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on 22 March 2006
If you want Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer, you can get them on back catalogue! No seriously, this debut album by The Sword has much to recommend it. There are the unbelievably heavy monster riffs that remind you of Vol.4 era Sabbath. The band know how to rock in that stoner 70s soundscape that is making a huge comeback and guitarist/vocalist JD Cronise does a reasonable job of impersonating Ozzy. The lyrics are ideal for those that have a soft spot for fantasy fiction and that includes me so I have no complaints but watch for other reviewers to say how juvelile and ludicrous they are! What this band and artists on a similar tack like Witch and Wolfmother seem to have forgotten though, is that the bands to which they play tribute had at their heart a great lead guitarist - Sabs had Iommi, Purple had Blackmore etc but the post modern metal landscape has largely dispensed with this as being self indulgent twaddle. I can't help but feel though that some blistering solos is exactly what is missing here making me reach for the word *monotonous* with all shade and no colour. That said, if your thing at gigs is headbanging away in the bass bin, then this is perfect for you and who at heart couldn't do with a bit of that in the record collection!
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I was led to The Sword by way of fandom -- a fellow worshiper of Mastodon told me that this Austin metal band had the same kind of vibe.

Well, The Sword definitely does have the same kind of sound -- blazing stoner-metal with an unstoppable sound, mingled with some impressive riffs and almost unhearable vocals. And as "Age of Winters'" title might imply, it's fueled with some Norse legend, fantasy trappings, and a fire-and-ice vibe.

It opens with a thick, sludgy riff that sounds like it's feeling out the directions it could go in, and gets joined with some simmering basslines. The whole thing eventually shapes itself into a building, powerful mountain of swirling stoner riffs -- in under two minutes.

Then The Sword really blossoms with "Barael's Blade," a driving heavy rocker with frenetic riffs every few seconds. "Forged by the crow-mage from shards of darkness/honed by the halfbreed to vorpal sharpness... fragments of bore infused with purest steel/a warrior's hand and a wizard's mind to wield!" J.D. Cronise yowls passionately.

And it doesn't slow down with the songs that follow -- stormy twisting metal, slow buildups to staticky wild hard-rock, mythic expanses of sputtering bass. And in the second half, they relax a little, with a stately folky-medieval intro to "Iron Swan," the cascading "Lament For The Aurochs," and two kinetic final songs -- one a blazing fiery story-song, and the reluctant "Ebethron." It sounds like they hated to stop.

"Age of Winters" is a bit tough to really classify. Seriously, it's all about fire, ice and blood -- we've got Norse goddesses, wizards, savage wolves, Valkyries, magic swords, terrible warriors, and eight-piece instrumentals all about the march of the "Lor" (whatever that is). It's like being invaded by game-geek Vikings, who decided to make an album.

Cronise, Kyle Shutt and Bryan Richie fill "Age of Winters" with wall-to-wall instrumentation -- kinetic, nimble riffs and fiery, roiling basslines, often mingled into thick unstoppable melodies that seem ready to steamroll right over you. "Winter Wolves" has some mean riffs that twist themselves around your skull. It's finished off with the smashing, rattling drums of Trivett Wingo, but he's hard-pressed to make himself heard.

So, for that matter, is Cronis. His yowling voice tends to get lost in the chaos, and at times it's pretty hard to hear what he says (except when he imitates a "winter wolf"). But he sings unself-conscious songs flavoured heavily with chilly, savage magic ("Scion of storms, aegis of rime/I call on the powers of old/Unleash your vengeance to punish the crimes/of those who I name as my foes") that sounds like a mythic figure recounting his adventures.

Not to mention the "warrior" sound of certain songs: "I would mount your heads on bloody spears/outside your palace gates/And watch as crows peck out your eyes." Ewk. Yet, wow.

"Age of Winters" is more interested in wizards, blood and wolves than in nu-metal posturing -- an explosive, wild experience from start to finish. Definitely worth hearing.
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on 1 April 2006
For a long time i've been pretty disillusioned with modern metal bands, but reading in a magazine that The Sword sounded like Kyuss and Black Sabbath i decided to check this out. Definately wasnt dissapointed. The metal riffs and stoner rock melodies really have to be heard! stand out track for me is Iron Swan , which really is just amazing. Best metal album since Kyuss's Welcome to Sky Vally.
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2007
Recently it seems the relatively obscure genre of stoner metal has been creeping into more popular realms. Take for example the massive success of Mastodon, a band who, like The Sword, combine staple stoner metal with visceral classic metal. Then there are acts like High on Fire, Witch and Down all releasing huge slabs of stoner/doom tinged metal. Black Sabbath's influence is still going strong, and it seems masses still enjoy a heavy riff and groove. So, along came The Sword from Austin with their debut "Age of Winters", an album that I was fully expecting to love and wave around the mainstream yelling "here's some GOOD music". As you could have guessed from my 3 stars, I don't love this cd. In fact, I find it a rather large damp squid.

