The Sword – Apocryphon
Razor & Tie 2012
The Sword‘s debut bow for Razor & Tie finds their gaze fixated on the bigger picture. An expectedly ripe breeding ground for the bluesy crunch of Black Sabbath and the layered melodies of Thin Lizzy; “Apocryphon” also boasts lyrical content akin to the smoke exhaled from “Heavy Metal” magazine and a Dungeons & Dragons monster manual sharing a hookah.
The thing about The Sword these days is that they’ve graduated from leading the charge to commanding the battle from afar. Thus their songwriting has progressively expanded to a wider lens. “Apocryphon” finds itself characteristically energetic, chockfull of gnashing riffs and hearty one-upmanship. But while the songs boast flurries of riffs and trenchant grooves, their heart is set on maintaining momentum.
In writing as the proverbial overseer the band have cut loose the scrappy energy and crunchy fervor that was the lifeblood of their earlier efforts. The larger hooks and more traditional songwriting leave ample room for knotted guitars; yet their limited time in the spotlight can see it all feeling superfluous. It’s still business as usual in terms of tone and style though as their adoption of fuzzed out distortion and expert mining of mid-70’s metal, prog and southern boogie continues on unabated.
Where “Apocryphon” falls short is that it sounds more like a collection of songs celebrating the battle rather than songs written from the heat of it. That is to say, an embellished version of the bands former selves.
A glorified caricature that delivers the broad strokes while glossing over past intimacy. The clean production is a nice touch though and there’s a lot to appreciate in the seemingly endless assault of searing riffs and smoked out bliss.
The whirring dirge of “Arcane Montane“—with its accentuated ringing bells and lively guitar work—is an immediate highlight. The obtuse synth that opens the albums title track is also likely to catch more than a few listeners off guard. Shifting their focus back to earthen affairs following the spacefaring “Warp Riders” is a welcome change of pace. It’s just that after traveling the cosmos The Sword have returned to terra firma perhaps a touch too celestial-minded.
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