The discovery of a new band is always exciting. Will it be something you’ve heard countless times? An experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Or is it a treat from which you cannot stop consuming? I wanted to take a trip back in time to reminisce about bands/albums that not only introduced me to heavy music, but kept me coming back for more…
From The Archive: The Sword – Age of Winters
This next group is one of those bands that you either hate, love, or love to hate. Many metalheads have expressed their disgust with these guys, based on the many reviews I’ve come across, referring to them as a second rate Black Sabbath and/or a hipster metal kids wet dream. On one hand, I can understand why fans of metal feel this way. When it comes to music, no matter what genre it is, there are an over abundance of elitists that stick to their guns and refuse to acknowledge any new band whose approach to a tried and true sound is less than stellar. But in the end, it all comes down to what the listener thinks. We listen to whatever peaks our interest and could care less what others think about it…
Austin, Texas, home of stoner/heavy metal band The Sword, released their debut album Age of Winters in 2006. The sound of old school metal, think of a slower version of Black Sabbath and containing themes based on Norse mythology and literature, welcomes the listener in with it’s slow, crushing and groovy sound. I became aware of The Sword from my brother. When I was living in Florida and attending Full Sail, I was somewhat out of the metal loop, pretty much classwork took over my everyday life. So when I received a text from him informing me about this band called The Sword, and how they had an old school feel to their sound, I was quick to scope them out. I was unsure as to how long they’ve been around, or how many albums they might have had, so a quick google search answered those questions. Luckily they only just released their album a few months before, so I wasn’t far behind at all. I had my brother send me their album as it was non-existent in any stores and even torrent sites proved to be a challenge for finding it. So to hold me over until I could get a hard copy of it, I burned the tracks my brother sent me and instantly began my journey.
My first mistake going into this album was the hype I was building up in my head. I was expecting it to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it turned out to be one of those albums that needed time to grow on me. Each song on this album follows the same formula, the guitars are down-tuned and sludgy, the bass is ultra heavy, the drums fit in nicely, and the singing is unique, especially the harmonies. And speaking of the singing, the vocal work of J.D. Cronise, is a hard pill to swallow. His style of singing is a major reason why many listeners are turned off by the band. I will admit I was not into his vocals either upon first, second and even third listens, but my interest in unique sounding vocals slowly crept in and I found myself really starting to enjoy it. Even on their second album “Gods of the Earth” as well as their third album, “Warp Riders”, he changed his delivery and I had to slowly warm up to it again. It’s unique and stands out among other vocalists, so I’m giving him props for that.
The guitars mainly stick with heavy riffing throughout the album, but throw in the occasional groove here and there. The riffs are acceptable, with a few of them really standing out and sounding like a variation of other doom and stoner bands. The solos are pretty good, but are few and far between and you will probably find yourself enjoying snippets of the solos and not the whole thing most of the time. The bass for the most part follows the guitar with slight variations on the riffs but is sometimes lost in the abundance of noise that comes from the dual guitars and the drums. Speaking of drums, Trivett shows excellent timing and intracacies but mainly he sticks with a bashing plodding beat while trying to compose songs of monolithic porportion. The track “Ebethron” features a pretty cool drum solo around the 3:05 mark.
Once I grasped The Sword and their sound, only then did I consider myself a fan. They were something new to listen to and I was really digging their album. It took time to appreciate it, but to me that’s a true mark of a solid album. But again, this is my opinion of the album, others don’t feel the same way I do. Some of the tracks that stood out the most for me were, “Freya”, “Iron Swan”, “March Of The Lor” and my favorite of the entire album, “Winter’s Wolves”. When they play it live and everyone howls, (if you’ve heard the song, you know what I’m talking about) it’s just a very cool collective moment between the fans and the band. Very gnarly!
The album isn’t without it’s flaws though. The songs come off as almost being one long continuing track, since it seems like the band is using the same rhythm for many of the songs. Also, there are moments where you feel the song could have ended a minute or two earlier, instead, it seems The Sword are having a jam session with no intention of when to stop playing. Overall, this is not an album that grabs you right away, and most people wont like this album initially. It’s an acquired taste that slowly grows on you, and for that reason, this bands unique sound deserves multiple listens to fully appreciate.
The Sword – “Winter’s Wolves”