Disclaimer: This writer is a music nerd, to an embarrassing degree. As one of these, we adore infecting our immediate population with something amazing when we’ve heard it.
Chalk it up to our roots in the evangelical church, but there are some musical compositions we just can’t keep to ourselves. Especially when said compositions are albums more kickass than anything we’ve heard since our high-school boyfriend (yes, the one) played us Jane’s Addiction’s XXX for the first time.
Finally, that kind of descent into obsession has happened again.
We bet we’ve burned 2 dozen copies of The Sword’s Age of Winters for people since a friend first made us a mix tape with “Freya” and the epic “Lament for the Aurochs” on it and then we pirated the whole album from another metalhead. Someday we’ll buy the CD in the store, of course, just to give The Sword the royalties they deserve. But as for now we hope they’ll forgive us for being broke.
We call it “metal church” when we put The Sword on the stereo, though we know there’s an inferior band out there of the same name. Age of Winters gathers all the best elements of heavy metal and amalgamates them into one super-album — a super-album so perfect to us that we’re already experiencing anxiety about whether or not we’ve finally got our generation’s Led Zeppelin, or whether the Historically Troubled Sophomore Album will just suck.
It’s as if Ozzy and company time-travelled to hang out in Austin with people who don’t care as much about vocals, and then bought a buttload of new-style sound-enhancing gear at the music store and transported themselves back to the ‘70s.
Sludge, doom, stoner, arena, black, death … all the metal in the world, spiked and leaded and wrapped up in boiling tar and plopped on a trebuchet, ready to be flung over the gates of testosterock to melt the skin off all shirtless lockjaw rockers who dare to try their hand at making music in the realm of The Sword.
Yes, it’s derivative, but while other new rock albums founder in their derivativeness, Age of Winters stands atop the Misty Mountain, clad in animal skin and swinging a flaming cat’o’nine tails around its horned helmet, calling to the alchemists and smearing (someone else’s) blood on its face and howling at the moon.
They’re like the Highlander of metal. There can be only one.
Our friends adore The Sword in part because we’re aggressive people. Viking and otherwise mythical themes abound in their lyrics, and we like music that sounds like banging around in caves and (consenually) dragging potential mates away from the fire and off into the shadows.
As well, we, and The Sword, are drawn to all the middle-Earth stuff for reasons other than being obsessed with The Hobbitt as children. We also love it because Ronnie James Dio loves it, and because Led Zeppelin loved it.
Some in our generation can’t help but echo things, even as we improve upon them. But while Tenacious D horses around with dark-knight imagery in a wink-wink “meta” sort of way, The Sword pretty much just strips away all theatrics and affectations and distills the Hrothgar and Valhalla stuff to a crack-rock density. Which lets — nay, commands — the listener to concentrate on rocking out.
So are they kidding? Are The Sword, to metal, what the Black Label Bike Club is to the Hell’s Angels, or what the Power Tool Drag Races are to … well, to drag races? Or are they really, truly … like that?
Is there even a difference any more, post tower-collapse, between sarcastic adoration and actual adoration? Haven’t we come full circle, to where we couch every sentiment in a thin (or thick) veneer of self-conscious tongue-in-cheekiness, like the British have done ever since they were massively humbled when their most important city went under siege in WWII?
In summary, when we’re old and sitting in a nursing home’s front yard, pointing hairdryers at passing cars with all the other girls in the Bike Rodeo and somebody throws Age of Winters on the sound system (in our future, nursing homes have colon-detaching 5lowershop sound systems), we’ll just close our eyes and tilt our head back and involuntarily wet our pants out of joy.
Yes, to us, Age of Winters feels less like an album and more like a new chapter in the annals of music history. We can’t get over how metal it is.
Here’s a list of other rock albums we’ve felt this way about, in near to chronological order:
The Xanadu soundtrack
Duran Duran – Duran Duran
Jane’s Addiction – XXX
Nirvana – Bleach
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Smashing Pumpkins – Gish
Metal Flake Mother – Beyond the Java Sea
Jeff Buckley – Grace
Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle
Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On
Turbonegro – Apocalypse Dudes
The Go – Whatcha Doin’
Balkan Beat Box – s/t
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