Review : THE SWORD – "Warp Riders"

The SwordWarp Riders
Release Date: 2010Aug24 (US)
Label: Kemado
Rating: 3.5/5

The Sword are one of those bands that the critics and general public seem to adore, but one look at Metal-Archives and you’ll notice that the “tr00″ metalheads are not as excited. Reviews titled “It’s hip, it’s happening, and I don’t give a shit”, “Leaves a nasty taste in the mouth”, and “A conspiracy against us” show just how much hostility this band has received from the metal world. Quite frankly, I don’t understand it at all. The last two albums have been nothing but pure, unadulterated stoner doom and are, in my opinion, two of the better records released in the last decade. Unfortunately, even I can’t go crazy for their latest effort, Warp Riders.

The album is, despite their fantastical lyric content in previous releases, a science fiction concept album. It tells the story of Ereth, an archer from the planet of Acheron who was banished from his tribe. Acheron is a planet that has undergone a “tidal lock”, with one side scorched by eternal daylight and the other in “perpetual darkness”. Ereth sets out on a journey to restore equilibrium in his troubled world. It’s not a bad storyline, and the sound does mesh well. However, it seems The Sword has self-castrated, and lost all of their power.

The riffing, which is the axis they revolve around, is not up to par, causing just about everything to spiral out of control. Songs like “Arrows in the Dark” strive for the same force of “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians” but just cannot make it up there. This is mostly due to their move from sounds like Sleep and High on Fire toward Wolfmother, Clutch, and Year Long Disaster. While it’s still good with a few fun moments, it will not get your blood pumping quite like Age of Winters.

Aside from the sound change, the production is also significantly more polished. The first two records were dirty, crude, dusty, and done by frontman J.D. Cronise. Warp Riders has a fitting sheen for modern bands like Isis or Mastodon, courtesy of producer Matt Bayles (who also recorded the bulk of both of those band’s discographies). In contrast to these groups, The Sword do not play around with atmospherics and light-heavy dynamic contrasts. Sure, I can really hear the guitar and bass and every little thing going on, but part of what made these guys so great was the retro vibe of their music.

Maybe I’m just an ornery fan who can’t get past a sound shift, but Warp Riders has proved to be one of my biggest disappointments of the year. You guys can enjoy the new sci-fi stuff all you want. I’m gonna go listen to “Freya” and “Winter’s Wolves” and continue my worship of Thor and Odin.

FCC OK
Try 1, 2, 4, 7, 10

01. Acheron/Unearthing the Orb
02. Tres Brujas
03. Arrows in the Dark
04. The Chronomancer I: Hubris
05. Lawless Lands
06. Astraea’s Dream
07. Warp Riders
08. Night City
09. The Chronomancer II: Nemesis
10. (The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire

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