Category Archives: General Geekness

Creepy, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and More!

creepy #13A whole lot of Warren Publishing “not comics” (and therefore not subject to the old CCA Code) are available online at This includes a large run of Creepy, a bunch of Vampirella , a mess o’ Famous Monsters of Filmland, a handful of 1984, and a smattering of other nifty things like their Lord of the Rings special.

A lot of this stuff can serve as inspiration for whatever gaming you’re into these days, and the ads in these are gold. Dig in… if you dare.

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Ray Harryhausen, Rest In Peace

You’ve probably heard by now that special effects master Ray Harryhausen has passed away.

I think it’s safe to say that not a single image in my young gamer’s head wasn’t seriously informed by the ground-breaking stop-motion animation that Harryhausen gave us over the years. And though Hollywood has long moved on from its heavy reliance on this type of effect (more’s the pity), the world is a lesser place for his passing.

I hunted around YouTube and found this compilation of the master’s greatest hits. Enjoy it, and keep these images in your brain the next time you’re trying to picture a hydra, a cyclops, or an army of skeleton warriors bearing down upon your characters.

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal 14: Game Slate Panel 1…


Just a quick update on the progress of BoHM, this time talking about the tablet interface for the Gameslate.

The interface is made up of multiple panels, accessed through a pull down menu bar (which can be seen at the top of the picture below). For the first, Kickstarter, release, we will be focusing on everything the player needs to play the game, so that means a Character Generation panel, an Action Panel, a Music Panel, a Gear Panel and a digital Rulebook reminiscent of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which can be pulled down and read at any time from any panel.

To illustrate, here is the first panel a player will use, the character generation panel, and a character that has been created using it – Nicodemus Bosch, a Ledite of House Capricorn (inspired by Jethro Tull, of course):


Using this panel, one can completely create a new character, save it, delete it or search through the database for other characters created on this tablet (we’ll be looking into transferring them over Bluetooth later this year).

The Bio Panel is the first stop, as this is where you create a name for your character. the six buttons, from left to right are: Search, which allows you to use the next two buttons, left and right, to flip through the various characters stored in the database; two buttons to delete or add/save a character, represented by a ‘-‘ and ‘+’; and finally a Text button that pulls up the keyboard so you can name or rename your character. The small number to the right of the name is the ‘Level’ indicator. Basically, this keeps track of how advanced the character is over a starting one. This makes it easy to manage experience on sight.

The Attribute and Combat Adds panels are fixed, as the names of the stats are constant, and only allow the rank of the relevant Attribute or Combat Add to be adjusted up or down by the use of the adjoining dial. BoL players will notice that there is no panel for secondary attributes built off of these, like Life Blood (or Fight in the case of BoHM). This is intentional, as these are automatically generated from the ratings on these panels and will show up, and be manipulated on the Action Panel.

The Career and Instrument panels are three part: the top allows you to dial through the relevant careers, and by hitting the text button on the bottom right edge, even allows you to add custom ones. This is particularly important for instruments, which aside from the standard grouping of Axe, Bass, Percussion and Voice, can include a wide variety of other sonic devices, as Nicodemus shows with his preferences for Flutes, Keyboards and Mandolins.

The second part of these panels allows you to dial in a rank for said Career or Instrument and then add it with the down arrow button, to your skill list or, if you want to remove a career or instrument, take it away again. Very simple.

The third, bottommost panel simply shows you the careers you have chosen along with their appropriate ranks. If you end up with more than 4, the handy dial will let you scroll through them.

The final part of our character generation panel is the Style Dial. This large central construct determines three things for your character: their School of Rock, which is indicated by turning the metal Roctagon so that the character’s school is at the top; the character’s ranking in various styles, indicated by the number in the radiating Rank Indicators adjacent to each schools position on the interior Rocktagon; and the opposition school, at the bottom, which is the only place on the dial without a radiating Rank indicator.

Ranking various styles is done by turing the central selection dial so that the arrow is pointing towards the appropriate school and then using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons at the base to change the number in the indicator.

The controls are all designed to look good and prevent accidental mishandling, hence the use of dials for a large number of selection points. I like dials on a touchscreen because they require a three step process to use: touch – drag – release. Unlike a plain button, which is simply touch, this means it is harder to accidentally change something by a simple misplacement of the finger.

