Review: The Sword ‘Gods of the Earth’

Originally reviewed for Noize Makes Enemies, 2008.

The problem with modern reality (or one of them, anyway) is a lack of epic quests. Not once have I ever seen a bare-chested warrior ride atop a noble steed toward a waning sun. Nor have I ever witnessed a raging battle being fought among the tallest peaks of uncharted snow-capped mountains. Hell, the most exciting journey I’ve been on this week was to the Post Office.

The Sword, however, are tellers of such mythical tales. Whether they themselves have ACTUALLY mounted severed heads on wooden spears or sailed iron ships across seas of blood is debatable, but also irrelevant, as they manage to effectively channel this desire for escapism into fantastical stories of magic and good old-fashioned heroism. Whilst it’s the otherworldy lyrics that provide one huge portion of The Sword’s appeal, even if at times they could conceivably have been writen by an alcoholic with a rhyming dictionary, the truth of the matter is that the music was always designed to steal the show.

In their blending of colossal Sabbath-esque riffs, grungy vocals, almost constant cymbal crashes and stoner rock droning, they’re essentially mixing and matching some of the most prominent sections of rock history from the last 30 years. Consequently, it’s nothing that hasn’t been heard before. When they get it wrong, riffs begin to grate, and there are times when tracks are in danger of stagnating, but when they get it right, as on ‘Lords’ and ‘Maiden, Mother and Crone’, which are surely destined for future Guitar Hero soundtracks (interestingly, ‘Freya’ from their previous full length featured in GH2), they can produce an intensity and authenticity all their own. Their strength is in their delivery, and their whole-hearted approach to simply going hell for leather and giving it all they’ve got. In short, it’s a reminder to the likes of Wolfmother that it is possible to borrow and tweak a few riffs from the past without sounding desperately uninspired.

It’s a technical, guitar-heavy album that doesn’t feel at all compromised, concentrating purely on perfectly capturing the raw power and buzz of their idols. Like their lyrics, The Sword are essentially representative of a far-off, almost mythical time when metal was all about the music and the joy of playing. With ‘Gods of the Earth’, they’ve made a noble attempt at recreating such a time.

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