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Lions Roar : March 2013
in their album art. Sometimes there’s real substance. There’s no better example than Portugal’s The Firstborn. Starting as a death-metal act, the band soon found inspiration in The Tibetan Book of the Dead—hey, it worked for The Beatles— and used it as the basis for their first LP, The Unclenching of Fists, recorded in 2004. This was followed by 2008’s The Noble Search and last year’s Lions Among Men. Both explicitly address dharmic themes (Buddhist scriptures and Mahayana Buddhist thought, respectively) while incorporating an Eastern musical palette into an often aggressive, always full-spectrum sound. Phenomenal Expression: If “thinking person’s metal” is your thing, The Firstborn are essential. You can stream (and pur- chase) all three of their albums at thefirstborn.bandcamp.com. Likewise, Buddhist-curious punks and punk-curious Buddhists should seek out Black Hole Records’ excellent Ruin retrospective, Songs of Reverie and Ruin. Left to right from top: Meshuggah, ObZen; Queen Elephantine, Garland of Skulls; The Firstborn, The Unclenching of Fists; Yakuza, Samsara; Sons of Otis, Songs for Worship; Deadly Light, No Gods Within the City; Ruin, Songs of Reverie and Ruin; Loudness, The Everlasting; Akon/Family, Meek Warrior Separated at rebirth? The Against the Stream/ Dharma Punx logo and Blast!’s It’s In My Blood. The interconnection between Buddhism and punk is pretty well established by now: Zen teacher Brad Warner writes about them both and still plays bass for the revivified old-school punk outfit Zero Defex. Dharma Punx, established by Buddhist teacher Noah Levine (also the founder of Against the Stream), even repurposed a cover graphic from Black Flag contemporaries Blast! for its logo. And as far back as 1982, Philadelphia’s Ruin, founded by guitar- ist and future Buddhist author/scholar Glenn Wallis, was covering Leonard Cohen (reportedly a Ruin fan himself ) and performing its own Buddhism-informed material. Just as punk and metal eventually crossed over into each other, it was only a matter of time before dharma and super-heavy metal- lic music did the same. Sometimes only a slight influence, or even straight-up cultural co-optation, is at play: cult-favorite bands like Yakuza, Earth, Sons of Otis, Meshuggah, Stargazer, and Skullflower, as well more arena-oriented acts like Rage Against the Machine, Loudness, and Uriah Heep, have all used Buddhism-related imagery