Out Of The Dark Ages, Into The Aether
Much like that one elderly gentleman at every metal show, Texas heavies The Sword seem to think that metal achieved perfection in the mid- to late-70s, and based on their track record, there’s no ground for disagreement. Straying very little from their formula of stoner-esque riffs, punishing rhythms, and vocal “harmonies,” The Sword bring us a fantastic third offering, Warp Riders.
After the band’s obligatory instrumental, “Acheron/Unearthing The Orb,” we enter the hard-rock tones of lead single “Tres Brujas,” based on the Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and featuring vocalist/guitarist J.D. Cronise’s singular interpretation of vocal harmonies. Later, in keeping with the epic nature of classic metal, the band brings us the two-part “Chronomancer (Hubris and Nemesis),” telling of a mystic time-traveler and the secrets he exploits. In a new but welcome turn, “Lawless Lands” channels the blues influence of Sabbath and Zeppelin in a worthy speeding-down-the-highway song, while the title track brings a return to form, blending The Sword’s classic pentatonic riffing with drummer Trivett Wingo’s mighty wash of cymbals. Closing out the record is “(The Night The Sky Cried) Tears Of Fire,” which comes barreling out of the gate and refuses to let up through wailing vocals, dexterous drum breaks, and squealing solos.
The production on this record is incredible, which was initially a cause for alarm. There were rumblings, based on the lead single, that The Sword had sold out their metal roots for a more mainstream hard rock sound. Thankfully, these fears were unfounded. The band simply traded in their songs about wizards and aurochs for songs about time travel and mystic orbs. They also brought in producer Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon) rather than self-producing, giving everything that “classically modern” sound. The vocals are still distant, the guitars are still crunchy, the bass is still warm, and the drums are still pounding.
While it’s no Age of Winters, Warp Riders is a must-own album for fans, and a great jumping-off point for newcomers. Don’t miss this one.