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The Sword - "Warp Riders" (CD)

The Sword - "Warp Riders" CD cover image

"Warp Riders" track listing:

1. Acheron/Unearthing the Orb
2. Tres Brujas
3. Arrows in the Dark
4. The Chronomancer I: Hubris
5. Lawless Lands
6. Astraea's Dream
7. The Warp Riders
8. Night City
9. The Chronomancer II: Nemesis
10. (The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire

Reviewed by on August 26, 2010

"'Warp Riders' is the most incredible and influential metal album released during my generation, and I was lucky enough to experience it."

I always wondered what it felt like to experience a monumental metal album such as “Master of Puppets” or “Paranoid” on the day of its release. It became a near obsession of mine, searching for that one special album that without a doubt was one for metal’s history books. The search has been exhausting at times with lackluster releases of over-hyped mediocrity and has been a quest taking place for years and years. Some have come close, but nothing left the definitive lasting impression and true sense of excitement that a masterpiece album leaves on the world. That was until I cracked open my copy of The Sword’s “Warp Riders.”

The follow up to 2008’s “Gods of the Earth,” “Warp Riders” could very well be called Gods of the Riff, Gods of the Song, or even Gods of All Metal. It’s that damn good. Admittedly; I am a Sword fan and both their 2008 release and 2006’s “Age of Winters” are both high up on my list of all time favorites. But there is just something different that sets “Warp Riders” apart from the band’s previous work. It could be the reeking stench of flawlessly executed 70’s rock nostalgia, the infectious and memorable vocals, or the overall huge step up in the quality of the songwriting. Or all of the above. Regardless, “Warp Riders” is a monster of an album with monster melodies, monster hooks, and monster riffs.

The album leads off with the near four minute instrumental “Acheron/Unearth the Orb.” It’s an instrumental that works well as an opener with The Sword’s exceptional ability of combining multiple catchy riffs and out of this world soloing, along with a traditional metal chunk. The only excuse for leading off any album with a long instrumental piece is if you have the talent to pull it off and that The Sword does, and then some, tearing it up like it’s a simple mundane task. “Unearthing the Orb” is anything but simple though and the band is one of only a select few that can create a track like this, without being boring, and keep it entertaining throughout the entire duration.

One of the leading factors that go into making “Warp Riders” a masterpiece record is the flawless combination of the old school metal mentality with the memory invading hooks. “Tres Brujas” is a great example of this, with everything falling perfectly into place. The rhythm and lead guitars come together into one furious force of 80’s throwback metal. Thrown into the storm is the signature vocals from John Cronise, which give every song that extra added feel of the older days without coming across as being contrived or mimicked. The vocals on this record are a step up, beyond and above anything the band has done in the past and every song features such a consistent sound.

One thing noticeably missing from “Warp Riders” is the acoustic guitar flourishes that added to the musical journey in “Gods of the Earth.” While it came as a bit of a shock during the initial listen, as time went on and the album was digested over and over again as a complete package the fact that the acoustics were missing actually added to the album’s credibility. The Sword make it apparent that “Warp Riders” is an entity all on its own and is not a re-hash of past successes, separating it from the heavier chunk on “Age of Winters” or the mythical passages of “Gods...” “Warp Riders” follows a steady flow from end to end and makes for an extremely enjoyable listen.

The new vibe of The Sword is ever so audible on tracks like “Lawless Lands” and “The Warp Riders.” A stronger focus is placed towards the band’s classic rock influence and features a more subtle metal aggression. The riffs are what define these new songs and act like a time machine thrusting the listener back to the 70’s. Do you remember when Lynyrd Skynyrd was actually good? Of course you don't, that was over 30 years ago and not to mention their recent dabbling in country oriented rock and stale releases of the later years. “Lawless Lands” on the other hand is the perfect antidote for that and helps to cure the cravings for good, true, non-commercialized classic rock...in 2010.

Not everything on this album is an old school rock tribute though, as the album’s second instrumental, “Astraea’s Dream” is an absolute behemoth of a heavy metal track. Quite possibly The Sword’s heaviest track to date (but don't tell “Iron Swan” that though) includes everything a metalhead craves. Speedy, chunky guitar riffs layered upon precision bass lines and the gargantuan drum work of Trivett Wingo craft a monstrous and epic instrumental that fits perfectly in the center of the album. “Astraea’s Dream” separates the more melodic tracks long enough to keep them from becoming repetitive, not to mention it’s just an overall bad-ass song.

This album, on every level imaginable, is such an improvement from the band’s earlier albums and the biggest indicator of this is the guitar work. While always being masters of the riff, The Sword has now become proficient in the art of technical riffing and performing string melting guitar solos. All of this comes together, ironically, in the album’s catchiest track “Night City.” Beginning with a technical and fast prog-like intro, the song then takes an unexpected, yet pleasant twist morphing into a track with a deep south feel just seeping from the pores. The vocals, the guitars, the chorus - it all fuses into a filthy, dirty sounding rocker and is yet another stellar highlight of The Sword’s new found direction and appreciation for the glory days of music as we know it.

The final tracks on the album, “The Chronomancer Pt.2” and “(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire,” are a melting pot of the band’s aggressive metal edge and the near bluesy melody of this newer material. If older Sword fans find little to enjoy in the new sound they will surely be pleased with how the album goes out, classic Sword riffing and melodic leads work together as one devastating, destructive force. Incredible stuff!

As the journey comes to an end it’s hard to not be overcome with a wide range of different emotions. The sheer joy and excitement of listening to an undisputed metal masterpiece is amazing, but as the album’s final notes ring through the ears it’s hard not to feel a slight shroud of sadness breaking through the euphoria. Will I ever get to hear another album as amazing as this in my lifetime? The chances are slim, but even if I never get to hear another masterpiece being released upon the world I know I can be content with the fact that “Warp Riders” is the most incredible and influential metal album released during my generation, and I was lucky enough to experience it. Time to press play again, by now for about the 436th time.

Highs: Absolutely Everything.

Lows: Absolutely Nothing.

Bottom line: An album overflowing in classic metal perfection.

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)