When London metal outfit RISE TO REMAIN called it a day in January 2015, after releasing just one critically-acclaimed album four years prior, many wondered what would come next for the band’s members. As it turned out, the answer for frontman Austin Dickinson, rhythm guitarist Will Homer and bassist Conor O’Keefe was to immediately form AS LIONS. The band quickly picked up momentum on the road, touring with the likes of WOVENWAR and TRIVIUM, but not a whole lot happened in terms of actual song releases, until last October when the five-track EP Aftermath provided a glimpse into the band’s slick take on a modern rock sound. Now, three months on from that first taste, and about two years on from their initial formation, AS LIONS finally have something more concrete to show for it, in the form of full-length debut Selfish Age. But now to the important question – has it been worth the wait?
From the off, it’s very clear that AS LIONS are a very different venture compared to RISE TO REMAIN. Ditching the latter’s metalcore trappings in favour of a more general rock sound, the five-piece instead attempt to evoke a far more cinematic tone reminiscent of latter-day LINKIN PARK, to varying degrees of success. Opener Aftermath (one of 4 tracks carried over from the EP of that same name) begins not with a riff, but with a synth undertone that later evolves into something that resembles a lighter (and much younger) SHINEDOWN. It’s arguably an incredibly safe opener, with little in the way of aggression, but it does accomplish its goal of setting out for the listener what the next 35 minutes or so are going to sound like.
The Suffering has a bit more bite to it, with crunchy riffing and a strong vocal that’s not too dissimilar to recent TRIVIUM output in terms of style (albeit with less finesse and power). It’s a theme later echoed on penultimate track The Fall, and these moments are really where the band sound at their – when you can really feel the contributions of all five members in the songs’ power. Sadly, these moments are few and far between though, as the band seem to struggle with finding a set style throughout the record – flitting between heavier and more pop-edged numbers with alarming irregularity.
At their core, AS LIONS are pretty much a pop-rock band though, and this is perhaps most evident on the album’s title-track Selfish Age – a relatively limp electronic-laden number that seems to want to sound like a dodgy amalgamation of several different bands, to very little success. Even Dickinson’s vocals sound slightly iffy here, the whiney and clichéd chorus in particular dragging down what could be considered a half-decent radio single to some.
Arguably one of the album’s strongest moments (if not it’s best overall) comes about mid-way through with the single White Flags. Likely familiar to anyone who attended last summer’s Download Festival in the UK, thanks to constant rotation on the main stage screens, the track packs one of the most memorable choruses anywhere on Selfish Age, with a genuinely emotive-sounding vocal from Dickinson. That said, it’s impossible not to feel let down somewhat by the production job, as what should be crushingly powerful guitars and drums seem pushed back slightly too far in favour of keyboards and vocals.
Perhaps the most glaring problem with Selfish Age unfortunately though, is that it suffers in a lot of places from a lack of truly memorable moments. Whilst the aforementioned White Flags packs a fairly memorable earworm of a chorus, the rest of the record is arguably lacking in such moments. Indeed, most of the album’s second half simply doesn’t stick long in the mind, such is the generic nature of the songs. Likewise, the guitar tones on Selfish Age also seem to leave a lot to be desired – often seeming either near-inaudible or simply of such poor production quality that they might as well not be present. It’s disappointing really, as the band do seem to possess some genuine songwriting talent and a great frontman in Austin Dickinson. We can only hope that their next effort has a little more power behind it.
Selfish Age is out now via Better Noise Records.
Like AS LIONS on Facebook.