There are buttons of course, but in accordance with the way people hold tablets,  they are kept towards the center of the design so that any movement of the hand to access them will be largely deliberate (in theory, or course). This is also why the dial controls are mirrored on the left and right edges. Ease of use for the thumbs. And of course, mixing it up a bit helps to make the design more varied, hence the use of buttons for Style Ranks instead of Dials.

Once the character is created, all these numbers will be fed into the approriate spots on the  other panels. The only place to change them, however (except in temporary cases, as when using equipment) is on this panel. This avoids accidental changes to the character during play and also allows the information to be presented in a more compact manner on the other panels, which is hugely important from a mobile platform perspective.

This panel is being broken up and the graphics added to the underlying code this week, and I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the Action Panel and Splash Screen panel (the in-progress version of which I placed at the top of the page). Hopefully, the Gear and Music panels will be finished by the end of the month so that we can get everything the player needs, sans Titans, ready for beginning of May. The Titan screen will probably have to wait until we can figure out how to get the tablets to communicate through Android, which might be a post Kickstarter deal, but progress is apace and I’m very happy with how it is turning out…

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Barbarians of Heavy Metal 13: The Dedites…

At this point, I’ve finished with the rules for character creation and the use of music in the game and have started working on the vehicle and Titan rules. Another thing I’m doing as I go along is filling out the details on the various schools of rock.

Now, you may wonder why I haven’t finished that before moving on to another part of the rules-set and the reason is simple: basically there are a metric butt-tonne of ability lists to fill out. I have to define 11 levels for each Style’s Sonic Wzardry Effects, which means 88 separate Effects spread between 8 schools of rock.And then I also have to fill out the various Licks available to specific schools, and those add another 40 sub-effects that may or may not be based on the Sonic Wizardry Effects.

That takes time and you should never try to tackle a job like that all at once. Best to come back to it a bit at a time as you are inspired and in between working on all the other stuff that needs doing as well. Not only is it less maddening, but working on other rules can often inspire an idea that will grow the lists as you go while still maintaining forward momentum in other areas, and all while keeping the thematic and mechanical elements holistically connected. This is a much more effective use of time than simply staring at a screen and straining your brain for ideas to finish lists in one go while other bits of mechanics need finishing.

All that said, I have completed one of the schools and thought I’d post it up today to give folks a look at how a fleshed out section of the Rocktagon looks, mechanically speaking. There will be additional verbiage, thematic information and so on, added later as the book is finished, but for now, here are the rules for the Dedite School of Rock and their favored sonic style: Fire…


Characteristic Bonus: Fire +1

Special Career: Sonic Slayer



Harmonic Number – 4

Domination: The current roll is pushed up one Level of Success.

Killing is My Business (and Business is Good): Double the total damage caused by the current roll OR ignore the target’s armor.

The Four Horsemen: The Dedite and up to 3 Band-Mates gain a Bonus Die on all actions related to Combat (including strategy and tactics) and intimidation for the rest of the Scene.



Discord Number – 8

RagNaRok: For the rest of this scene, any benefit the Dedite gains from striking a Harmonic is also given to one of their enemies for their next roll.

War Nerve: If the Dedite is in combat when this Discord is struck, the pressures of combat trips their bloodlust into overdrive and they attack with nor regard to their own safety. Their Defend Score is reduced to -2 for the rest of the Scene.

Ride The Lightning: The Dedite pours too much power into their instrument and reaps a vicious energy backlash from the feedback. If using a Sonic Weapon with the Safeties Off, the Dedite takes D6+3 damage.



Axe – Rapid Fire: The guitarist may use their sonic amplifier to shoot a hail of flaming bolts at the enemy. This gives them a Rapid Fire rating equal to their Rank in Dedite.

Bass – The Fallen Angel: When used by the Frontman to create the Heat Shield Effect, it will last a number of Rounds equal to 3x the Decay rating after the bassist ceases to maintain it.

Percussion – Hot and Heavy: When used by the Frontman, any Sonic wizardry Effects gain one free bump in Intensity, Damage or Area of Effect.

