For Fans Of
Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, especially Texas band The Sword. The quartet love turning the clock back so much that they’ve made a career out of it, splicing together the mammoth riffs of their rock n’ roll forefathers with slick modern production. While 2010’s epic sci-fi odyssey Warp Riders blasted off into the cosmos, album number four, Apocryphon, brings things back down to earth again, the focus shifting from spacey existential freakouts to solid-as-a-rock stoner jams.
To be perfectly honest, some classic rock purists may write off The Sword as another ‘throwback’ band, but that would be selling their talents criminally short. Sure, they sound a lot like Black Sabbath, they’re obsessed with all things vinyl and analogue, and they even look like they’ve been dragged though a wormhole linking 1970 to the present day. But The Sword never set out to masquerade as a classic rock band from another decade (unlike The Darkness…). That was never their plan. They’re about taking notes from the past, while still injecting their own hard rock and metal-influenced swagger.
With blast beats and guttural vocals dominating modern metal, Apocryphon‘s retro grooves and harmonic passages provide a refreshing change of pace. Unlike many contemporary metal bands, whose sole focus is pummelling eardrums with double bass fills and facemelting tempos, The Sword delve into memorable mid-tempo jams that will rock heads without blasting them clear off. Loaded with crunchy power chord bite and soaring vocals, ‘Arcane Montane‘ heaves and slumps from side to side before duelling lead guitar breaks interject. It’s closely followed by the moaning bluesy intro of ‘The Hidden Masters‘, which steadily builds before descending into a downtempo stoner romp. Meanwhile, ‘Dying Earth‘ is sets the dials for an astral journey into the ether, loaded with spacey phaser effects and the album’s longest individual track time.
This time void of instrumentals, frontman John "J. D." Cronise‘s vocals are pushed to the fore on Apocryphon, his sci-fi stories of the past record ditched in favour of more introspective lyrical themes, frequently touching on the metaphysical. “Is the time right to find a new religion, under the ground, way down below?” he ponders on ‘Seven Sisters‘ in his distinctly Ozzy Osbourne-esque howl, a trait that’s either good or bad depending on whether or not you’re a Black Sabbath fan (but honestly, who isn’t?).
If you didn’t like The Sword’s take on classic rock before, then Apocryphon probably isn’t going to do much to change your mind. It’s unashamedly retro – but it’s also a lot of fun. Put it on, crank it up, don’t overanalyse it and just go with the flow.
1. Veil of Isis
2. Cloak Of Feathers
3. Arcane Montane
4. The Hidden Masters
5. Dying Earth
7. Seven Sisters
8. Hawks And Serpents
9. Eyes Of The Stormwitch