The Sword Age of Winters

It’s rare that a band can envelope themselves in the world of wizards, fairies and mystical imagery without coming across like a bunch of Dungeons & Dragons playing dorks, yet the Sword make it almost cool. Almost. Erroneously lumped in with conventional stoner rock, taking a closer listen reveals that this droning quartet have done so much more with the blues-metal influence of Black Sabbath’s heyday than turning it into black light poster fodder. They embrace this obsession and churn it around, developing a solid penchant for head-banging riffs that bands like Cathedral are still trying to cop and Mastodon are too aggressive to lay back and feel. Like an Orange-amplified onion, one must peel back the layers of Age of Winters, allowing the band to slowly burn their way into the real grooves. While still exponentially better than the overall output of most acts, album opener "Celestial Crown” and successive "Barael’s Blade” are mere throwaways when compared to the sprawling overload of "Lament for the Aurochs” or "Iron Swan,” both epic bouts of riff-rock mastery. (Kemado)