There’s a song on The Sword’s new album, Gods of the Earth, titled “How Heavy This Axe.”
Really, I could have left it at that. I mean, it pretty much sums up everything you need to know about this album. In just four words it paints a pretty vivid picture, of both the kind of axe a burly Warhammer barbarian might swing, and the other kind of axe, with which one might engage in a totally different kind of shredding. And let’s not forget the heaviness. Because heavy, my friends, is what this album is all about.
So yeah, I could leave it at that, but I won’t. Ever since hearing Age of Winters two years ago, I’ve developed a fondness for the Austin, Texas band. Though they’ve endured a few rounds of `hipster metal’ dismissal, The Sword can hold their own and fend off the most beastly of foes with their thoroughly awesome chops. Nowhere is that more apparent than on Gods of the Earth, on which the doom-boogie band conjures up some epic lightning and shoots a fearsome, fiery bolt straight toward the listener’s defenseless ass.
In fact, given the subdued introduction to the album via the first half of opening track “The Sundering,” the oncoming storm seems hardly detectable. It doesn’t take long for the rain of hellfire to begin, as the brief instrumental soon erupts into the sort of chugging monster that The Sword crafts so well. “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” takes the band’s sound to a new heroic peak. While the approach—drop-D tuning and shuffling rhythms aplenty—is largely unchanged, its length and its varied parts and movements make it a metal maelstrom to be reckoned with.
Alright, then there’s “How Heavy This Axe,” and it certainly lives up to its name. While fierce enough to command the sort of brutality it suggests, its catchier rock `n’ roll style (with plenty of soloing and instrumental breakdowns) makes it a great choice for a single. Paired with “Cavern of Mind” by Saviours, it’s a prime example of 2008’s best metal jams. But “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians” kicks a fair amount of tuchus in its own right, hell-bent and careening toward oblivion with hyper speed riffs. Truth be told, as impressed as I was with this band the first time around, I hardly knew they had this in them.
The Sword may have gone bigger this time around, and they may have taken their epic rumble to greater extremes. Still, what’s most appealing about The Sword is their accessibility, or rather how they balance it with an old school metal sensibility. Never too pop, yet still proving that melody has a place in metal, The Sword proves that the most destruction can only come from worlds colliding.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.