Archive for the ‘The Sword’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE SWORD-Warp Riders (2010).

I have heard some great things about this disc from The Sword–that it was old school metal who usually sang about swords (duh) and sorcery but were warping into the future on this disc.  I put the disc on and was blown away by the opening track, the instrumental “Acheron/Unearthing The Orb.”  It sounds very 80s metal: heavy guitars, and great riffs coupled with tremendous solos.  The second song opens just as strong but then something weird happened.  I hated the lead singer’s voice (my discussion of their previous disc came to the same conclusion).  It doesn’t do ANYTHING that 80s metal should do–it’s neither growling nor yelly nor operatic.  In fact, once the vocals kick in, the song takes on a distinctly non-metal feel.  More specifically, it feels like heavy classic rock from the 70s.  The guitars are still heavy as anything, but the melody and vocals change things.

I really didn’t like the album all of a sudden, until I listened a few times and accepted that this blend actually worked.  Once I acknowledged that it wasn’t what I thought it would be, I wasn’t disappointed by it anymore, and I was able to really enjoy it.  “Tres Brujas” has a simply wonderful sing along chorus that I can’t get out of my head.  And it continues in this vein–heavy riffs (the guitars on “The Chromancer 1: Hubris” and “The Chromancer II: Nemesis” (love the names!) are really heavy) and surprisingly catchy choruses. 

The biggest surprise comes with the song “Night City” which sounds like, well, like Thin Lizzy.  The macho riffs, the swagger, the lyrics, it’s all Lynott.  And once I realized that, I really understood what The Sword was all about, and the disc has been in heavy rotation ever since.  I don’t mean to say that I had to analyze the disc to “get” it, but once it all clicked, it clicked really well.

[READ: December 13, 2011] “The Pharmacist from Jena”

This is my first story from Michael Dahlie and I have to say that I was hooked from the start. 

The story is set in 1912, when the narrator was sent from his home in Stockholm to Winslow, Indiana.  He was sent to work with his uncle as a pharmacist’s assistant. 

It’s in the second paragraph, after the exposition, that things take off: “My uncle was a passionate lover of cocaine and had situated himself in such a way that he supplied nearly all the nearby interested parties.”  He was also renowned as a great “voluptuary and eroticist.”

There is a real plot, which gets established late in the story, but in the beginning, the story is all about the narrator’s adjustment to this life.  How his aunt seemed to believe he was a girl and decorated the room accordingly.  How his uncle had a fight with a bear (long story) in that very girl-themed room (long story) and how the room was soon, no longer girl-themed.

One thing I really liked about the story was the narration.  Like: “At the time I was living in Winslow, it was fashionable for wives of wealthy men to suffer from mental disorders.”

His uncle experimented with shock therapy, but he mostly used it for erotic experimentation.  The end of the shock experiments occurred when a local husband found out what the good doctor was doing (from the burns that his wife received at the doctors hands).  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MASTODON-Blood Mountain (2006).

As I was in a metal/Black Sabbath kick, and Mastodon is always mentioned as a fantastic metal band, I figured I’d give them a try. As with The Sword, I saw no resemblance to Black Sabbath, and at first I was afraid it was just another sludgy death metal record.

[DIGRESSION]: I just read a great article in The Believer about the USBM (United States Black Metal) scene, and how it compares to the black metal in Norway and other European countries where the bands take the music seriously enough to burn churches and such. The article was really interesting. I knew some of the bands that he talked about, but the only ones I had heard were the “grandfathers” of the genre, like Venom and Bathory. Any of the new bands that he focused on, if I’d heard of them at all, I certainly hadn’t heard them. Regardless, it was a great read, and really got me hankering for a band like Mastodon, even though they’re not really in the genre at all.

Anyway, after two listens, I really got into the Mastodon album. I don’t know anything about their previous releases (except that they are heavy), but Blood Mountain is all over the map. It is a fascinating mix of thrash metal, hardcore, beautiful melodies, prog rock, and total chaos. In fact, the song “Bladecatcher,” is three and a half minutes of total insanity. I haven’t heard anything lie it since John Zorn’s Naked City. There’s a beautiful melody which progresses into a screaming guitar riff, which morphs into a headbanging thrash part which basically just unravels into a noisy spasm, wherein the high-pitched noises might be voices, or might by keyboards, or might just be the machine melting. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SWORD-Gods of the Earth (2008).

So I used to be really into heavy metal. I’m not so much anymore, although I do enjoy the occasional bout of heaviness. However, I had been listening to some Black Sabbath recently, and I guess I was in the mood, because when I read some descriptions of The Sword, I was intrigued. Black Sabbath kept coming up as an obvious precurosr. So with that and the reviews saying they use silly middle earth swords and sorcery lyrics and they have screaming guitar solos, I had to get it. It sounded great.

And the first track, a fantastic instrumental, lived up to the hype. It’s fast, it’s furious, the guitars are totally something that I would have HAD to learn how to play back in high school. It was amazing. And then the second song kicked in, and it was great too. Finally I got to hear the singer, and when he started singing, the lead guitar played the vocal line in tandem and it was awesome. And then the lead guitar stopped and the voice was….where? It was mixed way way way in the background, sounding like he was in the next room. What was the point of all the weird fantasy lyrics is you couldn’t hear them?

And so it is with the bulk of the album. The music is first rate: excellent riffs, great harmonized guitar solos, Middle Eastern (by way of Led Zeppelin) atmospheres. The acoustic guitar even pops up in a couple of places too, showing a nice range of diversity. All kinds of things that make metal so wonderful. And yet, it’s so hard to get into the voice. It sounds kind of reedy and thin. If you crank it up really loud, it kind of works. His voice does creak through on occasion. And yet, with bombast like this, you expect the voice to be out there in front, leading the way like Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford. I guess if you grew up listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, you have a certain, if not standard, then expectation. Maybe if you grew up listening to some of the great stoner bands of the 90s, the muted voice is just par for the course, which is fine, but the guitar riffs don’t jibe with that. And, frankly, I just don’t hear Black Sabbath at all.

The album ends with two strong instrumentals. The 5 minute, powerful, chugging along, rifftastic “The White Sea” and then an untitled acoustic-jam-type ballad that is totally incongruous with the rest of the disc and yet seems to put a mellow calm over the whole proceedings.

Reviews of their first album suggest that the overall mix isn’t like this one. It has more Black Sabbathy. I can’t decide if it would be worth getting. I may have to just pull out We Sold Our Souls for Rock n Roll instead.

[READ: June 30, 2008] “The Next Thing”

This was a wonderfully subversive story. It is actually quite simple in scope: on the edge of a small community, a new shopping center called “The Next Thing” is being built and causing rumors to fly. (more…)

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