Having already conquered the dungeons and the dragons, it’s not really a big surprise that The Sword would head to space with the sci-fi themed narrative that sets the backdrop for “Warp Riders“.
The lyrical content, written around the fantasy storyline of an alien archer being banned from his tribe and a planet seemingly in peril, is assuredly colorful; but more often than not fodder for the smoldering dual guitar attack to encircle and ultimately envelop.
A progressive leap for the band, this album comes off more Thin Lizzy than Black Sabbath. This is a particularly surprising turn for an outfit who were already frontrunners in the hesher kingdom in terms of success and exposure thanks to practically becoming Metallica‘s house band in recent years.
But as much as the album’s concept sounds like a hash-baked retelling of 1981′s animated ‘epic’, “Heavy Metal“, it is not without its merits. Songs like “Tres Brujas” ply vivid imagery that is as much “Star Wars” as it “Krull” around hooky refrains.
At face value the cinematic space opera told by the lyrics is one of the most prevalent changes found here, but it is not the biggest. Instead it is the increased implementation of the rollicking blue collar classic rock groove that that steals the show.
Sounding like it was distilled through Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad‘s beer bongs, it gives the album a certain nostalgic charm while also stepping away from the usual stoner rock confines. Another plus for the band is their newfound confidence in showing off their chops.
While already established as technically able musicians, there are moments on this album where the band really let rip, breaking free from the droning repetition that could bog them down in the past.
This is also perhaps what sets “Warp Riders” apart the most from the rest of the bands discography. Yes the influences can be easily traced, but even so the group seem to have found their ‘own’ identity and the courage to step out and express themselves, without worrying about what is expected of them.
That said, “Warp Riders” is certainly not without its faults. The songwriting is often too busy and the production a bit too claustrophobic to truly capture the warm aesthetic of the era of which they so freely borrow from.
There’s also a tendency for the instrumentation to have a bit more say than the implementation and this can make for a few overbearing tracks. But for what it is, there is a relative freshness about this album that shines a light on an often overlooked transition area of rock music where the lines between hard rock and heavy metal were still being drawn up.
As “Warp Riders” proves, it’s an area rife for plunder and one certain to bring the band new fans and perhaps even some new ‘older’ fans.
Click the stars to rate this album.