Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Album of the Week - The Sword "Gods of the Earth"

Wayne's Take:

In short, your opinion of The Sword after listening to their latest album, Gods of the Earth, will be pretty much the same as your opinion going into it. If you enjoyed the Sabbath-meets-Maiden riffing on 2006's Age of Winters, you'll find just as much to love on this one. If you're a tr00-Nazi who sticks up his nose at any metal band that gets the thumbs up by the indie cognoscenti, then go on your way, you're only wasting your time here. I think Xasthur might have a new album that you might enjoy more.

That said, even after several weeks of tearing into this one, it's not immediately clear how the new platter stacks up to the band's debut, at least in a "Which one is better?" situation. It's a close call. While I mightily enjoy the instrumental majesty of Gods-opener "The Sundering", I can't help but be a little let down that it doesn't lead to a bigger climax, or at least segue more seamlessly into the next track, much in the way that "Celestial Crown" led into "Barael's Blade" on Winters. After the opener, there's nothing in the first chunk of Gods--good as it is--that stacks up to the "Celestial Crown-Barael's Blade-Freya-Winter's Wolves" opening stretch on Winters.

It's wildly unfair, of course, to expect a second album to work the same magic as the first. Besides, this is very light criticism, especially when you consider that once the record hits first single "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians", the whole thing catches on fire, and doesn't let up for the remainder of the album, going instantly from "very good" to "excellent." The band--while still very much in the Iommi y Ozzy tradition--goes on to play even further with their NWOBHM-twin guitar elements and Slayer-esque thrashabouts than they did on the debut, and the results are explosively entertaining. Guitarists J.D. Cronise and Kyle Shutt dispense plenty of Two Horn Tasty riffs on this bastard, and Cronise's vocals give the right amount of weight to what are basically lyrics about battles and wizards and other D&D-styled dorkery. Special attention is also to be paid to one of contemporary hard rock's best rhythm sections--bassist Bryan Ritchie and the shirtless, straight-backed beast that is drummer Trivett Wingo. These guys do a great job laying down solid rolling thunder for Cronise and Shutt to play on top of, and yet, they manage to do so in ways that make them stand out, as well. Ritchie is fantastic at supporting the main riffs, while throwing in nice counterpoint of his own, while Wingo does some of the most tribal, most musical drumming that I've heard so far this year.

Mark's take:

I made a list of random musings on the Sword for this week's review

1. Thank you, Rock Gods, for the Sword
2.Thank you for The Age of Winters
3. Thank you for the last half of 'Gods of the Earth,' because in my opinion, the last half is a bit more cohesive than the first half. Yet the first half is pretty damn good.
4. Thanks Mr Wingo for moving from Seattle to Austin. And for drumming without your shirt on. That's hot.
5. Thanks for letting me be honored to have seen these guys at the Subterranean when I did.
6. Thanks for allowing me to see them at Reggies when I did.
7. Thank you for the Battle imagry despite your normal appearances.
8. Thanks for sounding like a young energetic Black Sabbath
9. Thanks for the guitar solos that seem to come from nowhere and sound as effortless as good rock can sound.
10. Thank you to whoever makes those little frozen Taquitos that I get at the store that I usually eat when I get home from metal concerts....

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