Written by Westin
Megaton Sword – Might & Power
> Epic heavy metal
> Releases February 24
> Dying Victims Productions
The Swiss cheese is back and it is too heavy to carry, so puny my arms. Thankfully, the members of Megaton Sword are super capable of withstanding the weight of three years’ worth of anticipation for the release of their second record, and they’ve certainly arrived ready for battle. The latest album from the rising Swiss stars is certainly a testament to their dedicated commitment to only making good music, in the name of metal.
Megaton Sword are a fairly young band, having formed in 2018 in Zürich, and they’ve maintained a constant lineup since, adding guitarist Seth Angel after the release of their 2020 debut album. That debut, Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire, ended up on a lot of Album of the Year lists in 2020, and rightfully so; Blood Hails Steel is one of the best albums in the contemporary canon of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal. It is one of the best examples of making an old sound fresh and breathing new life into epic heavy metal.
Epic heavy metal sits at the crossroads between traditional heavy metal, doom metal, and the American power metal scene; while epic metal can be found across the globe (including Switzerland, as seen here), it is heavily defined by an American sound and approach that differentiates it from the more European styles of power metal and heavy metal. A little slower, dirtier, more aggressive and bombastically epic (hence the name), key bands like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, or Omen not only helped differentiate the American sound from what would become the NWOBHM, they laid the blueprint for a new subgenre in itself, and their influence can be felt all over Might & Power.
On virtually all technical levels, Might & Power is an improvement on the original debut album – the production is more fleshed out and sounds more expensive, singer Uzzy Unchained has refined his voice (and learned layering), plus there’s a clearer sense of purpose here. The songwriting itself (more on that later) is not quite the same as on the previous record, but it’s definitely at least as strong as on Blood Hails Steel. Take co-title track “Power”: opening with a quick drum fill before dropping to only a superbly toned crunchy guitar playing the main riff alone for around twenty seconds before the whole band kicks in. It’s short, it’s simple, but it’s effective in really drawing your ears to not only the strength of the riff but the way the band builds around it. Moments like this really showcase an evolution in how Megaton Sword think about the way song structures play out, and they were already demonstrating ability towards that on their debut.
The other title track “Might” opens with a crescendo-ing chord under Uzzy singing “miiiiiight.. UGH!” followed by a fast attack of instruments. Later the band settles into one of the most fist-pumping grooves you’ll hear this year; seriously, this groove is gnarly and it’s set-pieced between faster sections, giving great dynamics to the song featuring some of Uzzy’s aforementioned improved stylistic range, in moments growling out notes or holding steady in a much more grounded tone than usual. On a sidenote, I am a strong proponent of the simple principle that your album doesn’t need a title track, but if it has one it better kick ass (lest you look stupid) – Megaton Sword have one-upped all of us by including two title tracks that are both great. Pure genius.
The rest of the album is also just as good; “All Wicked Schemes Unite” has some nice acoustic guitar, “Iron Plains” features a brilliant solo followed by a double time assault, “Cowards Remain” includes a classic late 70’s style riff with some juicy bass tone and another good solo. I really enjoy the songs a lot, and the album finishes on a ballad with piano titled “Babe Eternal” (really). But I don’t quite love them as much as the tracks on the debut, and that brings me to my decidedly nit-picky and mostly personal criticism about Might & Power.
The refinement is very well done, and the band have clearly leveled up in a lot of ways, but in a sense I feel they don’t show it off enough. I want to hear more of Uzzy’s idiosyncratically unique voice; the man sounds like a sorcerer trying to warn me about the future through his magical scrying orb. The vocal hooks don’t grab me quite as strong as on Blood Hails Steel, with more emphasis drawn to the instrumentals or layered vox, which is perfectly fine, but I want to hear more of that enamoring vocal tone, and I want to hear a few more solos or extraneously cool instrumental bits: Megaton Sword have a second guitarist this time round, make me feel it more. Alas, this is a super minor complaint that’s probably just me, so don’t even register it as a formal criticism, I just really like this band and loved their debut to death.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Megaton Sword have achieved the incredibly difficult task of following up a genre-defining debut record in a way that finds purchase. It’s clear that the band are no one-trick pony; they’re demonstrably going to make a hopefully long and successful career out of this project. At the time of my writing, this is my most listened to album of 2023 so far, and for good reason – these guys kick ass and have fun doing so.