(4 out of 5)
The Sword made a big splash in metal circles with their dragons-and-thrash 2006 debut, AGE OF WINTERS; but when they followed up in 2008 with the tentatively ambitious GODS OF THE EARTH, some listeners were left wondering if they had bet on the wrong horse. Although the album still harnessed the monster riffs and fantastic lyrics of the band’s debut, there was something just a bit “off” about the direction that GODS had taken. On WARP RIDERS, the Austin metallians make it crystal-clear where they are headed. From the “Frank Frazetta in space” artwork (seemingly optimized for an 8-track cartridge) to the multi-part suites and expansive jamming, any hesitation that may have been evident on GODS OF THE EARTH has been replaced with balls-out heavy metal extravagance. It’s no coincidence that the themes evoked here are extraterrestrial, because the Sword has toked up and taken off like some sort of Intergalactic Metal Militia. Of course, the best song here – “Tres Brujas” – is about witches, but one only has to squint through the smoke and rocket exhaust to understand that these are some sci-fi witches they’re singing about, not the pointy-hat-and-cauldron kind. Satisfyingly, though, the Sword doesn’t let their lyrical pretense bog down the thing that really matters: the propulsive, riff-driven metal that’s allowed them to rise far above their hipster metal peers. This is metal in the classic sense, and rendered with just the right amount of rock majesty. The clarity of the vocals that made GODS a bit of a shock is still in play here; but on WARP RIDERS, they merge much more fluidly with the chunky chords and pummeling rhythm section. By fully embracing the genre’s excesses (and strengths), these “throwback” metalheads have gone and pushed heavy music forward a few steps. Again.
First appeared Aug. 23, 2010 at Shockhound.com.