Figured I should get this up before I see the band live in a few weeks.
Throwback. That's the only word that comes to mind when I'm listening to The Sword's album "Gods of the Earth." Close your eyes and it's easy to picture the music coming from a van circa 1977 with dragons and wizards and whatnot painted on the side in dramatic action. The album sways at points between the soundtrack to a Renaissance festival and some headbanging, adrenaline charged mosh pit fuel.
The production is crude and muddy, but it lends to the entire album a sense of days gone by. In an effort to make the guitars more prominent, they’ve been given the lion’s share of the final result. In an era of clean sound, The Sword purposefully buries their vocals, leaving them without the strength to interfere with the unrefined brutality of their riffs. Ranging from relentless to gloomy and plodding, The Sword offers a full array of styles for fans of old thrash, stoner metal, or let’s be honest, Black Sabbath. The whole album is then brushed over with just a little of the classic Texas metal sound (see: Pantera, Union Underground, Motograter.)
One of the things I enjoy most about this album is that you can almost hear how honest it is. While the songs can touch on the melodramatic, and lyrics are somewhat over the top, there's not an ounce of pretension to be had here. It's easy to picture the band members trying out things and deciding on a tempo or timbre they enjoy.
The interesting subtext of the way the album produced was that the band found themselves with a singular dilemma. If the guitar lines were to be the centerpoint of the album, then they must be aggressive and unique enough to justify that prominent position. The unfortunate truth is that the band doesn't always succeed in that endeavor. There are a number of great songs here, like a batting order, this lineup is strongest in the middle. Tunes with ridiculous titles such as "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians," “To Take the Black” or "Maiden, Mother & Crone," are the album's strong points, as the riffs are persistent and vital. On the ends however, is where the album falters, as the songs become too alike, or wander without destination. The riffs blend together at times, and without the strength of a strong lyrical impression, it can become trying to identify a song at any given point.
In the end, this is a good album which goes against the contemporary grain and tries something new. It doesn't always work, but what's there is promising. “Gods of the Earth” is an interesting mix of Texas metal with influences from across the Pond. Certainly worth a listen, but be aware that it may not blow you away.
Currently, The Sword is on tour with Metallica. Between dates on that tour they're doing a club tour of their own, and coming local to me. Expect a full report on the live show.