one guitar starts playing a modal riff, then a second, blends with a twin guitar harmony lines reminiscent of Thin Lizzy. The closing track, “Fire Within”, starts to show the potential of Lord Fist, with more interesting and soulful vocal melodies, than the first three tracks. Also, the riff-progression toward the second half of the song makes a nod to the minor tonalities of classic Sabbath. I’m not sure if “Wordless Wisdom of Lord Fist” is Lord Fist’s first or second release, as I found what was labeled as a demo of theirs elsewhere, entitled “Spark for the Night” which also consisted of four songs. The songwriting and production of “Spark…” seemed more mature than those “Wordless Wisdom….” In any case, the second half of “Wordless Wisdom” seems to contain the better tracks of this release. With an overall improvement in production (updating the guitar and drum tones from the 1960s-era studio sound/1980s basement demo sound), they could well appeal to fans of Maiden, Sabbath, and peripherally, even Thin Lizzy—if they continue to use modal guitar harmonies as a feature in most of their compositions. I think they should continue to shape their style in the vein of classic rock and power metal as that seems to be the niche that fits them best, and this reviewer believes that it is from there that their best material will be yet to come. (Bob Szekely)

(Ektro Records - 2013)
Score: 70