The Sword is the anomaly you’ve been waiting for: a metal album by nerds who rock huge. Many would-be lovers of heavy metal are put off by the reigning machismo and anti-intellectualism of so many of the genre’s dominant bands. (To say nothing of the fans: nowhere is the bottom 10% of your high-school’s graduating class so well represented as at a Slayer show.) But when the alternatives to this aggressive dumbness are the inacessibility of avant-garde heaviness-for-heaviness’s sake (Sunn O)))) or “music” by and for postapocalyptic cyborgs (Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah) the thoughtful headbanger starts to wonder, “Is there no band that will satisfy both my wizard AND my warrior?”
The Sword is this band. Many reviewers have praised The Sword’s Promethean gift of riffs, which will keep me playing air guitar for years to come. But the rare pleasure here is the lyrics. Anybody can churn out rhymes based on pop fantasy and SF, but it takes just a little more energy to quote W. B. Yeats in your liner notes. Just a gimmick to catch college English majors with the honey of literary canonicity? Mabye. But these lyrics deliver on the promise of this epigraph, offering an album-length elegy for make-believe times past. In a scene where most lyricists lack the time to read books because they’re too busy lifting weights or watching NASCAR, The Sword’s willingness to send you to the dictionary (sibyl, aurochs) and remind you how much of your vocabulary you learned from Dungeons and Dragons (dais, vorpal) is as refreshing as a wind from the forbidden mountains of the Goblin-King.