Hello folks, it's been a while, but I'm back with another installment of 'Holy Shit.' If you're unfamiliar with the concept - and you should be, because until a few days ago, I totally forgot this series existed here and here - basically it boils down to the disciplinary practice of me keeping it in my pants (my wallet, that is!) while record shopping UNLESS I come across something that makes me exclaim those two magical words. This edition comes to you courtesy of the gang of music nerds and record buying enthusiasts who have accompanied me to the Maryland Deathfest the past couple of years. Suffice to say, things do get pretty ridiculous with our posse: topics of conversation tend towards which hand-numbered copy of random limited edition records we own; we've been known to bring bunches of empty vinyl mailing boxes to secure and protect our purchases; we'll spend inordinate amounts of time cruising around, looking for shade in downtown Baltimore to park our car underneath to avoid as much heat and potential vinyl warping that may occur; and it always seems to take more gas to get home than it does getting there which makes sense when you consider the hundreds of pounds of vinyl, CDs, books and other merch four dudes who should know better, but don't, come home with after Memorial Day weekend.
This past year at MDF, the topic in our hotel room/place where our purchases are stored was that the fine folks at Hells Headbangers were liquidating numerous copies of Ironsword's Overlords of Chaos. The 'holy shit' hook being that it was the double-vinyl gatefold version of said unheralded, underrated and generally unheard classic of Robert Howard/H.P. Lovecraft-centric heavy metal proper, a version I didn't even know existed. What made things even more worthy of mention and resurrection of this column is they were selling 'em off at $5 a pop! Luckily, I didn't wait once all this unbelievable information was presented. I bolted over to the HH booth and nabbed what ended up being the second-last copy.
Ironsword is a trio from Lisbon, Portugal that started in 1995 as a one-man project of guitarist/vocalist Joao "Tann" Fonesca and even though Metal Archives says they're still an active unit, 2008's Overlords of Chaos was their last release and there's no indication they've done anything since. Hell, they haven't even made the move from Myspace to Facebook or started a Bandcamp page. Anyhow, Overlords of Chaos is a masterclass of chugging, heavy metal fundamentals in the vein of Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol deeply ensconced in the Howard/Lovecraft fantasy worlds; those authors and their works were touched upon in each and every song. As well, Ironsword knew the value of a hook and how to write killer choruses and by the time they got to Overlords after their self-titled debut and its follow-up, Return of the Warrior, this skill made album number three a top-to-bottom exercise in excellence. Six years down the line and the melodies and choruses of "Road Warriors," "Hyperborean Hordes," "Cimmeria," "Fear the Night" and "Blood and Honor" still pop into my head, unprovoked, on an all-too-regular basis. It doesn't hurt that we played the latter song on our radio show every week for a year and that Tann's broken English pronunciations add uniqueness and charm to his vocal phrasing. All that and a bassist named Rick Thor as well as the battle scene, swords and pneumatic-breasted women gracing the cover - it's all metal all the time in their world. Aside from the obvious differences in medium and size, the vinyl version is virtually the same as the CD as far as artwork and liner notes are concerned, but to score an underground classic on double vinyl in mint condition for $5? Holy shit is right!
A couple of teasers: Cimmeria
Crown of Iron
The Hells Headbangers webshop says they still have a few kicking around. Check it out if you're into it.
And if you have any interest in the radio show mentioned above, I'm on-air Sundays from 9Pm-midnight EST. Go here and click the "listen live" link.