I cannot tell a lie, I am a fan of The Sword. I saw them live numerous times when they opened for Metallica. I love their sound and think they are the nicest and most polite young men I’ve ever met. So I was over the moon when I got the new album “Apocryphon” to review. It’s wicked, just plain wicked. It’s got a swagger and groove that really gets you going, it has a totally laid back vibe while still rocking out. “Apocryphon”, The Sword‘s fourth album drops is their first to be released on the Razor & Tie/Napalm record labels. It’s available October 22nd and they plan to start the tour not to long after.
The first track ‘Veil of Isis’ sounds like a 70s style southern rock song. From the guitar to the drumming to the harmonies; it’s straight up Texas rock and roll. Break out your bell bottoms and bandana and be prepared to swing and sway and head bang your way through almost fifty-five minutes of pure stoner bliss.
What I like the most about “Apocryphon” is the narrative. Each song tells an interesting story. From a wanton woman that causes heartache to unearthing the secrets of the mountains to the dying of the Earth to a very apt description of having to prepare for war against those whose aims are to subjugate the populace are just some of the topics broached. This is odd as lyricist, singer, and guitar player John Cronise says there’s not so much storytelling.
Cronise elaborates, “The music is also lyrically different. There’s not as much storytelling as on previous albums. There are songs about real life subjects. Warp Riders was a big undertaking. I wrote a sci-fi story, and we made a record about it. This was more stream-of-consciousness. In a way, I realized music as a vehicle for expressing my own views and thoughts. I shied away from that before in favor of entertaining people with colorful narratives. This is where I’m at.”
All of this is set to the backdrop of some really acid dropping, bombastic guitars, and hard driving drums.
John Cronise continues on saying, “The word “Apocryphon” came up while I was researching Gnosticism, early Christianity, theosophy, and other esoteric subjects,” he goes on. “They’re books that were either banned or removed from the biblical canon. The early church fathers felt that these teachings were either too advanced or dangerous for the masses to be exposed to because they encouraged thought that was antithetical to the church’s system of control, so they were considered heretical and dubbed apocrypha. You’ve got to look beyond what you’re told to the totality of knowledge available to approach any sort of true understanding.”
At the same time, he also immersed himself in a healthy dose of science fiction such as Phillip K. Dick‘s VALIS and the work of Michael Moorcock. According to the press release, ‘Dying Earth’ nods directly to Jack Vance‘s science fiction series of the same name with an apocalyptic build up and distorted crash. The first single ‘Veil of Isis’ is self-described as careening from a propulsive beat and kinetic riff into an impressive groove. It illuminates another side of “Apocryphon”.
The subject matter is quite on the esoteric side. The lyrics are very much open to interpretation. The listener will hear what the listener will and take what appeals most to them. The Sword have lovingly married the gravitas of the lyrics with the crushing weight of sound.
‘The Hidden Masters’ is a stand out track for me because it opens with some sultry bass playing by Bryan Richie and slowly adds some smokin’ guitar work by Kyle Shutt and John Cronise and with Santiago Vela III on drums it’s a winning formula. It builds like the tension at the pool hall on hot Delta night. Here The Sword starts channeling old Black Sabbath in tone and texture. Or were they channeling Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainley and John Simm? “Look at yourself. Look at your world. What have you done? What have you become?” It begs the question. The composition is beautifully simplistic, instead allowing every note to drip and ooze into the listeners’ synapses and take hold.
Personally, I like any song whose first lyrics are… “set adrift in the multi-verse…”. It’s the uber geek in me. I can mentally see the points of light the song references; all bluey, purpley, and orangey looking. “Apocryphon” is not only aurally pleasing, it’s visually stimulating, and taps into your brain cells. Only an uber cool band like The Sword can write a bitchin song about space time. I think Jon Pertwee would approve. This is truly HIS sort of song.
“Apocryphon” is full of totally awesome guitar solos, killer bass riffs, and in your face drumming. John Cronise‘s voice is superb. “Apocryphon” is a stellar album on so many levels. It’s definitely worth having in your music arsenal.