Remembering the glorious dead

LIVE BY THE SWORD: The Glorious Dead E.P.

Release year: 2022
Label: Rebellion Records

As I wrote in my review (read here) of US-Dutch Live By The Sword’s debut full-length, Exploring Soldiers Rise, they represent an oi! band of a new breed. Not only musically, where considerable elements of extreme metal clash with traditional street punk, but also conceptually. Lyrics of ancient warriors, the might of nature and decidedly anti-modernistic currents dominate over your run-of-the-mill beer, football and working hard imagery. At the core, though, the same concepts of honour and pride through inner integrity are at work.

As something of a stop-gap release and teaser for the upcoming second full-length Cernunnos, the band have released The Glorious Dead, a five-track EP that gives a brief glimpse into what to expect from the album, and plenty of exclusive tracks. With strictly one pressing on vinyl and CD, johnny-come-latelies will likely miss out on this; but since the EP is a bit of a fan-service release, casual listeners should be able to ignore any sensations of FOMO.

You see, the five-track EP consists of two acoustic tracks, a cover, one track from the forthcoming album and one additional track, which is more like an interlude. So from that point of view, regardless of questions of quality, this isn’t something absolutely everyone needs in their collection.

Beginning with the acoustic tracks bookending the EP, things kick off with an acoustic rendition of the title track – I’m assuming an electric version is to be found on the album. On the closing side of things, Live By The Sword offer an acoustic take on Into A New Dark Age from the debut album. Both are nice tracks, and the stripped-down approach only serves to amplify a certain spiritual kinship I’ve sensed between Live By The Sword and neofolk/martial industrial. The antimodernistic current is undeniable. Ultimately though, comparing the plugged-in and unplugged versions of Into A New Dark Age, it’s obvious to me which one is better. Spoiler: the former.

Then there’s the cover, yet another street punk rendition of Green Fields Of France. Thematically, this track is of course a good fit for this EP, which is (and I quote the insert) “a tribute to a generation of young warriors who put their lives at risk in a burning world”, but ultimately it doesn’t offer any significant new take on the 1976 classic after versions by polar opposite acts Angelic Upstarts and Skrewdriver – and maybe Dropkick Murphys’ rendition also deserves mention.

That leaves us with two tracks. In Memoriam is an exclusive for this EP, and has the feel of an interlude about it. Slow, lamenting guitars lead into a somber spoken word section. There’s not too much to say about it, really. And so remains Sacrifice, the one track to be heard in more or less this same version on the upcoming album.

What insight does it give to us about Cernunnos?

Well, if this one track is indicative of the full album – an assumption I admit is not at all warranted, mind you! – then we can expect Live By The Sword to take another step towards a more metal sound, away from anything resembling “pure” oi!. With traditional metal riffs and vocalist Erick Barnes’ rough-hewn vocals, this is a slab of epic heavy metal with just the merest hints of oi! or punk. Where Exploring Soldiers Rise even borrowed from black metal, this track makes me think of NWOBHM and stuff like Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol filtered through the hybrid style of Live By The Sword.

And you know what? I’m liking what I hear. More purist oi! types might not, but then again – they probably didn’t like Exploring Soldiers Arise too much, either. It really makes no sense to consign Live By The Sword very strictly into that niché at this stage. Maybe calling them “an oi! band of a new breed”, like I did above, no longer does them justice.

So, the bottom line of this EP is a reiteration of what I wrote above. For anybody but devoted Live By The Sword fans, there’s little reason to consider this EP a must – something which has precious little to do with quality. However, for people anxious to hear more and get a small taster for the upcoming album, The Glorious Dead will hit the spot.

Visit Live By The Sword on their Facebook page

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