THE SWORD
"Gods of the Earth"

(Kemado)

01. The Sundering
02. How Heavy This Axe
03. Lords
04. Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians
05. To Take the Black
06. Maiden, Mother & Crone
07. Under the Boughs
08. The Black River
09. The White Sea

RATING: 8/10

The self-appointed guardians of the underground have gotten so good at sniffing out frauds, they can even spot a swindle where none exists. How else to explain the hate directed by scenesters at THE SWORD — why? Because they're young, or from Austin, or don't have matted beards flapping desultorily in the breeze? Fuck all that — if you put this moss-encrusted tome of mothballed Valhalla rock into your stereo and you don't exult at the righteous worship of PENTAGRAM, CIRITH UNGOL, and SABBATH oozing through every pore of these hessian bastards, then the problem is you, not THE SWORD.

Surprises, you won't find — this is retro worship slavish enough to leave drool on Bobby Liebling's beer-and-failure-stained denims. But the quality is a quantum leap from "Age of Winters", the band's debut, which itself was a pretty satisfying piece of metal. This one, from the shamble-thrash of song #4 (I'm not typing that fucktarded song title again) to the THIN LIZZY-in-a-cave lilt of "To Take the Black" to the "Supernaut" swing of "Maiden, Mother & Crone", just hits you in that sweet spot and never lets up. Catchy as hell, with a gloriously filthy guitar tone and those laconic double-tracked drug-rock vocals that speak of the quasi-mystical bullshit that goes so well with this kind of doom shake. It even ends with "The White Sea", one of those album-closing "play awesome riff, repeat for so long you hypnotize the listener" epics (see OBITUARY's "The End Complete" for a prime example) — it's the perfect mind-blowing cap to a lysergic journey through some well-traveled, but always enjoyable, cosmic paths.

It could be argued that it's all kind of one note clanking after a while — Iommi riffs and avalanches of drums, lots of low end and van-wizard-mural lyrics. Sure, we get it, and in less skilled hands it would be unforgivably goofy. But THE SWORD, regardless of what era they've decided to pretend they live in, write good songs and play the hell out of them, and that's what makes them such a treat to listen to. "Gods of the Earth" is hopelessly retro and incorrigibly stuck in the past, and you wouldn't want it any other way.

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