Vocal – Tears of Fire: When used by the Frontman to create The Sky is On Fire Effect, tiny drops of flame start to rain down from the sky, affecting a number of Titan Hexes equal to the singer’s Dedite Rank. Everything within those hexes takes a hit from an Intensity 1 flame each turn. Cover may negate this effect, so long as the cover itself doesn’t catch on fire…

Other – All Guns Blazing: When using the Fire of Unknown Origin Effect, all ballistic weapons within D6 Personal Hexes of the player gain a +1 flame damage and all Flame weapons roll a Bonus Die for damage.



Fire in BoHM is measured in Area of Effect and Intensity (see pg.xx). Enhancing Fire Effects doubles the Radius and adds +1 to the Intensity or Damage for each Rank added to the Effect.

0 – Turn Up the Heat

The headbanger can raise the surrounding temperature (a number of Personal Hexes equal to the roll total) to an extremely uncomfortable level, enough to melt ice quickly and cause extreme dehydration and fatigue (see pg.xx), but not enough to boil liquids or to start fires.

1 – Flames Rising

The headbanger can increase the power of existing flame. Each successful use of this Effect doubles the Area of Effect or Intensity of the fire.

2 – Fight Fire with Fire

The previous level of Fire Mastery can only grow or maintain flames. At Rank 2, the heabanger learns to reduce or eliminate them. They may reduce any fire in Intensity or Area of Effect by 1 using this Effect.

3 – Bat Out of Hell

The headbanger can now exert fine control over existing flames, shaping them into animated avatars of flame that move and dance around at their whim as long as they continue to maintain the Effect. The flames may move a number of Personal Hexes per Round equal to the headbanger’s base Dedite Style Rating.

4 – Fire of Unknown Origin

The player may now ignite flammable materials spontaneously, creating a fire of Intensity 1 with a Radius of 1 Personal Hex. The fire will burn as long as it has fuel or for D6 x Decay in Rounds after the player has ceased maintaining it.

If used to light a close combat weapon on fire, add a damage modifier to any attacks using it equal to the Intensity of the flame. You can also do this with feet and fists, but combustible weapons and body parts will take damage every round this Effect is in action. In these cases it’s best to combine it with Hellion, below.

5 -Hellion

The headbanger hardens a single target’s resistance to flame, lowering the Intensity of any fire attacks by 1 for damage purposes. This Effect lasts for D6 x Decay in Rounds after the player stops maintaining it.

6 – Heat Shield

A wall of pure unadulterated heat rises up to melt and diffuse incoming attacks. This Effect will protect one Personal Hex along one side from attacks. this provides a +6 Cover bonus to DEF against all personal attacks that pass through the shielded hexside.

7 – Great Balls of Fire

The headbanger can use the Sonic Amplifier on their instrument to shoot balls of exploding flame at their enemies.

The player fires a number of balls equal to the their Ranks in Dedite, each of which may be aimed at a separate target hex. Each ball has a range in Personal Hexes equal to the player’s Ranks in Dedite x5 and causes D6+5 damage to everything in the target Hex. Individual victims may reduce the damage they suffer by their Defense (including cover).

8 – Firehouse

This Effect can be used to set an entire Titan Hex aflame with temperatures hot enough to melt iron. Just being in the area causes 2D6+6 damage to unprotected living creatures each round.

Any enclosed vehicle that traverses the terrain, like a tank or Titan, gains D6 points of Heat.

9 – Quest for Fire

A giant pillar of flame erupts from a Personal Hex of the player’s choice and shoots 1km up into the night sky. This acts as a beacon and all who see it must pass a Saavy + Nazarite or Ledite roll to avoid being drawn towards it by a long forgotten  primal attraction to flame.

Those drawn in this manner will immediately break free of the spell once they are within 10 Personal Hexes of the Effect, or if they are attacked before they get that far.

10 –  Heavy Metal Fire

The band sets an entire Titan Hex on fire and the flames created are hot enough to melt the armor of Titans and pretty much vaporize any living being. Titans and vehicles passing through this hex takes D6 hits to each location and 2D6 Heat. Titans and vehicles in the surrounding hexes take D6 Heat.

