Here's my contribution to the dueling review of The Sword's Age of Winters. Mary's review can be found on the Binge & Purge site, so go see what she has to say as well.
The Sword - Age of Winters
14 February 2006
The Sword is probably one of the most blatant Sleep/HoF/Matt Pike—inspired bands ever conceived. If one was engaged in some sort of blind "taste test" of their debut record, Age of Winters, I would wager a good deal of money (that I don't have) on somebody claiming it to be some super secret (pre-Blessed Black Wings) High On Fire album with Al Cisneros on vocals. I'll never hide my undying love for both Sleep and HoF, so all that having been stated upfront it's actually a pretty damn good record. A total stoner creation from start to finish, it would be a premier effort if the aforementioned bands didn't exist. Then again, if they didn't exist, I'm positive that this band probably never would have formed and this record never made. So there's that.
The members of The Sword are certainly highly capable musicians and they do write rocking material. However, there is very little to distinguish them as a creative force in their own right. Because the songs are so similar to the Matt Pike outfits in terms of both the riffs and lyrical content, I have little recourse but to label them a bit of a "ripoff" band. This is unfortunate since they seem to be talented folks with good taste in music who create something that's pretty fun and very listenable. Even the album art is great, though again it is obvious reference to Alfons Mucha (I'll admit also that I love Mucha and probably wouldn't recognize it otherwise).
Age of Winters is probably something that newcomers to stoner rock should check out, as the old heads would most likely put in a few listens and then retire it. Nevertheless, The Sword certainly display a great deal of promise on this record. I just hope that on future releases they branch out and exhibit more of their own creativity instead of retreading such familiar ground.