Lords – Swords [Jade Tree; 2005] Rating: 7.2
These days the once great divide between musical genres is little more than a crack. There was a time when punk, hardcore, metal, and rock were virtually miles apart. In the 80s, when all of those genres were going strong, the members of each scene treated theirs like a religion, and relating to, borrowing from or, frankly, enjoying any of the others were surefire ways to be subjected to ridicule and scorn. But as the years went on, new bands that sought to revitalize their genre found themselves blending styles. Punk and hardcore bands got faster and heavier until they were sidled right up against thrash and metal acts, who in turn were often turning to the classic rock of the past for renewed inspiration. By the late-90s, it had become commonplace to find longhairs at the punk shows, and mohawks had popped up on the heads of members of everyone from Anthrax to Warrant.
It seems unlikely, then, that a band like Lords could’ve existed in any time other than their own. Had they released Swords 20 years ago, no one would’ve known what to do with it. Black Flag and Metallica fans alike would’ve spun the record, wondering why the time signature changed so much and where the guitar solos were, respectively. Lords’ blitzkrieg approach– this disc crams 13 songs into less than 20 minutes– knows no boundaries, blending the raucous attitude of punk with the speed and fury of thrash, all topped of with the testosterone-and-beer fueled swagger of good, old-fashioned rock.
The band hails from Louisville, known for its thriving punk and hardcore scene, and they made the jump from the long-standing Louisville label Initial Records to Jade Tree for Swords, their sophomore album. But anyone expecting that being label-mates with Pedro the Lion and the Promise Ring may have somehow softened Lords’ approach should think again. Swords is brutal and intense, yet it avoids the darkness-and-gloom baggage that so many heavy bands carry around. In other words, this record is a hell of a lot of fun.
The gates come crashing open with "Stigmata Rite", 1:38 of clobbering drums, wailing guitars and singer Chris Owens’ domineering bark. For the most part, the duration of the disc continues in this unrelenting manner, but there are exceptions that further explore the myriad of influences the band is pulling from. "Watching the Clock" combines verses featuring low-mixed, muted guitar over quick bursts of high- hat, a bridge with rapid-fire, stuttering snare fills and a chorus that boils down to a convoluted barrage of amplified noise. Furthermore, "Lift High the Mighty Throne" takes the band’s usual aggressiveness and throws in a swampy, bluesy swagger.
Comparisons between Lords and other genre-blending metal bands will fall short: Unlike other bands, Lords aren’t content with simply placing verses performed in one style alongside choruses from another, opting instead to throw it all into a menacing, razorblade-filled blender and stomping on the puree button.