Sadly, it is not at all uncommon to hear some out of touch oik of a journalist declaring that 'rock' or even 'guitar music' is 'dead'. While I would certainly agree that guitar music does not feature quite so prominently in the charts as it did some ten years ago, to even think about suggesting that rock music is on its way out is a daft thing to do. Rock music is not dying; you just have to look in the right places for it. New Heavy Sounds Volume 2 is one such place.
Continue reading: Various Artists, New Heavy Sounds Volume 2 Album Review
Given that Texas four piece The Sword have already delivered songs with titles like 'The Horned Goddess' and 'Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzyphrians' on their first two albums, taking the final plunge and recording a sci-fi themed concept album would've seemed to have been the next logical step... For them.
The concept album has been a staple of the more hirsute end of rock since the prog era, but although Sword's J.D. Cronise, Kyle Shutt, Bryan Richie and drummer Trivett Wingo - yes - have clearly been over dosing on H.P. Lovecraft and 'Lick My Love Pump', as cliched as Warp Riders is aesthetically, musically it kicks some serious ass.
I won't insult your intelligence by going through the backstory - just checkout the sleeve art and make up your own mind. Instead let's focus on sound, a distinctly retro take on pretty much any kind of 'Heavy Metal' produced between the early seventies and the dawn of the thrash era. Opening instrumental 'Achceron/Unearthing The Orb' bludgeons any misconceptions you may have been harbouring that this might all have been about Faeries and magic wands, recalling Metallica in their jagged and super aggressive Master of Puppets mode.
Where it all started however was on this side of the pond, and dues are paid as you might expect to Zeppelin/Sabbath, both 'Tres Brujas' and 'The Warp Riders' preferring to rely on guile and cranked up dexterity rather than speed. Key to The Sword's ability to pull all this off is that what they're doing is borne from belief, not an attempt at pastiche, this grit meaning unintentionally or otherwise refusing to succumb to the curse of Wolfmother. J.D. Cronise is in possession of one of those lupine classic rock voices, not admittedly idiosyncratic enough for deification, but on the southern fried 'Lawless Lands' and the Thin Lizzy-esque highlight 'Night City' there are glimpses of what might be if he and his mates played things a little straighter.
The sense that this realisation isn't far from being made whole is only reinforced towards Warp Riders close, on - sigh - 'Chronomancer II: Nemesis' and '(The Night Sky Cried) Tears of Fire'. Both have a sense of spacy, epic power, with more riffage than you can patch your denim jacket to. In a sense they're nothing original, but equally this doesn't really matter, as this has been a genre so loyally supported by its fans that looking backwards for them holds few negative connotations. I could say listen to Warp Riders but first leave your prejudices behind; but instead I'll leave the final word to Den Dennis from Bad News - 'Heavy metal top of the class, stick the media up your arse'.