Monday, February 11, 2019

CD Odyssey Disc 1227: The Sword

Let it snow! It is snowing hard in my part of the world, which doesn’t happen very often. I kind of like the snow, as long as it doesn’t stick around too long. After about a week I’ve pretty much had it with shoveling the sidewalk, for example.

Anyway – on with the next album review!

Disc 1227 is… Gods of the Earth
Artist: The Sword

Year of Release: 2008

What’s up with the Cover? Lo, even though their temples be smashed to rubble, the Gods of the Earth shall rise up! Lightning shall illuminate the sky over the Canyon of the Ancient Ones! Also…there shall be a sword! A shiny one!

How I Came To Know It: Youtube recommended the band to me and once I was on to them, “Gods of the Earth” came along as I drilled through their back catalogue.

How It Stacks Up:  I have four Sword albums. Of the four, I rank “Gods of the Earth” last, but even at #4 I still really like it. As this is the final Sword album in my collection, here is a full recap:

  1. Warp Riders: 4 stars (reviewed at Disc 1165)
  2. Apocryphon: 4 stars (reviewed at Disc 1138)
  3. Age of Winters: 3 stars (reviewed at Disc 1055)
  4. Gods of the Earth: 3 stars (reviewed right here)
Ratings:  3 stars

If you thought the album cover for “Gods of the Earth” was heroic, wait until you hear about the music. This is “majesty of rock” action right down to the core and while it doesn’t quite have the same standout singles as my favoured Sword albums, it rocks just as hard.

I listened to this album while walking home in a blizzard. The last time I listened to an album coming home in a blizzard it was Big Daddy Kane (Disc 1108, if you are inclined). I almost wrecked my MP3 player that day as I insisted on pulling it out in the snow and looking at each song title on the walk.

I was determined to avoid this mistake today, so I put the Walkman into my jacket’s breast pocket where it would stay both warm and dry. This, plus the Sword’s propensity to ROCK OUT at equally awesome levels throughout a record, had me losing my place on the album.

It turns out…this was kind of fun. It made the record feel even more like a cohesive whole. It also kept me firmly connected to the band’s churning crunch without giving my frontal lobes a chance to be part of the conversation. They would have just waxed poetic anyway. More on that later.

But first, another tip of my hat to the band. At the forefront of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal – the Sword show that you can honour traditional musical forms and still sound fresh and current.

What’s more, these guys are a true ensemble. JD Cronise’s vocals have a nice throaty power, but they aren’t going to shatter any glassware. Kyle Shutt’s guitars are thick and confident, but he doesn’t shred solos often. Instead, the two of them (plus drummer Trivett Wingo and bass player Bryan Richie) play as an ensemble, creating a rich power pocket that lurches inexorably forward like a tank across a muddy field of battle.

When I got out of the blizzard, I was able to pay a bit more attention to what these songs are about. Like Iron Maiden before them, The Sword revel in tales of epic fantasy. “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” takes its title and most of its plot from an original tale of Conan the Barbarian, as a man chases a beautiful but dangerous giantess across the tundra. “To Take the Black” is straight out of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” about the members of the Night Watch who forsake their former lives to guard a wall against the undead.

Both “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” and “To Take the Black” are filled with equal amounts of heroic derring-do, even though the first one is someone risking his life trying to get laid, and the second is about a bunch of guys risking their lives while agreeing to never get laid again. Hey, heroism is complicated.

My personal favourite title is “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians.” I have no idea who the Hyperzephyrians were, but it all sounds Terribly Important:

“Our legends tell of weapons
Wielded by kings of old
Crafted by evil wizards
Unholy to behold.”

Hmmm…I hope those fire lances come with a warning on the label, like “not recommended for nobility below the level of king” or “behold at own risk”. But I digress.

I liked “Gods of the Earth” best when it delivered a mid-tempo crunch and a bit of groove, less so when it got frantic and busy and sacrificed melody for crunch. Even in full gravel-mixer mode, though I couldn’t deny the band’s energy. These guys rock out and they sing about the kind of cool-assed stuff that appeals to the fifteen year old Dungeon Master in all of us. Well, in me anyway.

Best tracks: The Frost Giant’s Daughter, How Heavy This Axe, Maiden Mother & Crone

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