11 – The Sky is on Fire

The band sets a thin layer of atmosphere above the battlefield, an entire Aerospace Hex worth, on fire. This blocks visibility to the ground and forces and vehicles in that hex or passing through it immediately take D6 hits to each location. Any ordinance travelling through the flame is automatically detonated.

Temperatures under this umbrella of flame soar, causing the same effects as Turn Up the Heat above, and it is impossible to see through it from above or below. Titans and other vehicles gain 1 additional point of heat each turn they are in the hex.

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I’m currently working on the basic rules for using music in the game. As you may or may not have read here, the whole foundation for game setting rests on the idea that scientists at some point in the past created Harmonic Resonance Technology that could manipulate the underlying superstring structure of the universe. Harmonic Resonance Forks are built into various items, but the most important one for our discussion today is the Musical Instrument, from guitars to drums to flutes.

These Instruments can be played in two modes:

1. Safeties On: The Harmonic Fork is disengaged and the instrument functions as a normal one of its type.

2. Safeties Off: The Harmonic Fork is engaged and the instrument may be used to manipulate reality or focus sound into a killing force.

In game, characters will use their Harmonic Instruments for three specific types of encounter resolution:

1. Gigging: This is a simple attempt to gather Fame by playing to an audience, either solo or as part of a band, with the Safeties On. Audiences are generated by the Metal Master (the gamemaster) with a few rolls to take into account their mood and their musical tastes. Results can lead to permanent Fame increase, temporary Fame Points which can be used in social situations, or possibly the entire audience rushing the performance area to beat the band into the dirt for wasting their time and hearing.

2. Headcutting: Musical Duels which can be played Safeties On or (if there is really bad blood between the competitors) Safeties Off. Headcutting rolls are like Gigging rolls except that one side bids a performance level (the Difficulty of the roll) and makes their roll. The other side then tries to match that Difficulty with their own performance.

If the safeties are off, then all sorts of physical effects can be added to performance, which make it more difficult for the individual performer, but can cause serious damage to the opponent or even do things like throw them through the air or open up the ground beneath their feet so the earth can swallow them. The only defense is for the target to add their own effects to cancel out the incoming ones. Sometimes, if they think the roll will be too difficult if they attempt to stop all of the effects, they may choose to block only a few, letting the others past their guard.

The trick to Headcutting is the Fame generated is based not only on winning, but doing so without hammering the same combinations continuously. In addition, repetition is easier to block, so you can’t just ‘magic missle’ someone over and over again, you have to use your abilities creatively.

3. Sonic Wizardry: Duels are quick effect affairs, but the ultimate use of Harmonic Instruments is to play entire songs that can alter reality in a real, long term way. By playing specific chord progressions in an extended performance, the character can create ‘magic’ using effects from any style they know, integrated into their main style.

Effects for Sonic Wizardry will be leveled, so a novice in the Nazarite style will be able to light up the area around him, but journeymen  musicians will be able to use that style to create light shows and illusions and masters will be able to create destructive beams of energy that will make even a Titan sit up and take notice.


While a single character can utilize Harmonic Resonance on their own, it is with a band that they can achieve even greater effects in all three arenas of music. The basic idea is you are only as good as your Style permits and even Grandmasters of a Style can only achieve their maximum potential with the help of a backing band. Our Nazarite Grandmaster might be able to plink a Titan, but with a great backing band, they could possibly destroy one and bring down any aircraft nearby with a massive Electro-magnetic Pulse.


I’m still working out the details on a  lot of this section, but instruments are basically composed of three parts:

1. The Base Instrument: This can be a guitar, bass, drums, whatever. It also includes microphones to allow vocal wizardry. Harmonic Instruments are built to take enormous amounts of punishment and the Harmonic Forks inside them can survive the complete destruction of the instrument in many cases.

2. The Harmonic Resonance Fork: These are AdTek, and their construction methods are lost to the mists of time. They are a contested resource, for that reason, and the victor in Headcutting Duels usually claims the instrument of their opponent, or the Harmonic Fork if the instrument is destroyed.

Harmonic Forks come in Keys, with each Key representing a particular Style and it’s attendant effect, and Chords, a single Fork with numerous Keys. Whatever the case, a Fork of a specific Key cannot be used to create an effects opposite it’s Key (or the root Key of a Chord), so choosing the right instrument is important.

