The Sword

Apocryphon

01. Veil Of Isis
02. Cloak Of Feathers
03. Arcane Montane
04. The Hidden Masters
05. Dying Earth
06. Execrator
07. Seven Sisters
08. Hawks & Serpents
09. Eyes Of The Stormwitch
10. Apocryphon

[10/22/12]
[Razor And Tie]

Metal has evolved greatly over the past 40-something years. However, many of us tend to forget that metal originated from the blues. It was this genre that influenced the first few metal bands, and if you listen to their work, you can clearly hear the influence. Sometimes we also forget how well metal can groove, how well it can get in the pocket. These elements of groove were continued with sludge and stoner bands, and continue to this day. While many of us overindulge in prog, djent, tech, and death metal, we often forget to go back to our roots, to revisit the true origins of metal, and to just relax and enjoy the old stuff. However, there are very few bands that can take this select brand of metal and make it sound unique. Mastodon, Sleep, and Kyuss are all examples of bands that do it very well. However, one band that continues to do it well, and have perfected their formula to deliver their best record yet, is The Sword.

The Sword is a metal band hailing from Austin, Texas, where the down-south mindset is the driving force. From the beginning they have made very compelling music, and over the years have gone from a good metal act from Texas to being one of the best bands around. Their latest record, Apocryphon, is a culmination of three albums of trial and error, and much has improved from their first release to this LP. J.D. Cronise’s vocals most notably have improved, and he has found his niche. Every single song is filled with his signature brand of singing, his ever recognizable vocals that have gone from sounding very forced to effortless. Along with his vocal melodies, as well as his lyrics, it makes for his best performance yet. Alongside him are Kyle Shutt on lead guitar, Santiago Vela on drums, and Bryan Richie handling bass and keyboard duties, these three round out the band and help this record drive forward with their expert playing. It seems they have gone from being four members of the same band to one cohesive unit, and this fact is demonstrated by their ability to make this record sound as full as ever.

One thing has not changed, however, and that is ability to let the riff dominate. Every single song has that one riff — the one that gets lodged in the back of your mind and refuses to go away. After listening, you’ll find yourself humming the guitar riffs randomly whilst simultaneously playing air-guitar, whether or not it is in public. The riff has always been the key component of their music since day one, and it’s really refreshing to see that the mentality shared between the three guitarists has not changed. In companion with the riffs are some wicked solos. Not shreddy solos, but those kinds of solos where you have to make a face while playing them out of necessity — those solos that you air guitar in along to the music. Perhaps the coolest aspect of these riffs are the bass lines that accompany them. They’re dirty, grooving bass lines; they don’t need to be flashy, and they don’t need to stand out. After all, the bass was designed to be a rhythmic device rather than a leading element. Combined with the new blood of Santiago Vela III on drums, it makes for a deadly combination of music.

The lyrics, in typical The Sword fashion, also focus on the cosmic realms, ancient peoples and texts, and mystical beings of other worlds. The production on this record parallels their last in the perfect balance; the perfect mix of instruments. The vocals are right where they need to be, and every instrument is heard. The album’s artwork is immaculate. There are songs that stand out, such as ‘Hawks & Serpents’, ‘Arcane Montane’, and ‘Seven Sisters’. On the special edition of the record they perform some of their most known songs live in their hometown of Austin, and at the very end even throw in a studio cover of ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ by ZZ Top, a band they have admittedly been influenced by. There’s no filler, just all killer, and this record is proof that the band still has many more amazing riffs in their minds, just ready to unleash them upon us all when we seem ready.

The Sword are at the highest point they have ever been in their career. They have sold hundreds of thousands of copies of their records, both on our shores and abroad. They have toured all across the globe. And they have released their best album yet. They seemed to understand the various criticisms given to them over the years and improved on every aspect. They have made a statement with this record, one that says, “Hey, we’re The Sword, and we’re going to be around for a long, long time,” and I don’t think that their loyal fans could ask for anything more. So if you’re looking for one of the best albums this year, an album that will be remembered as their opus, an album that is the perfect Sword record, then look no further. Because it is upon us all.

The Sword – Apocryphon gets…

5/5

-SS