Blacksword - The sword accurst 4/5

Reviewed: 7-1-11


1. Sword arm
2. The march
3. Wild horse
4. The predatory divine
5. Hovering plague
6. Wistful gaze
7. Stormbringer
8. Elric’s pride

There’s an interesting story behind the release of this CD. Blacksword are a Russian epic true metal band specializing in crunchy, high-speed attacks with English-language lyrics heavily steeped in the swords-and-sorcery fantasy works of Michael Moorcock and others. As fate would have it, Blacksword’s guitarist Alex Avdeev was a longtime penpal of Georgia true metal guru Howie Bentley (Cauldron Born, Briton Rites). Bentley became enthralled by Blacksword’s music to the point where he decided to release the band’s 2008 debut CD, ‘The sword accurst’, on his Echoes of Crom label, even though Howie had never intended to release any projects other than his own via that imprint. So it came to be that, some 2 years after it was recorded in a faraway icy land, Blacksword’s ‘The sword accurst’ received a USA release. The booklet features heartfelt, informative liner notes by Bentley, wherein he heaps effusive praise on the band and labels them “one of the most important contributors to the genre” of true heavy metal today. This is high praise coming from Bentley, who is notoriously picky and not given to hyperbole.

‘The sword accurst’ isn’t for everyone. It does not have a clean, rich, full production. (You’d be foolish to expect otherwise, given that it was recorded in Novokuznetsk, Russia.) The singer isn’t technically perfect, with his shrieks sometimes failing to convince. It doesn’t have happy tralala melodies or easy repetitive anthemic choruses. Rather, it’s pure, unadulterated, uncompromising epic true metal to the bone. And it’s a short, yet somewhat technical and challenging listen. Running time is just 29 minutes, but a single track (“Hovering plague”) clocks in at 9:03, with numerous twists and turns along the way. Notwithstanding these caveats, if this type of music is your thing (and it is for me), this CD belongs at the top of your shopping list. Think Ironsword, Omen, Domine, Elwing, Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, early Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy (check out the instrumental “Wild horse”) and so on, and you’ll have a decent idea of Blacksword’s musical direction.

It’s the execution of the style, rather than the style itself, that elevates Blacksword to mandatory-listening status. The songs, and indeed the CD as a whole, have a certain flow where everything fits together seamlessly. It’s the kind of CD that you can simply press play and absorb it in its entirety as a single cohesive piece of work, rather than a collection of disparate tracks. Not a single song, note, or second is wasted. Because there’s a good bit of technicality involved, it may take a few listens for the songs to seep into your cranial cavity, but they will and they do. The triumphant “Stormbringer,” the pounding “The march,” and the aggressive fist-flailing “Sword arm” are all winners. The gentle acoustic and bass-driven track “Elric’s pride” closes out the CD in an unconventional, yet enormously effective, manner. The whole package just works, with divine melodies, great playing and fine songwriting, with those Elric of Melnibone lyrics as the icing on the cake.

I am not ready to anoint ‘The sword accursed’ as a masterpiece of true heavy metal just yet, but it is an outstanding effort. It’s perhaps too unpolished and obscure to have any hope of resonating outside the narrow confines of the true metal underground. In those circles, however, Blacksword may rightfully be toasted as Russian saviors. If anything about this genre appeals to you, and if you don’t mind a little dirt under your fingernails or a little sawdust in your boots, give a listen to ‘The sword accurst.’ It’s readily available in the USA for a reasonable price via Echoes of Crom Records, so there’s no excuse for blowing it off, unless of course you’re a poseur, in which case you should stay far far away from this CD lest your head be cleaved from your shoulders by the mighty Blacksword.




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