Winning choruses chiselled in stone, crafted with love and authority.
Alex Deller 2012
For a time there, The Sword seemed poised to conquer the universe. They nabbed a Guitar Hero spot, toured with the planet’s biggest metal band, Metallica, and appeared to be blazing a meteoric trajectory that only a vengeful god could stop. Then 2010’s Warp Riders came and went: a somewhat unsatisfying, sci-fi-indebted epic that adopted a rather ill-fitting hard rock aesthetic.
Now, with a new label behind them and a new drummer providing the whumps, it seems The Sword are back on track. They sound far more comfortable in their own skin, because while Apocryphon isn’t shy of those same Thin Lizzy-isms it’s possessed of far more heft and grace than its immediate predecessor.
While channelling Mountain, Black Sabbath and Witchcraft, Apocryphon arrives at a mid-point between the rumbling, dust-huffing grooves of Kyuss and the lusty theatrics of Manowar. Much like the legendary power metallers, the band’s sheer conviction sees them effortlessly delivering content that should be plainly ridiculous, belting out lines like “she wore a cloak of feathers and rode a mare of purest white” with such gusto you’d feel like a snivelling killjoy if you failed to wassail their passage with a sloshed goblet and a hearty cheer.
It’s this earnestness – alongside a clear knack for a killer hook – that helps Apocryphon win out despite lacking solid-gold riffs or the choicest, fiercest solos. Instead, The Sword forgo stratospheric ambition and showy musicianship for the sake of brisk business and bangover-worthy choruses. And while Execrator’s erratic turns and the nimble synth winding merrily through the title track might suggest the envelope’s being pushed, the band clearly isn’t at a point where they’re willing to probe the fringes in the same way as Baroness or High on Fire.
This, though, needn’t be condemned at a point when ‘going prog’ is almost the easier path to take: there are songs here, and songs by gauntletful. They’re relatively simple things to be sure, but they’ve been crafted with love and authority before being chiselled in stone so that they may yet last certain discerning metallers a lifetime.