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We're Clearing The Land For Our Glorious End - 93%

CHAIRTHROWER, October 9th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

In response to Pythagoras' antiquated and sage query regarding elemental fire ("O Fire, art thou a destroyer, or creator?"), it's safe to assume Boise's newly vorpal and fatiferous By Fire & Sword (named after the historical war game), greatly adheres to the latter - that is, if the Gem State quintet's utterly kick-ass, half-hour/five track EP (digitally as well as independently released in July), Freedom Will Floor All Things With Light, is any indication.

Vociferously albeit valiantly evoking a wicked cross between Salt Lake City's Visigoth and Athens' (one-man act) Hercules, with undeniably lurid and portentous, Tool-like affectations of both a vocal as well as instrumental nature - particularly amidst the ghostly verses to secondary cut "Where The Light Lets Itself In" - By Fire & Sword oft favors meaty and rollicking, super stentorian triplet based riffs/overtures, to which the massively resounding bass is glued fast n' furious, except for during crazed, vituperous instances of stand-alone six-string vicissitude, such as three and two-thirds of the (lambasting) way into said progressive/post rock/metal emulation (not that I'm a run-of-the-mill Tool freak, by any means!).

I'm getting in over my (bashed in) head, here! Knickers un-bunched i.e. having returned from the front lines, I'm of a more placid and composed (pre)disposition, prepared furthermore to wax surquidous on said recently gleaned North Western formation's merits, which run a gamut consisting of engagingly fulminating riff-work overladen with sonorous, if not duly poised, syncopating guitar harmonies such as the veritably heroic hallmark of opener "Testify", roughly half a minute in, shortly before lead vocalist Tom Newby (a member of The Green Zoo) raps both knuckles and "épée" atop his bandmates' ever-tight formula of downright barreling/charging instrumentation largely buoyed by a rather extrapolative rhythm section comprised of (Mortal Enemy) thrash-er Mike Mulcock on drums and four-string cohort Zak Darbin, both of whom also contribute to local black metal act Weald and Woe - the latter, specifically for live performances.

Varying between haughtily admonishing, narrative rallying cries/liturgies- especially throughout bridges - and full-bore, accelerated dirges announcing the eclectically dexterous and flamboyant, not to mention wildly winded, guitar solos, Newby is probably one of the more exciting front men I've encountered of late, alongside The Night Eternal's Ricardo (who equally serves up a compellingly cryptic performance on the Germans' recent debut EP). These unorthodox but aggressive leads, though sparsely deployed, command one's full, undivided attention - like the grandiose slew slashing apart "Testify", in addition to a brief yet super sharp closing finale on the doom-ily Epic "A Diligent Hand".

Imbued as they with are such buttressing, crashing beats - as to infer monolithic out-takes in Stygian fortresses standing tall at the cusp of snow peaked Alpine or Bavarian mountainsides - each and every track segues effortlessly from one to the next, and, thanks to their extensive lengths and widely rampant progressions, ensure the recording plays out rather like a full-length debut, as opposed to densely packed, lowly EP. Hyperbole(s) aside, might I add the production is sweetly tremendous, to the point of anointing the songs with a debilitating sense of proximity within their (un) hallowed walls.

In contrast to exalted opener "Testify", "Exorcism" slyly subdues the listener, then rams them into (overgrown) hedgerows with a cleanly picked beginning and mellifluous, sanguine progression soon elevated to lofty, power chord driven heights prior to mightily shuffling riff-work on behalf of scissor-men Jeff Young (of The Green Zoo, Weald And Woe and Late) and Mike Ward (also of The Green Zoo). The reason it's my preferred "cut" has as much to do with a late bass-y gloss as a freakin' rad-as-all-get-out about-face/(c)rippling return to form/storm, with, in tow, a blast-beat suffused rip-roar of a sped up ripening at its outset. To wit, Newby's snappish, jabbing chants further enhance these mesmerically combustive fireworks.

Coolly titled closer "Boots to Neck", with its orchestral, if not slightly sapphic sounding verses and refrain, conjures a somewhat looser and less turgid i.e. stiff - yet as-melodic - Eternal Champion; consider it a winner, along with its foregoing brethren. Also the longest track at 6.5 minutes, it does a terrific job of appointing an aptly uplifting wind down to the release as a whole, finger-tapped, valedictory lead withstanding. As inferred, the masterful level of production permits each member to shine and make the most of their paradoxically svelte/stout resources.

Indeed, By Fire & Sword's Freedom Will Flood All Things With Light EP proves tougher to resist than drawing the scurrilous Sword in the Stone at Disneyland. To its effect, one can only hope Idaho's (Latin) state motto - "Esto Perpetua" ("Let it be Perpetual") - keeps ringing true across the land...