The Sword 

You've got to wonder whether Black Sabbath feels flattered or annoyed that its music has become a standardized vocabulary for an entire genre of imitators. At this point, comparing the Sword with Sabbath is about as meaningful as saying the Austin, Texas, quartet uses electric guitars. Still, among the band's galloping, fuzzy peers, the Sword's strong songwriting foundation stands alone. Rather than focus strictly on a guitar-tone fetish, the Sword keenly grasps traditional rock and roll, even if it's tucked away under a thick layer of stoner-doom window dressing. The lyrics don't always make it past embarrassing arrested-adolescent, Dungeons and Dragons stuff, but at least the Sword's song titles — "(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire," "March of the Lor" — could be worse. Singer J.D. Cronise warns: With the horses you ride/Comes a time you have to leave that all behind. But clearly the Sword hasn't, much to the fans' delight.

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