The Sword is a fast climber, for me. Their last album, 2010's Warp Riders, was my favorite album of that year. I love that album, I think it is damn near perfect. It took the doomy-Black Sabbath style metal of their first two albums, and injected some Thin Lizzy style classic rock. I absolutely love that album.
Apocryphon. I was a little sad that the band had moved back more toward the Sabbath-type sound. That said, the songwriting on this record is tremendous. The band has grown into a riff machine. There is cool stuff all over this album, and while there may be no moment of pure, glorious rock craftsmanship like "Night City" on Warp Riders, the experience is sonically exhilarating.
This is, simply put, a solid selection of songs. There is no filler here, and it's nice to see J.D. Cronise continuing to develop as a vocalist. The lyrics are still the sci-fi/fantasy hokum that we love this band for, but Cronise has really grown from the early records, where his vocal delivery was adequate, but clearly the weakest think in their arsenal. He, quite honestly, may be turning into one of my absolutely favorite current vocalists.
The musicianship is tight and powerful, Cronise and Kyle Shutt have really perfected their dual-guitar style, and I'm absolutely in love with how Bryan Richie plays bass. Jimmy Vela is the newest member, on drums, and, while I miss the way original drummer Trivett Wingo pounded the skins, Vela absolutely fits the formula the band has perfected.
What's nice about the songwriting here, as opposed to the earlier albums, Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth, and I have to guess this is because of the successful jaunt into more of a classic hard rock sound on Warp Riders, is that the band seems very comfortable to lay back from the songs. The first two albums were rather consistently heavy, there might be slower, lyrical passages as an intro, but then when the band got going, they were GOING. There seems lees need for that here, they've proved they can be heavy, and they've proved they can be melodic, now they're clearly finding (and quite successfully) ways to let those things coexist.
The title track, in particular, is just a masterpiece. Starting with what almost sounds like Atari video game sound effects, and then ripping out with some of my favorite lyrics in a long time.
Darkness and light entwine
Everything is all the time
All around you points align
Everything is all the time
It's really nice to see a hard rock/metal band that actually seems to be trying to evolve, to add elements to their music, without losing the qualities that made them cool in the first place. Too often, it seems like bands go completely off the rails, or they seem perpetually stuck making the same record over and over again. IF their first four albums are a good indicator, The Sword will not have this problem.
Cloak of Feathers
Hawks & Serpents
As an additional note: There is a deluxe version of the album available that includes four live versions of songs off previous albums, as well as a really fun cover of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses." Totally worth it, in my opinion.
More on The Sword later, as I'll be seeing them at The Double Door tomorrow night.