Great things must sometimes be imparted from some sort of mystical guide, which is how I was alerted to the album you’re going to read about.
I was working my usual shift at the barbecue joint — this was obviously a while ago — when an incredibly stoned friend of the restaurant wandered in and asked me, “Hey, Bunche! You like metal, right?” I answered in the affirmative and the amiable stoner handed me a CD featuring art that looked like an Alphonse Mucha knockoff. The band went by the none-too-original moniker of “The Sword,” which instantly put me on the defensive and made me anticipate yet another time-wasting metal disc chock full of adolescent barbarian fantasies, dragons, appropriated Norse mythology and so on, but the stoner held me transfixed with his gaze and uttered with the gravitas of a chemically-altered Yoda and stated, “I know what it looks like, but you must trust me on this one. These guys understand what metal is and what it means, not like some bunch of hair-metal poodle-pussies.” The sheer conviction on his face gave me pause, so I took a moment from unloading one of the barbecue smokers and popped the disc into the player. What I heard astounded me; sounding nothing like any metal record released since 1976, “Age of Winters” wears its status as a throwback proudly and evokes the spectre of Black Sabbath during its early, dirge-like years.
This combo from Austin, Texas has learned much from their British forebears, creating a melancholy, heavy atmosphere while maintaining nothing less than solid musicianship and breathing life into material that would most likely be stale if from lesser hands. Loaded with the by now de rigueur fantasy/mythological angle, the band somehow manages to render such stuff compelling and utterly non-comedic, with each tale of monsters, heroism and legendary warfare coming off like ancient epic poetry if the Vikings had written such stuff with the benefit of electric guitars, kind of like Snorri Sturluson if he knew how to not only hypnotize his audience with his words, but also knew how to rock out with his cock out, especially on “Iron Swan” and the epic tale of the last days of the mythological beasts, “Lament for the Aurochs.” Simply put, this is the purest example of no-bullshit, quality metal I’ve heard in a very long time, and I cannot urge any willing listener strongly enough to check it out. An album that does not suck in any way? “Age of Winters” is exactly that, and how often do you get one of those?