Austin based metallers The Sword are one of my favorite bands of 21st Century. Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth with their mythology and fantasy themed songs are some of the best, groove-heavy metal of this millennium. Warp Riders, their 3rd studio album, released today and it blows both earlier efforts into tiny particles of space dust. I won’t lie; I was excited about this album. Excited to a degree where I was already starting to cope with my inevitable disappointment; no album could possibly live up to the album that existed in my head. Well, turns out I was wrong about that. Warp Riders is exactly as amazing I hoped it would be and then some.
This also marks one of the few specific instances wherein I feel a little less strange about posingt a review of a metal album on a mostly science fiction and fantasy book blog. Why is that? Take a quick look at a synopsis of the story told on Warp Riders (courtesy of the band’s official website):
Warp Riders tells the tale of Ereth, an archer banished from his tribe on the planet Acheron. A hardscrabble planet that has undergone a tidal lock, which has caused one side to be scorched by three suns, and the other enshrouded in perpetual darkness, it is the background for a tale of strife and fantasy, the battle between pure good and pure evil. ….The story of Warp Riders, entitled “The Night The Sky Cried Tears Of Fire” (written by Cronise), follows Ereth as he discovers a mysterious orb and meets the Chronomancer, a being beyond time and space who enlists him in a quest to restore the planet’s balance. Along the way he encounters strange warriors, mysterious witches, ancient androids, and a crew of space pirates with a vessel that will alter the course of history… a vessel known as, The Sword.
The Sword manages to tell this story not only through the lyrical content of each song but through the music that drive each track as well. Album opener Acheron/Unearthing the Orb starts off with a quiet synthesized introduction that evokes the science-fiction theme quite nicely right before the Unearthing the Orb section takes off with a furious crunch of guitar. Tres Brujas, released earlier this year as a single, and show some improvement on J. D. Cronises’ vocal skills; though he never strays far from his “barely sung” style. There are no metal wails or power metal screeches here and Cronises’ vocal style suits the band’s sound perfectly. Both Cronise and Kyle Shutt take ample opportunity to show off their guitar chops, more than in any other album and I found myself grinning on multiple occasions as one or the other burst into a solo. Production on Warp Riders sounds a bit cleaner than on previous albums. While the sonorous drone of the heavy distortion favored by the band is still present and accounted for Warp Riders sounds tighter than the band has ever sounded in the past.
Hands down I love this album from start to finish. While I found that the galloping rythmn of Lawless Lands to be my particular favorite every song on this album is an absolute winner. As of right now, with just over 3 months left in 2010, Warp Riders is my favorite album of the year and it will likely take something impossibly amazing to unseat it. I have no real complaints except that the damn thing ended! Thankfully I have a video trilogy to look forward to (Tres Brujas, Lawless Lands, Night City) as well! You can check out The Sword on their website or listen to some samples on their myspace.