on October 26, 2012
I pre-ordered this CD from amazon. As with all of my physical music purchases from amazon, the product arrived in perfect condition and was delivered on time. I got it from amazon since the record is only sold digitally via iTunes (booo).
The Sword is an band from my hometown of Austin, Texas. But believe me, they're a anomaly here. They're hard rockers in a city that is fascinated by Indie garbage (IMO) and country-blues-rock fusion. I'm just warning you - don't come to the "Live Music Capital of the World" and expect to find killer bands like this playing on every street corner. You're more likely to find marginally talented, unshaven kids in skinny jeans wearing wool hats in the heat (idiots) trying to look & sound cool.
The CD is in its own art sleeve. The booklet contains lyrics and artwork. They didn't cheap out on the packaging, so it was worth the buck or two over the digital download. The Sword is also on a new label, so I don't know who is responsible for the packaging..but I like it.
Finally, the music! The production level is great on this record. The band has blossomed in this area. I can only describe the music as "killer stoner grooves that will have your head involuntarily bobbing." I read a lot about the comparisons to early Sabbath, and I agree. On this recording they bring some vintage keyboard sounds in, mostly for very subtle background or intros. Don't worry, this isn't Van Halen's 1984, where they're gonna fall off the deep end and go keyboard-centric (we hope). I don't really feel the vocals follow Ozzy's style. Instead I describe the vocals as purely unique and distinct, with respect to both the vocal feel and lyrical content. The Sword seems to deliver the goods consistently. The record is full of great guitar work, some really nice drumming, and sweet bass work (with some flashes of Geezer at times!). If you liked Warp Riders, you'll feel like they picked up where they left off and make it better. Why change a time tested and true formula? Just ask Coca Cola what happens when you make that sort of change.
I've listened to the record in its entirety a few times. They kick things off on the right foot with "The Veil of Isis". I really like this tune out of the gate. Other standouts include "Arcane Montane", "Dying Earth" and the title track "Apocryphon". But those are early favorites - the complete work is worthy of my five star rating.
I was able to catch this band in April 2012 @ Emo's East here in Austin. The band was super tight and professional. If you get the chance to catch them on the road, do it. I will road trip it down to Houston to catch them @ Fitzgerald's in December. I prefer this size venue to the big festivals.
on October 22, 2012
I just recieved The Sword-Apocryphon from Amazon. This is the fourth album from the austin heavy metal rockers. I am listening to it as i write this. I have the other 3 cd's and love them all. The band is a throwback to the 70's when metal was in a state of evolution (if you will),to what it has become today. They remind me of Black Sabbath with Ozzy's original vocal style. But, that being said they are also very original in their own way. I am enjoying this album immensley!They play the old style but with original integrity. If you enjoy high quality metal, that just flat rocks, and has integrity,this band is for you!I also highly recommend the other 3 albums. All excellent metal music with a high level of quality of musicianship and they flat out rock as well!Don't miss this one, it's a must buy!
on October 23, 2012
Apocryphon has new sounds and new band members. However, all of the tracks are solid, build well upon the previous albums and have all of the trademark lyrics and riffs. For instance, the solid Fantasy tie-ins that you may have come to expect from albums other than Warp Riders (which is a concept album) are back on this album, like Dying Earth (Jack Vance). I've seen these guys many times since Age of Winters came out. Glad that their careers have come such a long way since I first saw them opening for a crappy band, in a crappy bar, off the beaten track here in Denver. It was really cool to see them make it onto the Metallica Tour and Guitar Hero game. To the point, this album is another great reason to get out there and see these guys Live! Imagine that this is why there are a few Live, high energy, teaser tracks on the album. They really are a unique Live experience.
on April 4, 2013
The fourth full-length from Texas-based collective The Sword finds the band powerfully doing what they do best: Doling out piles and piles of ginormous riffage, colossal, conquering grooves, viscerally rumbling bass lines, and fantastical, epic lyrics (which are spewed by Ozzy Osbourne-worshipping vocalist J.D. Cronise). And, of course, 2012's "Apocryphon" might occasionally venture into more melodic and head-trip-esque territory, but it is just a matter of time before the band emerge with another Titanic-sized, foundation-shaking, and eminently memorable riff that abruptly takes the song back into the heavy, propulsive soil that birthed it.
On the whole, the album falls somewhere between Black Sabbath, Mastodon, High On Fire, Pentagram, Motorhead, and Judas Priest. The opening "The Veil Of Isis" adheres to a catchy, Sabbath-esque galloping groove, and is tattooed by crunching guitar licks and crashing cymbals. The next song, "Cloak Of Feathers," then, is centered around a meaty, moaning, Tony Iommi-copped riff; but it is a highlight because it briefly opens up for some clearly audible -- and surprisingly technical and nimble-fingered -- bass lines. "Arcane Montane" is another big standout on account of it flirting with some exceptional guitar soloing. And it is further highlighted by a lumbering, swamp-bred main riff, and a strong, grumbling bass line. "The Hidden Masters" opens with a proggy-sounding string arrangement reminiscent of vintage Deep Purple. But, yes, it soon downshifts to a memorable, grumbling, downtuned main riff that practically screams "classic, trance-inducing stoner metal."
