The Sword has proved its awesomeness simply by naming its new album Warp Riders. Oft associated with Tolkein’s misty realms and the lonely outer-reach epiphanies of Robert A. Heinlein, The Sword is master of the esoteric and, now, the psychedelic. Tasteful, even wizardly solos populate the album, and J.D.
It’s strange how a young band could sound as creatively tired as the Sword did on their second album, but there wasn’t any doubt that 2008’s tepid Gods of the Earth showed that the Austin band needed some tweaking. You can only lazily mimic the proto-doom of Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, and Sleep so long before people realize that if that’s all you’re going to do, they might as well go back to listening to those bands rather than listen to a pale imitation. Gods of the Earth, while not incompetent, sorely lacked the exuberance of the band’s 2006 debut Age of Winters, the production stifling, the vocal melodies uninspired and buried in the mix, everyone seeming to go through the motions rather than sounding larger than life like the best bands of this genre do on record.
The third full-length from The Sword is one step beyond your typical concept album... With its a href="http://www.myspace.com/hawkwindofficial" target="_blank">Hawkwind-esque cover art and baffling sci-fi concept (something about an exiled archer’s quest to restore the balance of his home planet), you can’t accuse The Sword of pandering to the hipster-metal (shudder) demographic on this, their third full-length. On the contrary, ‘Warp Riders’ tones down the brazen Sabbath worship of old, instead plunging headlong into the realm of southern-fried hard rock – just check out strutting lead single ‘Tres Brujas’.
Much was made of the Sword's decision to abandon Middle Earth, following two acclaimed albums steeped in fantasy metal, in order to rocket into outer space for their third full-length, 2010's Warp Riders; but the band's vintage metal sound suffered not one bit from its new alien surroundings. In fact, it hardly changed: retaining most of its thrash-infused metal classicism while shifting gears ever so slightly from a doom to stoner rock undercurrent, then capping it all off with an ambitious science fiction storyline (in two parts!). Yes, this is a concept album in the unadulterated (and dangerously indulgent) definition of the term, one that sets the stage for Warp Riders on the distant planet Acheron, where our banished hero, Ereth the archer, is locked in an epic struggle between good and evil and, well, you get the drift.
Here's the thing about lyrics about witches and dragons and firequests: You have to believe them. Or if you don't believe them, you at least have to sell them. Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourne and Bruce Dickinson sold the living hell out of their silliness. And even an album as recent as High on Fire's truly badass 2010 offering, Snakes for the Divine, made its power-fantasies work, since Matt Pike grunted and growled that stuff as hard as he possibly could.
The third album by this Texas metal quartet is a sci-fi concept album. Yes, I can hear you sighing, but all is not lost. First, the bad. The album's theme revolves around an archer on a dying planet called Acheron. At the album's start, the archer finds an orb that speaks to him about the ….
"Upon the forsaken world of Acheron, the Archer is exiled from his tribe," posits Warp Riders' written intro. "In his solitary wanderings, he makes a singular discovery within an ancient ruin ...." What he's found constitutes a way back home for the Sword. Where 2006 debut Age of Winters put 1970s hammer and anvil to the local quartet's metallurgy, and Gods of the Earth two years later put a finer point on its attack both compositionally and sonically, Warp Riders pulls back from the genre's heavy/heavier/heaviest abyss.
Texan rockers are sure to crumble the cynics with their sci-fi-themed third LP. Noel Gardner 2010 If there’s one thing guaranteed to tick off the worldwide heavy metal community, it’s bands who don’t pay their dues. There is an expectation that before you attain success and recognition, you put out a few demo and independent releases; tour like dogs for no money; and generally behave in a way conducive to the metal underground.