The Sword – Apocryphon

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Let headbangers, air-guitar enthusiasts, and long-haired men rejoice: Austin’s own The Sword has done it again. Reaching number 17 on the US Billboard Top 200 chart and hitting number 2 on the Billboard Hard Rock chart, Apocryphon – released in October of 2012 – is the well-crafted fourth studio album and highest charting record so far from the band. Boasting energetic guitar solos and heavy riffs, Apocryphon is solid, melodic, and still very much “doom metal.” Unlike previous releases, this is the first Sword album to include no instrumental tracks, which in turn keeps the songs lean but muscular. Each track has no excess fat and displays brutal power. Even the “jams” or extended solos on the album, which can reach the point of overload for many bands, are trim and serve a purpose without getting pretentious. And despite the many lyrics about goddesses and sisters, the record is dripping with testosterone and masculinity.

For me, one of the most interesting sounds on Apocryphon is the new synths, played by Bryan Richie (who also plays bass). It gives the heavy metal a “spacier” feel at times, even adding in a few psychedelic elements. These synthesizers add an interesting layer to the music that is often left out by many other doom metal bands. Check out the title track for some synth-action.

The psychedelic elements are showcased in their music video for Apocryphon‘s first single: “The Veil of Isis.” The video features a woman walking alone in a city who is soon accosted by some shady looking characters, until she takes a pill and begins to enter a desert-goddess-outer-space dream world. I know the feeling too, because I also felt like a desert-goddess in outer-space during my first experience with The Sword. My then-roommate and I had stumbled upon them playing a free outdoor daytime show at Waterloo Records back in the summer of 2010. As soon as we walked near the stage, two words were imprinted on my mind: Power and Hair. The boys had a lot of hair, and The Sword had a lot of power. It was blisteringly hot outside that day and we were standing on a blacktop parking lot, which probably had a little to do with why my state of mind was so open to transforming into a desert-goddess, but The Sword’s heavy metal rockin’ pushed me there. It was one live music experience I won’t forget too soon.

If there’s anything lacking on Apocryphon, it’s that I failed to pick a truly stand-out track. The album is a good solid record, definitely one that I used to put on the overhead speakers at Cheapo Records before the store closed down, but there isn’t any particular song that just reaches out and commands my attention. That being said, Apocryphon is an immense album and will be a staple in the doom/stoner metal scene. The listener will have a very hard time trying to hold back from headbanging. Austin should be proud of these fellows. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Apocryphon yet, make a run over to your local record store.

– Brittany Bartos