Sound — 9
So here we find ourselves with a new Sword record. I can't say that I very much expected a change in sound, seeing as 'Gods of the Earth' was almost identical in production, progression and just overall ass-kickery to 'Age of Winters'. However, I am both pleasantly surprised and mildly disappointed. The disappointment lies in my wanting another bone-crushing, Sabbath-worshipping riff fest, and it still delivers the riffage in all it's loveliness (I.E. Arrows in the Dark, (The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire). However, a large part of the album is executed in a much more Texas-rock style than I expected (The Chronmancer I: Hubris, Night City), as if ZZ Top decided to try their hand at recording 'Paranoid'. The first single, 'Tres Brujas' is actually probably the best cut to introduce anyone to the album's hybrid sound. It mashes the two camps of Sabbath and Top into each other pretty perfectly. And with more listens it becomes a pretty cool change up. Also, Matt Bayles' production (FINALLY) pushes Cronise's vocals through the mix so that the entire package can be heard in crisp, non-muddied glory.
Lyrics — 7
This is also the first Sword record to have a (moderately) cohesive storyline concerning an archer exiled from his tribe on the planet of Archeron, with one side lying in perpetual darkness while the other lies in perpetual light. The story itself is actually pretty easy to follow when compared to, say, the cluster-f--k that is Coheed and Cambria's 'Amory Wars' saga. The lyrics follow one of two paths: either directly setting up the scene and playing it before you eyes (or ears) or playing off as some kind of dialogue between the main character and the assorted inhabitants of the story. However, when the dialogue sections happened upon my ears, I found myself cringing at their B-movie quality. And lyrics, while usually pretty "METAL", have never really been a strong point with the Sword. Usually it's all about dedication to the riff. And I'm just fine with that.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, we've been given another fine offering by the Texas quartet, and the self-respecting stoner metal fan would already own this gem. It's not on the level of perfection that 'Winters' was, but tracks like 'Tres Brujas' and 'The Chronomancer II: Hubris' make it come pretty damn close.