The Sword - Apocryphon
Record Label: Razor & Tie
Release Date: October 22, 2012
Following up the conceptual ideals of Warp Riders, The Sword has returned to non-story based writings on their newest LP Apocryphon – at least sort of. Sure, there’s not an overarching story to be had, but the idea of the title comes from some forbidden texts. In any case, the band’s fourth LP sounds like a bit of a change of pace for the band texturally compared to the often confident and energetic tunes they’ve churned out before. Not that the band sounds completely different, but The Sword seems much more intent in being prone to focusing on strong grooves and melodic wisps bolstered by solid songwriting. It isn’t as flashy as they’ve been in the past, but Apocryphon certainly isn’t a disappointment either in terms of drawing you in over time.
As far as head-nodding grooves, this album doesn’t hold back in terms of truly driving your head into a metaphorical wall in terms of plotting and prying with your brain as the slight sludge of distortion and drums can make for a pretty blunt form of catchiness. The slow, but subdued draw into “The Hidden Masters” makes for a pretty funky slide into the band’s jamming tendencies. The slower tempo of this track makes for a pretty sweeping vibe for the entire record in terms of songwriting. Even opener “The Veil of Isis” feels a little bogged down despite some active riffing and tom-spiked drums, while “Hawks and Serpents” travels a similar road in balancing a mid-tempo punch with some strong licks to spice things up. That isn’t to say The Sword doesn’t take a few opportunities to push things into heavier or faster ideologies, as “Seven Sisters” teeters between midtempo swings, upbeat bursts and an ethereal swerve in the middle to push the dynamic range of the song into quite enjoyable areas.
Yet, the biggest drawback of the record can be the not-so-sure footing of the songwriting when things move as such deliberate tempos. It can be a bit difficult to truly find a home in these songs, especially when the band has arguably done much more for their musicianship at times on earlier writings than laying respectable riffs over strong grooves. At the same time, newer ears to the band probably won’t live or die by the vocals – arguably the biggest rock of the band's sound – and by all accounts they seem to fit the throwback-type vibe these tracks channel in the name of ‘80s metal and rock. Seeing as this is the band’s fourth record, it’s hardly something to pick at now, but perhaps in sticking to something a little less adventurous The Sword has honed in on something that can dwell in your head a bit longer – but is not quite on point with being instantly memorable either.
Apocryphon is a bit of a grower in all honesty, and while that necessarily isn't a bad thing, it might make this LP a bit of a disappointment compared to previous works. Given a bit of time though, this record can be quite enjoyable for those who enjoy its mix of slightly nostalgic tones and modern grooving – regardless of how it might compare to what they've done before.