After writing and recording music on his own for "a few years", vocalist and guitarist John D. "J. D. " Cronise formed The Sword in 2003 with guitarist Kyle Shutt and drummer Trivett Wingo. Speaking about choosing the band's name, Cronise claims that he researched the moniker first and found it "unbelievable" that it hadn't already been used; however, two other bands did already have the name Sword, including a Canadian heavy metal band, and the frontman states he "narrowly escaped litigation hell" before The Sword was finalised. The trio played their first show together on June 19, 2003 at the Beerland in Austin, and released their first demo Age of Winters before the end of the year. Bassist Bryan Richie completed the four-piece lineup in early 2004. Prior to the formation of The Sword, Cronise and Wingo had performed together in the group Ultimate Dragons in Richmond, Virginia, while Shutt and Richie had worked with multiple bands in Texas "united by a love of Led Zeppelin". Cronise had also performed with a local band called Those Peabodys, but left as he felt he "needed to do something heavier". After their first live performance together as a four-piece at Austin's Sound on Sound Records on March 17, 2004, the band released a self-titled second demo, which was followed the next year by an extended play (EP) entitled Freya.