OCTOBER 28th 2016

Review by Lana Muirhead

As Lions got their start in 2015 when singer Austin Dickinson, guitarist and keyboardist Conor O’Keefe, guitarist Will Homer, bassist Stefan Whiting, and drummer Dave Fee got together following the demise of Dickinson’s former band, Rise To Remain. Homer and O’Keefe were also in the band and after losing two members to the stresses of a life in music, the trio found Whiting and Fee and began a journey into their new persona of As Lions.

You may recognize the name Dickinson, and you would be right:  Austin is the son of iconic metal grandfather Bruce Dickinson, lead singer for Iron Maiden.  But he doesn’t need to ride daddy’s coattails because he stands on his own two feet just fine. “Aftermath” is the debut EP from the five-piece, and is a healthy mix of raw emotion on a bed of driving and melodic guitar riffs, heavy bass lines, and beautifully chaotic beats. I actually found myself on a mood rollercoaster, riding the waves of music I felt equally compelled to strangle and coddle at the same time.  This is no coincidence, and the band was very strategic in their intentions, transposing them almost seamlessly from relatable human experience to hard rock reality.

Conceptually I found the album to relate to the fact that regardless of our feeling of isolation or alienation, and whatever the root cause of those feelings, we do need one another and we are not alone. Despite all attempts to destroy ourselves, there is hope that we can rebuild a society that has become too obsessed with image and too reliant on the truth of technology. Album opener and title track “Aftermath” is themed just as the title would suggest.  Lyrically it describes a post-disaster of sorts and the devastation thereof, as well as the panic of the realization of that devastation.  It is formed with creeping guitar melodies and builds to a band crescendo when that panic sets in.  At the close Dickinson’s hopeful, haunting vocals make us feel that things may turn out all right.

Next was “White Flags”, which I found to be the weakest tune on the record.  I would have actually made it the third track on the album if I were to be an anal toit about the storyline.  Regardless, it barely interested me enough to bother to lend it much weight.  It was very orchestral sounding and had a beautiful musicality but it simply did not add to the album in the way I believe it was meant to. Thankfully, it was followed up with “Deathless”: a track that had some electronic-sounding effects which actually set the stage for the theme of the track.  It kept an aggressive pace without ever crossing over to harsh vocals or hyper heavy instrumentals. In essence, it preaches that we are simply shells of ourselves isolated from the world, sadly, mostly of our own doing.  We are so obsessed with what others think that it has broken and isolated us from one another.  According to the band it relates directly to our online personas.  I took it to be a reflection on our current society as multiple silos from which we yearn for a connection and/or the confidence to just be ourselves and stop making decisions based on a fear of public scrutiny.   AKA stop hiding behind your bloody electronic devices and online presences and interact with a flesh and blood meatsack.

Closing track, “World On Fire” had an anthemic kind of sound while maintaining the guise of a ballad.  The initial buildup broke into an orchestral-like climax through the first chorus, and again we find ourselves on that rollercoaster of feeling.  The overarching idea, to have the storyline come full circle, was that we are all in trouble, we’re all burning and we do not even recognize the signs.  There’s smoke, there’s flames, yet we can still put out the fire but we have to choose to do so.  Guitar licks properly contrasted the piano-led melody and the rhythm section lent conservative support to the melancholy.

As Lions have a universally appealing sound without being the boy band-type hard rock we’ve come to expect in the current industry.  They stay true to their mission to bring the hard rock without the fluff of the teenage angst that runs rampant in most new bands recently birthed.  As Lions are not unique in any significant way, but they are more grown up than their years and embrace the heaviness of the state of the world through darker-than-their-age lyrics, and pleasantly arranged instrumentals specifically to encourage the gambit of emotions they set out to impose.

As with most European-born acts, I suspect As Lions will take twice as long to gain footing in North America.  However, being on tour with Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown they will expose themselves to exactly their type of fan and will likely spike in popularity as a result.  If they can pull an equally impressive full-length studio out of their English asses, they will easily chart across the pond.