If you?re reading this, chances are you have some familiarity with the Columbus, Ohio duo known as Sword Heaven. If you don?t, but are curious and willing to take the plunge, you are in for quite a treat. I counted myself among the latter group until recently. Now I?m kicking myself for not jumping on board sooner, but also eager to fill in the gaps in my Sword Heaven knowledge. I knew they were well-regarded and that they?d put out something on Load. I knew they?d done something with Lambsbread, and that fact alone was reason for high expectations. And now this ? a welcome missive from Cut Hands, the Dutch label that can seemingly do no wrong.
Sword Heaven seem to capture the Cut Hands label descriptor ?cemetery psychedelics? in perfect aural fashion. Thankfully, the psychedelic side edges out any gothic sensibility here. As for notions of psychedelia, have no fears ? we?re not subjected to facile swirling colors, but instead an industrial variety that holds far more power in its ability to conjure images of urban decay and help us escape reality. The sounds Hibbs and Van Fleet conjure on this disc are indeed otherwordly, but the worlds they draw from are darkly mysterious and intense ones. Of course, there are sonic antecedents and reference points here, and they?ve been mentioned in other venues. But why bother with lazy comparisons when these sounds stand on their own so incredibly well? Better to simply turn the volume knob ever higher and let the mightiness of these two tracks pummel you into a submissive bliss.
The two tracks offered here indicate that Sword Heaven is a live force to be reckoned with. The first, ?Intro-Tongues? is a 14 minute killer that takes the basic source material from the duo (drums, electronics, screamed vocals, and various metals) and eventually builds to an incredibly compelling and overblown drum workout by its conclusion. The crowd is utterly enthused and it?s easy to see why. The second track brings in no less than 8 additional musicians, but interestingly it?s not much more bombastic or noisy than the first. In fact, it even seems a bit more spacious in sound. That it?s hard to differentiate between the core duo and a significantly enlarged grouping is a testament to the joyous ruckus these two can create simply on their own. With more drummers in the mix, it would have been easy for this track to simply implode on itself. But instead we get a slow build from sparse and exploratory atmospherics to a heavy pounding groove similar to that of the opener, albeit even more intense. What is most fascinating here is the ability to resist any sort of rushed delivery. A recurring horn sound adds a melancholic element that is both unexpected and used to stunning effect. And it?s only in the final 3 minutes or so that things really ramp up to full-bore intensity with the drums. By the time we get there as listeners, the payoff is massive. This is a serious contender for favorite release of the year, and hopefully the first of many more Sword Heaven discoveries here. 9/10 -- Eric Hardiman (28 November, 2007)