Monday 13 March 2023


 From the hills of Athens, Greece descend three warriors their chiselled features set with stern intent, their sculptured bodies bronzed by the fierce Athenian sun. One of them carries in his gnarled battle scarred hand a weapon, a sword forged from the fire stolen from the workshop of master craftsman Hephaestus and given to man by the trickster Prometheus. This is the Bastard Sword, a symbol of mans intelligence, ingenuity, and progress.
Well not exactly, the truth of the matter is Bastard Sword are an Athens based trio with a penchant for cranking out big stoner doom guitar riffs driven by growling low end and thunderous rhythms mixed with elements of heavy psych and post-rock, its just that whenever Desert Psychlist gets the chance to review a Greek band we tend get an itch to get a little Homer-ish. Having said this Bastard Sword do themselves play with their Greek heritage, the band hiding their real identities with names cherry picked from Greek mythology whereby we have Achilles on guitar/vocals and keyboards, Akis on drums and Odysseus on bass. 
Demi-gods, warriors or just ordinary men these three musicians make a fine noise as you can hear for yourselves when delving into their excellent debut  "I"

If you are going to open an album with a song referencing in its lyrics "a creature immense and strong" then the song better have a groove that reflects that immensity and strength and "Il Gigante" does. Lumbering, heavy and dark with eerie passages of creepy dissonance "Il Gigante" is pure old school flavoured doom that borrows more than a few tricks from the iconic Black Sabbath song that bore that bands name, especially in the anguished, fearful and pleading nature of its vocals."Heirophant" follows, a song still very much in the doom canon but possessing a groove that is pitched a little left of centre with its guitar parts muddied in fuzz and distortion to maximise its off-kilter atmospherics, as the song progresses it slowly discards that distortion and fuzziness and drifts into a deliciously hazy heavy psych groove with Archllies ripping searing bluesy solos from his fretboard over a backdrop of tight fluid drum and bass rhythm. For "Witching Brethren" Bastard Sword drop the doom and go full on stoner/hard rock, chugging guitars, thunderous drums and growling bottom end supporting a well delivered ear-catching vocal melody that as it nears its finale is joined by some swirling keyboard flourishes. "Santeria de Sangre" is up next and here we find the band upping the warp factor and hitting a groove not far off punkish that is decorated in vocals brandishing a dynamic just shy of harsh. It's back to the doom for "Ghosts in the Beehive" only this time doom with a more proto-metallic flavour, the song boasting a mid-tempo groove over which a clipped, almost robotic, vocal is delivered."Athropocene" is a song that evolves from being lysergic and experimental through to languid and luscious, carrying the threat of heaviness but never quite delivering on it and is followed by " Orbital Mechanist" a mood piece consisting of gentle acoustic guitar appegios picked beneath a swathe of swirling synth and keyboard textures. "Tenbones" finds Bastard Sword once again flexing their stoner rock muscles, all crunchy guitar tones and four to the floor rhythms, the band only momentarily deviating from that path with a touch of doomic pacing in the final third. Last but by no means least we have "Tooth Rattler" an instrumental that takes a little from all that has gone before, sticks it all in a pot with some cathedral flavoured keyboard textures and mixes it all together to create one big post rock gumbo.

Anyone listening to "I" is going to be hard pushed to describe what this band bring to the table in terms of genre or style, each song is just so radically different from the next. Forcing so many different elements together on one album could well have been a recipe for disaster but it isn't and the reason it isn't is because Bastard Sword pour so much of themselves into each track. Whether they are jamming a heavy doom groove or laying out on a passage of hazy liquid psych, the tone of the guitars and the dynamics of the drums tell you that you are listening to the same band and given the diversity of the songs they present to us with "I" that's a pretty mean feat.
Check 'em out .... 

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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