Gods of the Earth

The Sword didn't reinvent the wheel with their debut album, Age of Winters, they just polished it down and made it more efficient. They took the foundations of classic '70s rock and modernized them, sped them up, made them gallop. They embraced the element of fantasy, singing about mythical creatures and epic battles, preaching mightily to the nerd inside us all. They managed to forge something original from fundamental aspects of rock and metal, and by doing so they gained power and respect.

Winters catapulted the band from opening act to headliners selling out shows in the span of a year, even landing them a song on Guitar Hero. Needless to say, the Sword have a lot to live up to with their sophomore album—they're poised to become one of the biggest metal acts in the country if they just stay the course.

And if there's one thing Gods of the Earth succeeds in, it's staying the course. Their second release dutifully follows, but never manages to surpass, the niche carved by Age of Winters. The heavily distorted riffs are huge; the songs are epic and brutal, with lyrics about axes and frost giants. The production purposefully lacks the slick sheen of Scandinavian metal, opting instead for a thicker, burlier sound. The single "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians" sounds like early Metallica scoring the movie Wizards. The climbing riff of "Under the Boughs" might have originally existed as a boss theme in the original NES Contra. Something somewhere is being conquered with every song.

It's a tough, solid release, but Gods lacks the element of surprise. Their debut heralded a forceful new sound in the metal scene; their follow-up sounds like their debut. It's a smart, safe move for the band, but it's nothing new for hardened fans. The Sword have found their trademark sound; they've polished their wheel. Now they're seeing how far they can roll it. JEFF KIRBY

The Sword play Tues April 22 at Neumo's, 7 pm, $10, all ages. With Slough Feg and Children.

Street Horrrsing

Readers of The Stranger's music section know I love a good swear, so Bristol noise/electronics duo Fuck Buttons, like similarly minded experimental potty-mouths Holy Fuck, have a leg up with me. But where Holy Fuck opt for prog grooves and self-oscillating crescendos, Fuck Buttons dial their knobs in for long ambient drones, hysterical screaming muffled by static, and steady industrial churn broken by occasional rhythmic pulse or live percussion. Amid all that potentially alienating action, Fuck Buttons display a surprisingly sweet sense of tone and tune.

"Sweet Love for Planet Earth" opens the album with a tinkling rainfall of piano, then adds lapping waves of fuzzed-out synth before unsettling things with some distorted background ranting. At under four minutes, "Ribs Out" is half as long as any of the album's other tracks, an interlude of spooky, whinnying vocal echo and surround-sound jungle drumming. "Okay Let's Talk About Magic" and "Race You to the Bedroom/Spirit Rise" form the album's central suite, two songs of harshly shining synths that unfurl in undulating, overlapping layers around some garbled walkie-talkie chatter. "Bright Tomorrow," the album's breakout single, temporarily trades the Wolf Eyes vocal howl and Black Dice noise for a 4/4 kick, gentle organ chords, and a backward-slipping synth line more reminiscent of the Field's carefully constructed trance. But the respite is temporary. The latter half of the track dissolves into distorted white noise, giving way to the tribal-drumming daybreak comedown of "Colours Move."

Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, Street Horrrsing's six tracks are, for the most part, spacious and slow, hypnotic and immersive. Noisy and bristling at first, by the time the album ends, you're acclimated to its sonic environment. The ensuing silence is disorienting, like when you finally take off a pair of heavy roller skates and it feels like you're walking on air. ERIC GRANDY

Fuck Buttons play Sun April 20 at Chop Suey, 8 pm, $12, 21+. With Caribou.

The IV Edition

In the beginning, sparks fly from Braille's The IV Edition like an incoming air strike. Stomping bass drums from producer Ohmega Watts rattle "Beautiful Humanity" as Braille raps, "Start it like this, son, they can't shine like this one/Lyrics in my head and I'm about to spit some." Best of all is "Calculated Risk," where K-Otix from the Are flips a wheedling teakettle melody straight out of "Public Enemy No. 1" over a droll yet funky bass line. "I want to rock right now, come on!" Braille shouts as the percussion hits hard, driving the song to climax.

In all, the Portland, Oregon, rapper uses 17 producers for as many tracks on his aptly titled fourth album. An intensely spiritual man, he makes constant references to his Christian beliefs in speaking about his life ("Blessed Man" and "Remember Your Path"). Stridently opinionated, he challenges the world around him to fit his moral compass. "Understand who made the man before man made the man," he raps on "Constantly Growing" as DJ Spinna's beat echoes and vibrates around him. "The greatest change of your life will happen within you."

Braille designs The IV Edition as a tour de force, a summary thesis after years spent toiling in the Northwest underground, both as a solo artist and one-third of Lightheaded (along with the aforementioned Ohmega Watts and Othello). He overstuffs it with producers, guest stars, and high-handed concepts, and pads it with uneven, repetitive songs that may overwhelm even his most ardent fans. Braille may be too ambitious, but his enthusiasm makes for a compelling and chaotic album. MOSI REEVES

Braille plays Thurs April 17 at Nectar Lounge, 9 pm, $10 (includes a copy of The IV Edition), 21+. With Pigeon John, Ohmega Watts, Theory Hazit.

Fighter recommendedrecommendedrecommendedrecommended

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Cleric recommended