The album's centerpiece, "Dying Earth," is like the track that preceded it in that it opens on a surprisingly experimental note, with a trippy, new-wavy synth intro that promptly slams into blistering thrash territory, with an up-tempo, massively pounding main riff and some good, shredding guitar solo work. The song also stands out for being the largely instrumental piece that it is. "Execrator" is another up-tempo, and near speed-metal-worthy bruiser, and one that is filled with memorably hooky, galloping guitar crunch. But back on the more mid-tempo side of the line, "Seven Sisters" is a thunderous romp whose towering, pure doom riffage evokes "Paranoid"-era Black Sabbath almost to the tee. And the subsequent song, "Hawks & Serpents," is another ominously crunchy and down-tempo chugger, though it is one that features a nicely melodic bit of soloing.
"Eyes Of The Stormwitch" continues in this vein, as a forebodingly doomy cut with a pounding, pummeling riff and some tasty, Zakk Wylde-styled solo flights. And then "Apocryphon" closes with the really catchy title song, which abides by a memorably hooky and head-bangable, Black Sabbath vs. Iron Maiden gallop, some new wave-tinged keyboard flourishes, and Ozzy Osbourne-inspired singing. But all of this, of course, trades off with a dramatic, densely churning main guitar lick.
Simply put, you can point out the lack of a musical leap forward taken (or not taken) by The Sword, here; but at the end of the day, there is very little about "Apocryphon" that you can honestly complain about. So while some other bands might be more diverse, brilliantly written, and/or structurally complex, few modern metallists can drop the almighty doom metal hammer quite as mightily and/or satisfyingly as The Sword.
on October 22, 2012
Since I've discovered the Sword in 2008, few new bands have impressed me more. Most rock/metal coming out today lack the guitar virtuosos we became accustomed to in Thrash metal and it's progenitors. It lacks original lyrics, original riffs, and is seriously lacking in real guitar solos that aren't a simple trip up and down the scales. The Sword is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that makes me really love metal again. So many segments and songs sound decidedly retro, a throwback to the 70's, while they constantly scream through with modern takes on old themes and styles.
This album is infectious. It seeps into your bones, creeps into your brain, shakes you thoroughly and just takes you to a separate world of their making. The Sword has continued to plod forward through their sludgy riffs, screaming solos, and haunting vocals. Uplifting bridges and somber moments (Like in "Hidden Masters", as with "To Take the Black") throughout lift you up, take you down, and leave you unprepared for the unrelenting assault on your eardrums that follows. Apocryphon marks the 4th album where they've done something incredible, failing to hit the point most bands do when they give up/"sell out" up and make something mainstream. They're committed to their music and keeping it their own, and it really shows. It's rare for a band to get a fan like myself disillusioned with old favorites like Metallica and Offspring and change my outlook on what bands can really be with a work ethic like these guys have.
Their many influences shine through here, the vocals are eerily like Ozzy, many trudging riffs take you back to old Sabbath, ZZ Top (with a cover included it's no wonder), and even some old prog rock standards like Rush. But they keep the music distinctly their own (I cannot emphasize this enough, I know it can be annoying to be compared to the work of others, but they have really carved out their own cave in the cavern). Sticking to concept albums seems to really just take this band out of this world and set your mind far outside of the monotony of the day.
I had the immense pleasure of meeting most of the band outside Neumo's in Seattle last year. They are down to Earth and humble, in stark contrast to what you see on stage. I went from getting a recommendation on a place to get tacos from Bryan Richie to having Shutt's solos shredded right in front of my face with a prefectly laid setlist. If you haven't had a chance to see them live, do so. They simply give it their all on stage as much as they do on Apocryphon.
I've listened to it twice already, and can't wait to get home and play it on my home system. The bonus live tracks are a really awesome extra, something that often sounds poor and under-produced on other bands' albums, but not on this one.
on December 13, 2012
The Sword move forward with their increasingly groove-driven sound on "Apocryphon," showing that the grim and grit of earlier records like "Age of Winters" are in the hazy, pot-smoke cloud past, and the 1970s sci-fi vibe started on "Warp Riders" is the future. Lyrically the album reflects deep readings of Adam Warlock, "Heavy Metal" magazine and J.R.R. Tolkien with some Michael Moorecock thrown in, all mixed up in the haze of special herbs of course. The Sword inherit a stoner rock legacy forged by Sabbath, Candlemass, Fu Manchu and others, and by "Apocryphon" have made it their own. So for longtime fans this is a band that's refined its sound to a knife edge, and are beginning to own it and control it. The downside is there's not much here that "Warp Riders" didn't already cover. That doesn't make it a bad record though.