The Sword | Apocryphon (Razor and Tie)

The-Sword-ApocryphonI get the feeling that they were angry when they wrote and pretty much busted it out in one recording.

 

Apocryphon is exactly what you might expect if you are already a fan of The Sword. Being that we’re in politics season, let me pose a reference. The Sword is like Ron Paul: They never change. This is a good thing, especially for band of their style that is not designed for experimentation. The Sword’s sound is that of the raw, masculine power one might find in a rural tavern in Southern Alabama. It is the sound of true heavy metal, a sound that strives to live in the shadow of bands like Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and Judas Priest. They take this old-school style and infuse it with the more serious attitude of modern rock and more determined, deeper, and less catchy sounds of hoosier metal acts like Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Baroness, and Black Tusk.

More so than on previous albums, Sword vocalist J. D. Cronise sounds like Ozzy Osbourne himself. Cronise employs the same singing style and it sounds very similarly produced. The band definitely draws multiple influences from Sabbath and Osbourne alike; frequently, such as on “The Hidden Masters,” the slow tempo and very low chord progressions resemble that of Tony Iommi himself.

“Dying Earth” gets a little trippy with a 20-second intro consisting of several manipulated frequencies, and then diving into a very Torchesque minisolo. The repetitive drum pattern on this track, along with extended periods of infrequent use of the cymbals, gives the song an almost warlike quality—quite fitting for a song about the end of the world.

“Execrator” is a very definitive track that repeats the same chord for longer than usual and in which you are repeatedly told that “you are nothing, you know nothing.” It is also one of the shortest songs they’ve ever written, at a mere 2:45. I don’t know what this means exactly, but I get the feeling that they were angry when they wrote and pretty much busted it out in one recording.

For one moment, I’d like to take back what the first thing I said about The Sword. On the closing and title track, they begin with a digitized pattern that is completely foreign to their style. It does not last long, for it is quickly interrupted. However, they return to this sound once more later in the song—again, we see the manipulation as heard in “Dying Earth.” I have but speculation for why they stray from the path in such a peculiar manner, and that is the title of this song itself. Apocryphon is the secret teachings of early Jewish and Christian culture that almost seem mythical in today’s religious context. These include the non-canonical gospels of Thomas and Mary that are very strange to anyone who went to Catholic school. The oddity and uniqueness of apocryphon helps to explain The Sword’s artistic choices in this example. Other than this, however, the song is like any other. It is characterized by the two-second snare roles topped with massive guitar swoops, as well as the hypnotic swing of some of their catchier songs, like 2006’s “Freya.”

2010’s Warp Riders was arguably the band’s best album, embodying not only the well-known sound of The Sword, but the band’s soul, as well: a concept album centered around science fiction circa 1982 based on the cover. Tying the album together is always an important factor for bands like these, and while Apocryphon is a great example of The Sword’s songwriting, nothing about it is as distinct as its last album. Distinction is a difficult thing achieve for a band so set in their ways, but let us hope they may once again achieve that moment of clarity that was present on Warp Riders.

But don’t let this discourage you. The songs inside this album are excellent; it’s the album as complete work that I believe they are lacking. A-Brian Cheli

RIYL: Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster

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