 3. Sonic Amplifier: This is the lethal end of a Harmonic Instrument. Instead of using the Resonance to generate effects, it uses the fork to build up a burst of sonic energy that can be fired like a gun. The Amplifier is typically located in the headstock of a guitar, bass or other stringed instrument while drums tend to place them in the Bass Drum, but configurations can be customized to place it almost anywhere.

Mechanically, Instruments are defined by the following characteristics:

1. Attack: This is the Damage Rating of the instrument when the Sonic Amplifier is used.

2. Delay: This is the amount of time it takes to play out a single Effect.

3. Sustain: This is the maximum number of effects that this instrument can maintain simultaneously.

4. Release: This is the maximum duration of any effects generated.

5. Key/Chord: This is the Key or Chord of the Harmonic Resonance Fork inside the Instrument.

6. Forte: Certain instruments are items of such masterwork that their body actually enhances certain aspects of the instrument’s resonance. The Flying V guitar, for instance, is built in such a manner that it enhances any use of Sonic Wizardry to move through the air.


Although I’m still working out the gaming specifics of a lot of this, what I’ve laid out here is the basic idea behind using music as a weapon and a tool in the 31st century Metalsphere. I’ve attempted to make it highly thematic as well as useful, but am eager to hear ideas on how it can be made even better. Comment below and let me know what you think…

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TotSP Party: Escape From Shamash 5

Wherein your humble scribe presents a quartet of NPCs for the delightful Tales of the Space Princess, which he ran across on his hard drive while pondering what to do for a replacement game when a session of his DCC campaign got canceled. Unfortunately, the replacement game got canceled, too. But hey, that means you get free NPCs for a game you really ought to take a look at (if you haven’t already). I mean, somebody ought to get something out of this.

Imprisoned on the lowest level of The Corperiate‘s prison complex on Shamash 5, this group of anti-heroes must make their way to the top level and freedom now that an explosion has rocked the complex and the power grid has failed. Will the young human Thoughtcriminal 2337673 be able to survive in the company of his fellow escapees? The gleaming golden gynoid Graciela Nine and the curious, raccoon-like Dr. Staash-Lovata should prove helpful, of course. But the sinister psychic from Pazuz, with his hypnotic eyes and strange ways with words, may be more of a threat than a boon companion.

Armed with only their luck & wits, and with a limited window before the complex’s oxygen supply runs out, the foursome have little time for internecine bickering. And what of the even less friendly prisoners and guards that reside on the levels between their own and the escape ships at the surface?

Thoughtcriminal 2337673 / Human Scoundrel (Punk)
HD 2 Skill 4 Luck 4
HP 11 DEF 16 Fight 6 Shoot 8

Specials: Expertise (+2 Fast Talk), Disinterest (-2 Avoid Notice)
Skills: Avoid Notice (8), Defeat Security (9), Disguise (8), Fast Talk (10), Hide Contraband (9) and Pilot Ship (8)
Gear: none

GR4-CLA9 (Graciela Nine) / Gynoid Star Warrior (Veteran)
HD 6 Skill 6 Luck 1
HP 38 DEF 15 Fight 13 Shoot 12

Specials: Immune to mental domination, fear and poison.
Skills: Climb (13), Leap & Swing (13), Pilot Ship (8) and Swim (13)
Gear: none

Dr. Errebine Frel Staash-Lovata, PhD / Procyonite Scientist (Doctor)
HD 4 Skill 8 Luck 1
HP 18 DEF 15 Fight 6 Shoot 8

Specials: +1 Def, Claws (1d6)
Skills: Defeat Security (14), Identify & Use Device (14), Invent Device (14), Navigation (14), Repair Device (14) and Retrieve Data (14)
Gear: none

Greaghaghal Och / Pazuz Psychic (Master)
HD 7 Skill 12 Luck 0
HP 28 DEF 13 Fight 10 Shoot 10

Specials: Racial: Mind Control; Class: ESP, Illusion, Mind Trust, Cloud Minds, Telepathy
Skills: Activate Psychic Power (17), Fast Talk (17), Leap & Swing (15), Swim (15)
Gear: none

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What Fresh Pao Is This?

