The Sword

Age of Winters (Kemado)

Lately, labels not known for heavy music (Drag City, Matador, and now Kemado) have been releasing albums by long-haired knuckle-draggers: Pearls and Brass, Early Man, and the Sword, respectively. And Age of Winters is a capable attempt to seize the throne of heaviosity from High on Fire and/or Mastodon. It's not "metal for people who don't like metal," or "metal for smart people," or anything as annoyingly Pitchforkian as that. In fact, it's more stoner rock than metal -- the Sword rarely indulges in guitar solos, preferring to hammer home one low-slung, elephantine riff after another.

The disc opens with a rip-off of Acid King's "Electric Machine" as an instrumental fanfare and picks up momentum quickly, almost boogying at times. "Lament for the Aurochs" is another pastiche, aping High on Fire in an almost legally actionable manner. The only real difference is the clean vocals -- rudimentary though his skills might be, the Sword's frontman actually sings throughout Age of Winters, rather than croaking or puking like so many of his peers. And while the song titles ("Winter's Wolves," "The Horned Goddess," "Barael's Blade") are silly, they're less offensive than Cannibal Corpse's. Age of Winters isn't life-changing, but it rocks, and that's enough.