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The Sword 

Gods of the Earth (Kemado)

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Over the course of a split album with Swedish doom-mongers Witchcraft and two CDs on their own, these Austin-bred metal apologists never venture too far from well-worn paths. But so what? There's actually a sort of poetry to the Sword's metal homages — sorta like those told by medieval bards who traveled from village to village, heralding heroic victories, tragic defeats, and the fabled weapons that wrought them. All that slavishness can be a bit trying. But emulating the kings of metal isn't so much the problem as the recycled riffs and gigantic, loping rhythms that trudge across Gods of the Earth. The best moments are those in which these sonic outlanders make brief yet fateful incursions into a bleak and doomed world. "How Heavy This Axe" blends Thin Lizzy's twin-guitar harmony with Black Sabbath's chugging crunch, and the dynamic is thrilling — a glorious testament to the powers of mindless riffage.

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