Heredity can be a blessing and a curse. Unless you’re George Clooney, you will be endlessly compared to that elderly, more famous relative of yours no matter how different you proclaim to be. Often, lineage will be the curiosity factor that garners early attention, but even more often it will be a stumbling block to legitimacy. Take Lauren Harris, for example, daughter of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. She’s been trying for over a decade to make a go of it, with little luck. Another “Child of Maiden,” Austin Dickinson, is bravely trying to carve his own path, first with unmemorable metalcore act Rise to Remain and now with As Lions. Does the apple fall far from the family tree? Should we care about this debut album?
First of all, despite As Lions being three-fifths of Rise to Remain, this is not another bland metalcore band. As Lions are straightforward modern metal, shiny, with all the burrs and edges filed down. Roughly speaking, As Lions come off as a young version of Disturbed. Second of all, while Selfish Age is the band’s full-length debut, we’ve heard half these songs before, courtesy of last year’s EP as well as other downloads. So really this could have been another 6-song EP, as none of the older material has been reworked.
“Aftermath” is the opening track, a radio-ready anthem we were introduced to on last year’s EP. It’s short and to the point (in fact, only one of the eleven songs on Selfish Age crack the four-minute mark), slick-sounding, drenched in effects and washes of keyboards, with subdued verses and massive choruses – a far cry from Rise to Remain’s metalcore offerings, and a clear attempt at generating a hit single. While the song doesn’t particularly stand out, Dickinson shows us he actually has a great mainstream metal/hard rock voice. He’s pitch-perfect with good technique, has a decent range, and never succumbs to the urge to match his dad’s air-raid style. While the songs don’t have a lot of variety, they do range from heavier anthems such as “Deathless” and lighter, keyboard-heavy fare such as “White Flags.” Aside from these slight variations, every cut on Selfish Age is a blatant (but competent) attempt at writing a hit single, meaning it’s all harmless fun with choruses you’ll find yourself humming at times despite not really being sure which songs they’re from.
Speaking of family trees, production for some of these tracks is handled by Kane Churko, son of Kevin. The elder Churko, as some of you might know, produces modern metal ranging from In This Moment to Disturbed to Five Finger Death Punch to Hellyeah, and a gazillion more acts. Having trained in the shadow of Mutt Lange, Kevin puts a high-gloss sheen on every album he produces, and Kane is no different. The songs and arrangements here sound so generic I couldn’t actually single out a great or bad one, even after six listens. The mix has more gloss than a nail salon and the mastering process compresses everything into an inoffensive wash of heavily processed sound.
Inoffensive is the correct term to use for Selfish Age. There’s nothing bad on here: musically the performances are solid, the production is slick and modern, and Dickinson does himself proud with his vocals. However, this is such a safe, formulaic album, clearly designed in an attempt to garner As Lions as much satellite radio airplay as possible, that not a thing stands out. As Lions might have a future (Rise to Remain’s career lasted all of one album), but they’re going to have to come up with some catchy material for their next release.