Sound — 9
The Sword formed in Texas in 2003 and released their first full length album, "Age Of Winters", in 2006 and have stayed very busy since that time. They toured for the first album performing with bands such as Lacuna Coil, Trivium, Clutch, Lamb Of God and Nebula. Their second album, "Gods Of The Earth", released in 2008 and marked the beginning of the band acting as a collaborative unit during songwriting as J.D. Cronise had been almost exclusively the sole songwriter on the first album. Their second album marked the first time they charted on the Billboard 200 (at number 102) as a band, as well as giving them the opportunity to open for Metallica on Metallica's 2008 European Vacation Tour as well as some dates in the U.S. on the World Magnetic Tour. Their third album, "Warp Riders", released in 2010 and charted in on the Billboard 200 at number 47. "Warp Riders" was different from their previous releases as it was a concept album with lyrics in the form of a sci-fi narrative. Trivett Wingo, drummer, left the band around this time due to no longer wanting to live the rock and roll lifestyle of constant touring. He was replaced in 2011 by Jimmy Vela, who played on the fourth full length release by The Sword, titled "Apocryphon". The other three members are still the original founding members: J.D. Cronise on guitar and vocals, Kyle Shutt on guitar, and Bryan Richie on bass and keyboards.
J.D. Cronise has stated in some interviews that with "Apocryphon" the band was trying to go to a slightly different place with the lyrics by writing about their actual experiences and issues they are dealing with, but even so the lyrics maintain a feel of being surreal fantasy narratives. The use of keyboard on their album is very tastefully done, not softening the impact of any of their songs. The riffs are very memorable metal riffs and the solos are engaging. Kyle Shutt handles the majority of the soloing on the album and he knows what he is about, giving a taste of melody while maintaining the feel of a metal solo. The Sword has a quality about them that is very reminiscent of 70's metal and early space metal and they maintain this vibe throughout their new release. At times they remind me of Black Sabbath and I think of them a lot of times as the modern equivalent of Black Sabbath. This is especially true with the release of "Apocryphon". I first discovered The Sword in 2010 and since then I have been an avid fan. I bought all their albums the first weekend I heard them and I pre-ordered "Apocryphon" as soon as it was available, and I don't regret spending a single cent I've spent on The Sword. Great vibe and groove to their songs, great riffs, great tone, great drumming overall a really solid album.
Lyrics — 8
J.D. Cronise has always had a unique vocal delivery, projecting his clean vocals in a lot of ways similar to early vocal performances of Ozzy Osbourne. That will be the last time I compare The Sword to Black Sabbath, though I feel like it is a fitting description of J.D.'s vocals. His delivery is somewhere between a public speaking voice and singing with a lot of projection, giving his vocals a very dramatic quality. There is nothing to complain about with the vocals immaculate performance for the songs and this genre of metal.
Here are some lyrics from the opening track, "Veil Of Isis": "As the night arrives the day concedes her crown/ in the dying light the shadows grow/ when the world is dark and still without a sound/ that which was hidden is shown/ tears of sorrow flood the land/ all that has been shall be again/ the dead will rise and the living must depart/ what if all you've seen are lies/ when the veil is from your eyes/ and you face the infinite with fear in your heart/ the wind blows cold as the days begin to wane/ the lord of the dead assumes his throne/ when men have gone and only ghosts remain/ that which was secret is known/ tears of sorry flood the land/ all that has been shall be again and the moon shines over the sea as the mother of man/ somewhere seven ships collide/ seven sailors lose their lives/ but their voyage continues on the other side/ Asherah saw below/ queen of heaven, she who knows". So, the lyrics are similar from past releases by The Sword as they are providing a surrealistic narrative.
Overall Impression — 8
I purchased the deluxe version of the album along with a poster and t-shirt as soon as the pre-order was available and I have absolutely got my money's worth. This is a great album, especially with the bonus tracks, which include live versions of some previously released songs as well as an awesome heavy cover of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses". The deluxe version of the album has 15 tracks, the regular version has 10. The regular version has a runtime of just under 45 minutes and the deluxe version runs at just under 70 minutes. The bonus tracks, in addition to "Cheap Sunglasses" are live versions of "Arrows In The Dark", "Barael's Blade", "The Chronomancer II: Nemesis" and "Ebethron". My favorite songs on the album would have to be "Veil Of Isis", "Execrater", "Eyes Of The Stormwitch" and the title track "Apocryphon". I didn't dislike any of the songs on the album, so I can't really name my least favorite track. As I've listened to the album I've enjoyed it more each time, so in addition to being a great album it is one of those albums that I feel like will probably age well.