Few bands get the kind of dream run that Born Lion had from their formation and the release of their debut album Final Words. There was the multi-record deal with Four/Four, three singles scoring rotation on Triple J (“D for Danger”, “Good Times Jimmy”, “Good Dogs Play Dead”), a litany of hard rock dream support slots (The Hives, The Bronx, Royal Blood, Mamozets, Karnivool) and an ARIA nomination for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album as the cherry on top in 2015.
It was a simple plan, well executed – work ridiculously hard and things, hopefully, will work out. Their searing blend of razor-sharp punk’n’roll and monsterous pop hooks connected with a wide audience. From the fevered frontrow-mosh-warrior to the polite steering-wheel-tapper, Final Words was a powerful magnet for lovers of an infectious dual guitar attack and fuzzed-up riffs that seemed like they’d happily throw on a pair of gloves and size-up Godzilla.
But every new band gives the first one their all, right? With a tighter turn around, the wear and tear of the road and the increased wattage of the spotlight, bands often live or die on the fruits of album #2.
Born Lion know this tale all too well and while fellow Sydney-siders sat out the winter of 2016 by the heater with a nice Milo and a side of Netflix, the foursome locked themselves away in a tiny, frosty rehearsal space in southern Sydney for what ended up being a six-month musical journey. Here they broke in ferocious new drummer Andres Hyde (Sumeru) and whittled down their song library to the core 11 tracks that would eventually make up their next offering, Celebrate The Lie.
From there, they set sail for Adelaide to filter the material through the mind of producer Jimmy Balderstone, the man behind the beloved work of punk’n’hardcore staples Luca Brasi, High Tension and Grenadiers. Working around the clock for two-weeks straight, the team crafted a high-energy, zero-bullshit album that skyrockets the dynamic range of the band, focussing on lean songwriting coupled with wild sonic experimentation.
“We really tried to forget any kind of label that had been put on us,” confirms frontman John Bowker. “We just wanted to make something we enjoyed without being concerned as to what musical category that placed us in.”
To give the album the maximum punch possible, mixing duties were entrusted to Ryan Hazell (The Drones, Green Buzzard, The Fumes) in Sydney, who made sure the songs retained the crispness of Born Lion’s live show as well as the fine details of all the pedals, snares and amps they’d so lovingly attacked back in Adelaide.
The result is a diverse exploration of how far you can take the distorted guitars and melodic howl experience, fearless stepping over commonly-held boundaries to take in everything from Converge-esque off-time destruction to the full-tilt groove’n’croon of acts like Queens Of The Stone Age.
From the crushing final stabs of opener “Slowly Sinking”, through the maniacal bop of first single “Evil K” and the slinky bounce of tracks like “Patience For”, Celebrate The Lie sees the ‘Lion realise their full potential as one of Oz rock’s ear-rattling best.
As they prepare to “celebrate” the album release in true Born Lion fashion (hitting the road, hard), it’s safe to say they’re a band that can be counted on to enter the ring for round three.
Place your bets wisely.