MEGATON SWORD – Might & Power (2023)REVIEW

Like night and day in Xarkahar. — Not the sort to allow themselves or their demesne Niralet to be lost in a crowd, the impassioned folks behind Winterthur, Switzerland-based heavy metal quintet Megaton Sword arrive upon their second full-length album ready to define themselves with a full-ranged, simple yet effectively stated longplayer made to stick in mind and best showcase their wares. Few are brave enough to take one too many steps into the classic hard rock album format and embrace the archetype, a most nude showcase of the variety available to their quick-formed personae and test the sincerity of the work with directness. The extreme focus, overtly referential sounds and unwavering power fantasy of heavy metal must relent from bloodying their hands too deeply as a result, allowing for much (but not too much) more than the anthemic narrative songcraft they’d honed in the past. ‘Might & Power‘ will win over many with its up front and charged heavy/power metal hooks, they’re still -that- type of band eh, but now it seems their narrative’s got a focal point, a timer ticking down, and a hankering to get right into it. That said, the real point of growth, or, maturation felt herein is held within this album’s station as a proving ground for the ballad-and-back-again of it all while still holding a tight enough yoke on the sleeveless denim types.

When Megaton Sword formed as a quartet back in 2018 you could tell they weren’t dummies stumbling into view, vocalist Uzzy the Unchained had a world built in mind and their style was well-considered, practiced and professional when they’d soon released their debut mLP (‘Niralet‘, 2019). That record quickly caught my ear for the somewhat nasal Phil Swanson-esque register of the vocals, albeit in a more 80’s power/epic heavy metal tradition, which continues to be the most obvious point of refinement as the band presses on at their craft. Such a charismatic and well-formed debut release had no trouble making its case beyond potential, once folks caught wind the momentum was clear enough, their stuff was entirely ready to go for a debut LP. When the then still quartet formation of the band released their debut full-length (‘Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire‘, 2020) the next year Uzzy sounded leagues more practiced, the songcraft tighter structured and the sound design allowed a well-fleshed and professional enough render to facet the band into the minds of folks looking for the “right stuff” per epic heavy metal from a modernist, endless NWOTHM era mindset. I’m not sure they fit all that well in a trendy zone of any sort, this is keep it absolutely true stuff in my mind, though the frequent comparisons to Eternal Champion (this does not hold up) helped to get a lot of ears in the door. While a simple Part II follow-up to their debut would’ve been fine enough ‘Might & Power‘ is, again, something more bold, direct and somehow even more classic in its appeal without losing the “one of us” metal nerd appeal a group like this kinda needs anymore.

Depending how deeply you’d read into the lede I’ll clarify that ‘Might & Power‘ is not a softer, gentler and dumbed down version of Megaton Sword‘s gig but that we experience a full eclipse (or, a spiritual audit) of their intentioned oeuvre in eight pieces which do not dare sink into redundancy, or borrow too heavily from the playbook already established. The path is nonetheless logical, linear and suited to present a best face forward. Their most daring feats are smartly attempted when fealty for the experience has already been won and the mind is primed enough for a bit of a comedown. That is to say that Side A is the light of day glinting upon the sci-fi/fantasy of the event, a set of four anthems meant to rouse and thrill the traditional heavy metal fan with their potently dramatic presentation. “The Raving Light of Day” finds its rant within seconds and implies its major hook in less than two minutes, stomping through its distinct verses and wheeling back to the chorus in half as much time. Thought the actual structure of this song is direct in its resonance, a sublimely readable statement, there isn’t a bit of rest in the tension of the performance. It ends up being an unusual yet effective opener which appears raring to dive into this world once again.

A mane of hair, flailing like golden regalia on the battlefield… — The clock is ticking, the light is phasing out and during our time out in the field “Iron Plains” will have to be the biggest and most effective moment at the peak of day. In fact it is as song unlike anything else Megaton Sword have written before, a bounding double-bass kicked gallop bracing the lead-in to a gloriously harmonized chorus, sentimental in a triumphal warrior-starred heavy metal romance novel sort of way. This is the perfect sort of song to hit repeat on for a couple of days and live within for its driving pace and captivating mood, there is a physical gust to its that subverts the odd power metal stride one might’ve noticed more in the early 90’s if not for all the gaudy keyboards and such. For my own taste this is the flex point of the album, a song which’d swung both eyebrows upward along with expectations for what’d come next and, eh, mixed results from here on out to be frank. No doubt “Power” is equally if not more profound in its memorably swinging main riff, tragedian lilt of Uzzy‘s verses and otherwise fist-pumping chorus… At this point the album already has me replaying fight scenes from Fire & Ice in my head, I’m there and the punkish dash of “Cowards Remain” might severely tweak the momentum, or, tone beyond those first three pieces but it. Bravo, honestly, in preview I’d hit this point on the running order and had been blown away. Their best, most direct and satisfying showing to date.

Then come the nighttime balladeers of Side B, sporting their garland crowns and waving their fire-tipped wands at a mid-pace and eh, alright. “Raikaszi” is comparatively tuneless when considering the thundering hooves we’d taken toward it, a sombre epic heavy metal stride to introduce the second act which droops the lids with some consistency on my part. “All Wicked Schemes Unite” pulls in a bit more passion, a bit of a chest-beater on the battlefield with a spear in its back. The effect is electrifying and it bodes well enough, not exactly aiming for a Týr style epic but also not reaching for ‘The Book of Heavy Metal‘ for kitsch either. If we can look to Megaton Sword‘s past you could tell a piece like “Crimson Sword” on their debut was a breakthrough that’d led us to this headspace and it ends up being a memorable piece. Though we are back at it with key re-energizer “Might” I’d typically found myself already itching to flip back to Side A and stay there for the goods. “Babe Eternal” reinforced this thought by an exponential (face clawing, howling as if banished back to Hell) value, a “love it or hate it” sort of moment where I heartily, emphatically choose hate.

Though my overall intake would end up feeling uneven there’ll be no denying that Megaton Sword have jumped a few steps, taken to running up the stairs forth as ‘Might & Power‘ deeply impresses for its boldness in cutting right to the heavy metal hook and personalizing it into a signature moment. This is rare enough and could carry an eight song record well enough, though they’ve just as well dared into territory on Side B which I’m not sure they’d had ideas which quite as fuckin’ nuclear-dropped as those found all across Side A. Nonetheless by the fifteenth (or so) pass through this record all but one song had convinced me this record was a true keeper. It’ll have to be a tentative recommendation dependent on how polarizing such a bold display might be for the average trad metal listener’s taste. If that sounds a bit too waffling, I will say that I’d had more than a few of these songs (esp. “Iron Plains”) stuck in my head since early January. A moderately high recommendation.

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