When the Sword emerged in 2006, no one quite knew how to take the Austin-based quartet. Four guys in their mid-20s who sang about wizards and warlocks like they were the little cousins of Ronnie James Dio?!
Now the Sword are back with their second album, Gods of the Earth, and it's something of a retro-metal manifesto. Black Sabbath may be the obvious influence here, but the Sword's style is equally indebted to mid-'80s thrash metal. "The Sundering" and "The White Sea" are built around the kind of staccato, palm-muted riffing popularized by Metallica, Megadeth and others.
Singer/guitarist John D. Cronise and guitarist Kyle Shutt make a formidable axe-wielding duo. Both musicians bring some of the virtuosity that defined the venerable guitar tag-teams of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden into the netherworld of doom metal. Drummer Trivett Wingo, meanwhile, makes it a trifecta. His commanding, punked-out performance recalls monolithic '70s kingpin John Bonham (symphonic gongs, anyone?), while bassist Bryan Richie stays buried in the mix.
If you're looking for a literary equivalent, Gods of the Earth could be the soundtrack for the fearsome black riders in The Lord of the Rings—all galloping thrash-metal riffs accompanied by strangulated, off-key vocals. To the believers, this album will be hailed as the second coming of NWOBHM-inspired thrash/doom. The nay-sayers, meanwhile, will look at titles like "How Heavy This Axe" or "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians" and know this band may be teetering on the edge of Spinal Tap territory. To each his own…