Release Date: Apr 1, 2008
Record label: Kemado
Genre(s): Rock, Metal
The Sword emerge from the lumbering sludge of Black Sabbath-style ’70s metal that defined their debut, Age of Winters. Now worshipping at the ’80s altar of Judas Priest, the foursome crafts steely guitar-monies for Arthurian epics like ”Maiden, Mother & Crone” on Gods of the Earth. Although vocalist J.D. Cronise can’t quite hit the castrato peaks of Priest frontman Rob Halford, Sword’s hell-bent-for-leather propulsion (”Under the Boughs”) and twisty song structures (”Lords”) are more than enough to induce your ears to bleed with pleasure.
Ain’t going to be easy for the Sword to shake the hipster metal tag, especially when their Kemado label is best known for shitty 80s electro-pop throwbacks. They’ve made a valiant effort to rid themselves of all qualifying prefixes on Gods Of The Earth by basically putting their heads down and rocking harder than they ever have before. Of course, hilariously outlandish quasi-mystical song titles like Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzephyerians probably won’t help their cause, but the progressively regressive arrangements, more skilful riffing and their relentless, groove-conscious attack will go a long way toward endearing them to serious metalheads who’ll appreciate the Sword’s obvious Sabbath, Maiden and Budgie inspiration.
When history looks back on the first decade of heavy metal's 21st century resurgence, it will do so through the increasingly vast libraries of Guitar Hero. The Sword unleashed a gloriously unpretentious and multi-hued slab of Black Sabbath-inspired doom-retro-stoner-whatever metal on 2006's Age of Winters, casting out a lure for both current heavy metal fans and those who left the fold when hair metal brought the preeminent outsider music in to be devoured and nearly destroyed by the general public. "Barael's Blade" and "Winter's Wolves" sounded like relics unearthed in the basement of a Birmingham steel mill during the initial New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, a genre that the Austin, TX, quartet seems intent on re-resurrecting on its sophomore release, Gods of the Earth.
The Sword's debut was one of those albums that presented a vision so complete, finding an audience was merely the final component. When Age of Winters arrived in 2006, they were hardly the only band working on the sounds of early heavy metal. But it felt like the product of years of planning. From the art nouveau hesher Valkyrie on the cover to the tales of warriors told within, it all served to buttress the twin-guitar epics.