The Sword: Apocryphon
The Sword is one of those bands that should have been around four decades ago when the classic metal rock gods first appeared and smote the masses with heavy riffs and epic sensibilities. That time is sadly long since past, and in the years between then and now the genre has taken innumerable turns and produced countless iterations of its basic tenets. The Sword looks to maintain the status quo of classic, hard hitting doom metal with their newest effort, Apocryphon.
With their last record, Warp Riders, The Sword distinguished themselves with a powerful display of virtuosity and song structure. Flowing smoothly as a concept album, Warp Riders felt like a natural progression for a band keen on maintaining the old ways. After a change to a new label, the band has gone back to the drawing board, but unfortunately this new effort falls a little flat.
You’ll find this happens to a lot of great bands, especially those who successfully avoided the “sophomore slump,” when perhaps success starts to catch up to talent yielding art that is good, but safe. The Sword has taken very few chances with this new release, and its apparent in the rather homogenous collection of songs they have produced. Every track seems to want to be your new favorite cookie-cruncher with an endless array of hard hitting riffs and doomy, apocalyptic lyrical content. There are no intriguing instrumental interludes to break up this monotony either, which only detracts from this band’s appeal.
What seems to be the most positive aspect of the album is its willingness to rock your face off. From start to finish its a trip down memory lane to the days when metal wasn’t about harsh screams, over-the-top double bass lines, and ridiculously dropped tuning. Guitarist/vocalist J.D. Cronise, a graduate of the Ozzy Osbourne School of Voice, can actually sing very well and lends much needed energy to mostly weak lyrics. On a similar note, new drummer Jimmy Vela absolutely crushes his parts with substance and style that very much fits the bands throwback persona.
The band does hit the mark a few times, like on “Cloak of Feathers”, which seems to invoke the image of an impenetrable prophetess, beautiful and terrifying, to relate the hopeless struggle of man against that which he cannot control. On “Seven Sisters (which shares some loose association with the opener “Veil of Isis”) the band harnesses some excellent guitar harmonies among the riffage that imbues the track with a gentle atmosphere of confronted loss. Additionally the title track, “Apocryphon”, wraps the album up nicely with an examination of cyclical cosmic forces at work in man and nature.
While far from an evolution in sound, it is difficult to argue that Apocryphon is a bad record. The production is thick and juicy, but not over-polished or inundated with unnecessary flair. This is something of a double-edge sword as there aren’t too many moments that really grab the listener either. After changing labels and acquiring a new drummer, it seems only appropriate that a band of such promise should seek to find its footing on stable ground. However I hope they don’t get too comfortable with this format, because they are far too talented to stagnate in mediocrity.
MP3: The Sword “Seven Sisters”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl