Review Summary: If Black Sabbath and Metallica were to team up and write a sci-fi-themed concept album, it would sound very much like this.8 of 8 thought this review was well written
The Sword, arguably Texas’ finest contemporary doom metal band, has shown increasing potential throughout their seven-year career. Starting off with playing imperfect Black Sabbath-esque metal completely drenched with apocalyptic atmosphere and having since then improved with almost every day, it’s impossible to doubt that the band has matured greatly. And yet, despite how close 2007’s Gods Of The Earth
came to it, they were never really able to create the album that everybody knew they could
make. That is, never until yesterday, when Warp Riders
finally saw the light of day. Very likely this year’s best metal album, Warp Riders
is in every way an evolution for The Sword.
Even by just looking at the album cover, it’s obvious that The Sword has, in the past few years, changed. Instead of the usual Dungeons And Dragons
fare, the listeners find themselves looking straight at what could have been a scene from Star Wars
: a solitary space ship maneuvers through a sea of meteoroids, as a distant moon, illuminated by a burning sun, fades into the red sky.
This science-fiction theme can also be found in the lyrics which showcase the band becoming more adventurous with their texts. Warp Riders
, a conceptual album, tells the story of Ereth, an archer whose home planet (Acheron) experienced tidal lock-thus causing one side, burned by the heat of three suns, to be engulfed in eternal day and the other, frozen without the warmth of the light, in eternal night. Throughout his journey, Ereth encounters everything from robots to space pirates, and meets a enigmatic deity that tasks our adventurer with saving his planet. In short, Warp Riders
contains all of the elements of the quintessential space-epic, while retaining some components of The Sword's fantasy roots (these are particularly apparent in the album’s first single, Tres Brujas, a song about three witches).
This Homeric saga (a very compelling one, at that) is given a very fitting musical accompaniment. The band’s sludgy aesthetic once again makes its appearance on Warp Riders
, but every aspect is improved tenfold and the band is not afraid to push their music past the limits of the genre. The riffs are infinitely more massive, with every note seemingly crushing the listener, the solos scorch more than Acheron’s three suns, and the drums relentlessly pound away at everything in their path. The vocals, the weakest component of the band’s sound in the past, are stronger, more powerful, and even more reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne's unique wail. Surprisingly, despite the heaviness and magnificence of the music, there is never a feeling of anger, something very common within heavy metal, and the music frequently becomes trance-like and hallucinatory.
As mentioned above, Warp Riders
contains the band’s most adventurous songwriting. Slow, churning riffs give way to lightning-fast, thrashy gallops, and, sometimes, impossibly atmospheric soft segments sneak their way into the mix. On Warp Riders
, the band also sees themselves flirting with more unconventional and even progressive instrumentation. For example, Astraeas Dream, prior to exploding into blistering carnival of shred, features some ambient synthesizers, much like the ones found throughout much of Lawless Lands, while The Chronomancer II: Nemesis features some genuinely foreboding chants.
In the end, Warp Riders
not only shows The Sword finally releasing the album that we all have anticipated for four years, but is also one of the years best metal albums, if not the best. If these four Texans continue evolving as they do here, I won’t be surprised to see them becoming the front runners of doom metal.