The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


The Sword
Warp Riders Mark Eglinton , September 6th, 2010 14:00

For those of you familiar with that unfortunate expression 'shit or bust', that's the awkward predicament Texan retro-metal merchants The Sword find themselves in as they 'dump' – if you'll excuse the expression – album number three.

Without going in to the finer details of what this means – it's fairly self-explanatory anyway - The Sword have been fortunate so far in their career to have been exposed to their audience on high-profile concert bills with the likes of Machine Head and Metallica. Regarded primarily as exponents of mystic-influenced doom metal, it was hard to tell if there was really any substance behind the considerable fuss that surrounded Age Of Winters and Gods Of The Earth, their first two offerings produced in-house by singer/guitarist John 'J.D' Cronise. Yes, a couple of tracks have appeared on the Guitar Hero video game series, and yes, it is supremely cool to list The Sword as a favourite band; but until Warp Riders landed like the most stubborn of curry-turds, this was a band whose hype way exceeded their output. Thankfully, rather than bust, they've delivered on all that early career buzz, and made the album they really needed to.

Touted as a concept album – telling the story of Ereth, an archer banished from his tribe on the planet Acheron – Warp Riders is vastly more cohesive and mature than anything the band have done to date. The fact that the songs are components in a 'story' is largely irrelevant here, as they all stand up strongly in their own right. Even more impressive is the musicianship, which on opening instrumental riff-fest 'Acheron/Unearthing The Orb' recalls the mighty chug of very early Metallica - and second instrumental 'Astraea's Dream' does precisely the same.

What is ironic, however, is that The Sword's first two albums heavily referenced Black Sabbath in a way that Warp Riders largely eschews, even though Cronise's voice sounds increasingly Ozzy-like. On the title-track in particular, he sounds like he's articulating it all from the bottom of a disused mine shaft. Perhaps best of all is the southern-boogie influenced 'Southern Lands', blending early ZZ Top seamlessly with a wicked swirl of organs, if you can imagine such a mixture. Either way it all works brilliantly, and rather than pigeon-hole themselves as one dimensional and over-hyped copycats, The Sword - subtly changing direction to craft a durable selection of impressive thrash and doom influenced hard rock songs - have catapulted themselves into the big league.