Well howdy there, anyone who still happens to have Strange Stones in their RSS readers! Yeah. I know. Long time, no blog. I just haven’t had anything I felt compelled to share. But I have been gaming some, at least:

  • The year-plus Call of Cthulhu campaign I was playing in just went on hiatus after, well, more than a year.
  • The Dungeon Crawl Classics game I started up with some friends has made it through three sessions and the fourth is going to happen, just a little delayed because of work schedules and new babies and such amongst the crew.
  • Another guy I know is talking about starting up a 1st edition AD&D campaign that I’m leaning towards playing in.
  • Oh, and I got to play in a session of Mythic Iceland (BRP) that was pretty cool.

And since it’s now October I find my mind turning to:

  • The Chill/Ghostbusters thing I always want to run around Halloween but never do (and probably won’t again this year)
  • The Thanksgiving game I’ve run the past few years with my oldest of gamer buddies (but probably won’t this year due to some logistical stuff)
  • The half-dozen or more games I want to run, kinda sorta (but probably never will, for assorted reasons ranging from lack of player interest to lack of time in anyone’s schedule and beyond)

But hey, I’m gaming at least semi-regularly and that’s a good thing.

In Other News
The Sword’s new album comes out in just two weeks. And the advance tracks I’ve heard have been tasty. So that’s exciting.

And speaking of music, I’ve been playing a lot of bass lately (I’ve been playing bass almost as long as I’ve been gaming), having taken up with an absurdist jazz punk art noise rock ensemble here in Austin. We’ve even, in spite of the expected limitations of the genre, had a couple of actual gigs and there are at least a couple of additional shows on the horizon. And some recording that should actually lead to some kind of released album of some sort. So that’s a thing or two.

What Now?
Well, I’m not going to shut the blog down or anything. There’s stuff here that people keep finding and enjoying (the mighty G-Man’s BoL adventures, if nothing else). And really, who knows when inspiration will strike and I’ll have to start posting like mad again or risk burning up from the inside? So there’s not really an answer to the question I’m afraid. I just decided I should poke my head in and say hello, yes, I’m fine, thank you, how are you? So I did.


p.s. I’ve been trying to read a lot more of the Appendix N classics lately, too. Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is on my table right now. Just beneath it in the stack you’ll find Clark Ashton Smith, the smattering of Lovecraft I’ve never read, Beowulf, the recent non-Conan REH compilations, Vance, Moorcock, and more. Yay, books!

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A “New” Sword Song On iTunes

Hammer of Heaven, the new release of an Age of Winters-vintage track by The Sword is now available on iTunes. They played this one at the show I caught a couple of weekends back and it’s tasty. It definitely sounds like it was part of the AoW sessions, so let that guide your hand before you drop the $1.29 to download it. Personally, I dig it, but I know that some folks are more partial to the Warp Riders sound than the earlier stuff. Never let it be said I didn’t do my best to keep my audience of three well-informed about stuff related to The Sword.

In other news… I’m half-sick of RPGs right now for a number of reasons that are no one’s fault, which kinda explains the generally glacial pace of posting ’round here. This malaise will surely pass (it always does), so hang tight amigos. There’s bound to be some new content eventually.

In the meantime, quit reading my idiot words and go rock out to The Sword (or your own choice in rocking out material).

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A New Sword Album Coming In The Fall!

Great news about Strange Stones’ fav-o-rite metal band (and fellow Austinites) The Sword:

The Sword has signed a new, multi-album worldwide deal with New York City based label, Razor & Tie. After releasing three critically acclaimed albums on Kemado Records, the Austin TX based quartet featuring guitarist/vocalist J.D. Cronise, guitarist Kyle Shutt, bassist Bryan Richie, and new drummer Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III will commence recording their fourth album in late June with a projected release date of fall 2012.

The new studio album will be supported by extensive global touring that will stretch well into 2013.

Read the whole press release at the Razor & Tie website.

Here’s to hoping the next album is at least as awesome as the three that have come before it! And once this drops, be sure to catch ’em on tour when they come through your town. They put on one hell of a show.

Now here’s some vintage Sword to keep your axe sharp…

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