Oct 22, 2012
The Sword - "Apocryphon" ...
Enter 'Apocryphon' and The Sword have once again hit their stride, releasing a powerhouse album that is not only memorable but also mixed to perfection. If you have ever wondered what makes stoner-rock/metal such a popular genre, then listen to songs like 'Arcane Montane,' 'Cloak of Feathers,' 'The Hidden Masters,' 'Dying Earth,' and 'The Veil of Isis' which opens the album. If you don't get a musical boner from these tracks, you need to get your head and ears checked. The songs mentioned are all highlights that are over-flowing with juicy, ear-catching hooks that get stuck in your head right from the very first spin of the album. Hooks aside, this is riff-heaven with the band throwing the listener, one gargantuan monster riff after gargantuan monster riff on every song. The band never get stuck in any gear as they provide non-stop tempo changes and variations that is not exactly the norm for stoner-metal acts.
Opening track 'The Veil of Isis' hits you between the eyes, kicks you in the balls and runs over you with the subtlety of a Mack track. The blend of catchy, monolithic riffs, sublime vocals, stunning instrumental breaks and the rumbling, bottom-heavy back-line makes the sound on this album irresistably tasty. The Sword are a song band and know the importance of great songwriting versus just churning out heavy riffs just because they don't know how to do anything else; IE: like thousands of death, funeral and some stoner-doom bands do. The opening track shows the band has return to the style of the début but with two big improvements. This is far better produced and mixed and most of the songs here are the heaviest stuff the band have ever recorded so it is refreshing to hear that The Sword haven't taken the easy road and simply recorded a radio-friendly commercial album.....this album is far heavier than anything I was expecting.
The second track 'Cloak of Feathers' is riffy, groove laden psych rock that avoids any of the usual plodding that most stoner or doom bands usually engage in. Moving onto 'Arcane Montane' and 'The Hidden Masters' and the band are on a roll, the like of which hasn't been heard since the stoner metal sub-genre first introduced the likes of Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu and dare I say Kyuss. Vocalist J.D. Cronise still has the Ozzy croon but he seems more melodic on this album which is another step in the right direction for the band. My personal favorite track on the album 'Dying Earth' is next and it is a bone-rattling exercise in riff-rock mayhem and psych-rock insanity. While the band has one foot firmly in the classic rock of the 70's, there is also a modern edge to these songs that ensures it doesn't sound out-of-place alongside more modern sounding metal acts.
'Execrator' is a short blast of concise psych-rock with a punk-rock edge while 'Seven Sisters' is another infectious, memorable track. In the past The Sword have been prone to have some filler on their albums in-between the real good stuff but finally they have delivered an album that is 100% consistent all the way through. 'Hawks and Serpents' and 'Eyes of the Stormwitch' are more golden nuggets of stoner-metal with more insanely great riffing, memorable melodies and instrumental sections that raise the hairs, stimulate the senses while putting a strain on the neck muscles. The album then ends on the title-track and they throw in another surprise by blending heavy-ass riffing with electronic music. Normally this would spell disaster but The Sword nail the combination by putting together a track that is truly captivating. 44 minutes later, it all comes to an all far too sudden ending and you are left wondering why it took them 4 albums to get to this level of brilliance.
'Apocryphon' wins on all levels - musically, lyrically, songwriting, production and performance. The album art is perhaps the albums only weak point as it looks a bit cheap and slapped together to me but most people don't give a shit about album art anyway these days. I will get some flak for this review but go right ahead, I will be the whipping boy for this album and after all my garbage existence at the moment makes any hate-mail I might get seem trivial (which it is most of the time anyway). 'Apocryphon' is The Sword’s best album to-date but it is also a touchstone album for this genre that is rather carelessly referred to as "stoner-rock." Haters will continue to hate and I mean, they have nothing better to do anyway while lovers of the band will have this on heavy rotation for years to come. As a intro-album for newbies, it is perfect and this should push their fan base into even bigger numbers. Exceptional album by The Sword.....10/10.
Tags: The Sword