Svard is a project new to this locked down world. The band consists of Tim Nedergard and Bjorn Petterson from Sweden’s proggy deathsters In Mourning who offer guitars and vocals. They recruited ex bandmate and bassist Pierre Stam and reached across to Germany to tempt in old pal Cornelius Althammer of salty doomster Ahab to take the drum stool.

Italy’s Argonauta came across the demo tapes and decided to let Svard rip during these troubled times.

Now first off, I gotta admit it was the inclusion of Althammer that excited me when I read about this E.P.  So first off – if you are expecting lengthy oceanic funeral doom with epic tales of seafaring and legendary monsters of the deep you are going to be disappointed.

Instead, Svard offer a traditional brand of thrashy Eurometal. It reminds me in places of Iced Earth with more prog leanings and rawer vocals.

The cover artwork hints at a smoky, psychedelic interior – there are hints but these are quickly diluted into the mainstream metal hues.

First track proper after a pointless minute’s intro is “A Rift In the Green” a swaying toe-tapper with a few good riffs hiding amongst cut and paste bits from a thousand other also ran tracks. The drums sound completely out of place and seem to be marking a different time to the bass. The vocals are straight out of an Epitaph hardcore compilation from the late 90’s competing with what sounds like a bad power metal backup singer.

Palaeocene Flames which follows has a bit of Priest duelling guitars to usher things in but descends quickly into a mediocre mess. Is that the twin guitars from Maiden’s “Be Quick or Be Dead” I can hear in there?

Onto “The Burning Asylum” with an intro that has a 90’s Testament feel to it before the angry hardcore voice comes in. Any semblance of a groove or feeling of power that was being built is broken into cookie cutter riffs and rumbles. There is even an alt rock style break. Ugh.

You gotta wonder if these guys really wanted to get this stuff out into the world like this. We all jam with mates and have fun but it doesn’t mean that others will enjoy it.

Having escaped the burning asylum I fall earfirst into “The Portal” – the 9 minute closer.

Spacey synths abound at the beginning and I start to reach for the psyche that was hinted at by the artwork and the labels publicist. This is more of a stoner/ trad metal affair with a hint of latter day Candlemass about it and the competing clean and guttural vocals combine well offering up some nice power between them. The twin guitars are there once more bringing in the trad elements and you can smell the oiled barbarians and leather vests. Just as it get started it breaks down into a chugging riff that is backed by sonic space noise straight out of the Hawkwind playbook (as if those guys have ever had a playbook). It works. This is much more like what I had expected, big riffs, big drum sounds and massive spacey noise to carry me off into the stratosphere. It feels like these guys got together as pals and started jamming, with the first four songs being those awkward moments when musicians are feeling each other out and just enjoying each others company and looking for a direction. The Portal is the sound of a band that has found where it wants to go and the vessel that it needs to take them there.

As a stand alone track “The Portal” is excellent. It just needs the rest of the EP trimmed off and cast aside.

(5/10 cos that last track is that good Matt Mason)