I want to talk about the album's positives firstly, as it does have some good things going. There are some songs here where the band really hit the nail, instantly recalling their classic metal and stoner influences. For example, the opening two cuts, "Celestial Crown" and "Barael's Blade" are powerful and give the album a thundering start. "The Horned Goddess" and "Iron Swan" make for a fantastic middle section, the latter being one of the best metal songs I have heard in a while. These songs are what the band should be doing all the time. Chopping and changing doom riffs, classic metal solos, big grooves etc. The backing band is superb in full flight.

Unfortunately, the band does not always deliver this. The songs I mentioned earlier showcase such penetrating riffs and writing that the utterly annoying singer's vocals are no longer important. I am able to zone out and soak up the excellent instrumentation, something I cannot do in other songs. Whoever said this guy sounds like a modern day Ozzy is talking out of their sphincter. This singer is monotonous, always singing the same pitch, tone, volume...everything. Very annoying and potentially could have ruined the album had the backing band not been as powerful. Then there is also the matter of variation. When the band hit the nail as I spoke of earlier, they are immense, they grab my attention. But, unfortunately too many songs flow past without really developing or being any more than standard stoner metal by numbers. Songs such as "Freya" and the massively overlong "Lament For The Aurochs" which goes through an unnecessary eight minutes. Then there is the issue of production. While the guitars sound deep and meaty, something any metal and stoner album requires, the annoying vocals are too far forward, and the drum cymbals are way too loud, cutting through the tones with a harsh thin treble that becomes irritating. I have seen another reviewer pick this up, so I know it is not my picky expectations. Considering this band is somewhat commercial, being given airplay and appearing on MTV, I expected a very polished production job. Finally, what do these guys look like? Cool metal dudes? No way. They look so far removed from the rest of the field, almost more indie rock than metal. I know that's picky, but I do kind of like metal bands to look badass, or at least not standard indie.

Popular stoner/classic metal a la Mastodon, High on Fire and Witch with too many flaws for me. It is a decent album, and it is nice to see this kind of music get more popularity, but this is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Go find some better stoner metal, such as Electric Wizard, Goatsnake, The Melvins, Kyuss...
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on 26 July 2006
Traditionally, the marriage of metal and classical music conjures unpleasant images of bloated Prog Rock excess or over-indulgent misadventures (such as Metallica's somewhat misguided live classical renderings), so it's refreshing to hear the combination actually work well for a change. With 'Book of Sand' Tranatula AD mixes the two genres to great effect, knowing exactly when to 'rock out', and when to let the guitars breathe and other instruments take over. Cellos wail, violins and Spanish guitars pepper the compositions with woozy prettiness as 'Book of Sand's' 10-strong suite of songs vacillate between cathartic riffage and sea-like calm with precision and verve. To add to the overall ambience of the music, the album was recorded in a hut somewhere in a forest and throughout the album, the sounds of nature (birds, insects etc) can be heard at quieter moments.

Coco Rosie's Siera Cassady also makes a guest appearance on 'Sealike', providing vocals for the song which, much like its name suggests, brings to mind images of a something (a boat? a lilypad??) drifting gently across a still lake.

All in all, despite the insalubrious connotations of the album's concept, 'Book of Sand' is an immensely enjoyable listen which proves that even the worst ideas can work if implemented well.
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on 19 April 2006
Personally I think this band is going to go a long way.I'd never heard of them before I read a review of their album but I was curious to hear what these magazines were raving about.Quite right they are too! I cannot stop listening to this CD! Catchy and heavy as Hell riffs. Reminds me of COC sometimes though but that isn't a down point. Fantastic stuff!
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on 22 June 2015
Wow what an album! Perfect for those who love Sabbath, Kyuss, Metallica And Fu Manchu (I could go on).

Doom heavy riffs, songs laden with the themes of legend and adventure.
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on 2 May 2013
Old School Metal with a modern twist. Music that goes somewhere and tells a story. The contents live up to the excellent cover artwork.
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on 20 January 2011
As I've said: Pretty good! It rocks good in a kind of old school way. Nice for a modern band who has it's heroes.
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on 31 August 2014
Excellent catchy riffs, Winters Wolves is worth the purchase alone.
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