By Fire and Sword’s debut EP, Freedom Will Flood All Things With Light offers a rather unusual take on American power metal. The Boise-based group is driven by the chugging gallops, double bass drums, uplifting leads, and soaring vocals common in the genre, but these tropes go through some fascinating mutations. Most notably, the vocal range is more in line with an alternative rock wailer and the production creates a distant vibe that somewhat muffles the guitar crunch.
An almost evangelical delivery works to make the band even more distinct compared to their peers. Religious theming is nothing new in itself, but the ecstatic sermons on songs like the appropriately titled “Testify” and “Where the Light Lets Itself In” take the concept to a whole new level. It’s tricky to tell how seriously they’re taking themselves, but these sequences give the songs extra theater without disrupting the pacing. It’s like a power metal answer to something like 16 Horsepower, which I sure as hell won’t pass up.
Alas, a band can’t live on novelty alone and Freedom Will Flood All Things With Light offers some strong songwriting to go along with its stylistic choices. The best comes in the opening one-two touch of “Testify” and “Where the Light Lets Itself In,” especially with the latter’s climbing tempos. “Exorcist” is another highlight thanks to its melancholic opening giving way to the EP’s thrashiest riff set, though the odd vocal phrasing may be a turn-off for some.
While By Sword and Fire’s debut EP makes for an unusual listen, its quirks never come at the expense of a solid power metal core. The band’s differing components would feel at odds in the wrong hands, but strong writing and performances ensure a strong sense of conviction. A more polished production would’ve worked in the EP’s favor and the overall aesthetic may take some extra digestion time, but they already have a lot to offer. I can only hope that a potential full-length will play up their weirdness even more.
“Where the Light Lets Itself In”