Saturday, August 4, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1165: The Sword

I’m in the middle of a very relaxing Saturday. This morning I went for brunch with Sheila and later I’ll be having drinks on a patio. In between I did a little CD shopping and found a Carolyn Mark album that’s been on my wish list for years.

Disc 1165 is… Warp Riders
Artist: The Sword

Year of Release: 2010

What’s up with the Cover? A space ship pilots its way through an asteroid field, or maybe some kind of gassy nebula.

This cover reminded me of a book I had as a kid “Space Wars” by Steven Eisler. It was a big coffee-table book filled with science fiction art and a loose story that was basically there to justify all the art.

I got it from my orthodontist, Dr. Carmichael. As a kid I used to have to go the Campbell River to see him, which was quite a trip from my home town. We were dirt poor (my Mom was divorced and my Dad’s health care plan paid for the braces but not much else). Even getting to the appointments was a bit of an exercise in budgeting. One day out of the blue Dr. Carmichael just gave me “Space Wars.” I remember he and my mom had to tag-team me just to get me to accept it; it just seemed too generous of a thing to do for another person without reason.

I cherished the shit out of this book, reading it over and over again, often inventing my own stories based on the pictures. So here’s a shout out to Dr. Carmichael, who went the extra mile to make a difference for some kid who was a little down on his luck.

But I digress…

How I Came To Know It: This was just me drilling through the band’s collection, after I had discovered their first album “Age of Winters” (reviewed back at Disc 1055) via a Youtube recommendation.

How It Stacks Up:  The Sword have six albums, and I have the first four (they kinda lost me when they went to a more stoner metal sound more recently). Of the four I have, “Warp Riders” and “Apocryphon” (reviewed back at Disc 1138) are in a statistical tie for best. However, since I’m not one to equivocate, I’ll put “Warp Riders”…first.

Ratings: 4 stars

Imagine if Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden had a baby. I’m not much for babies, but that would be one attractive baby. Best of all instead of all that crying and fussing, it would sound like The Sword.

On “Warp Riders” the band has perfected their blend of crunchy blues-inspired riffs, soaring melodies and nerdy concept-driven lyrics.

The album immediately preceding this one, “Gods of the Earth” is brimming with power, but light on melody. On “Warp Riders” the creative minds of vocalist/guitarist JD Cronise and guitarist Kyle Shutt achieve the perfect blend of visceral power and compelling song structures. You can groove or mosh to this stuff in equal measure depending on your preference. I like a bit of both.

While this album has strong melodies, it also puts its boot on your throat early and doesn’t let up. This album is wave after wave of sound, but never becomes oppressive. Instead it feels like being some kind of heavy metal surfer, riding atop a churning sea that is fast, furious and brimming with controlled power.

Within all this crunch and bombast there is still plenty of range. “The Chronomancer” (parts I and II) are a massive attack of pounding drum and guitar riff, but “Lawless Lands” and “Night City” have an up tempo swing reminiscent of late seventies Thin Lizzy, only on steroids.

This being The Sword, a little nerdy concept activity is to be expected. In this case, we have a loosely connected science fiction story full of enough space/time continuum references to please any Star Trek nerd. On the title track we have our interstellar adventurers up to all manner of FTL-shenanigans:

“To make a fold in space and slip between the curves
Sacrifice of the sisterhood to do for those they serve
To cross a universe in hyper-spatial flight
We ride the warp of space into the womb of night.”

With its churning beat and lyrics like this it is a great driving song, whether you’re in a car or a spaceship.

We also get the adventures of the Chronomancer who – as noted earlier – is sufficiently important to have his adventures told in two parts. Both are great, but I like the growl and crunch of “Part 1: Hubris” slightly more. Plus I’m a sucker for it’s over-the-top lyrics, including:

“Feigned exultations in the court of the autarch
Proclaiming heresies sublime
Sought by his enemies with lethal fascination
Self-styled traveler in time.”

I don’t know exactly what’s happening here, but it sounds like something that would make a great miniseries on Space TV. Given that last line I’m not sure if the Chronomancer is a bullshit artist, or if he dumbs down what he does to “time travel” for us rubes who can only think in three dimensions. I hope it’s the latter.

For its entire 48 minutes of playing time, “Warp Riders” never lets you up for air, but it is so loaded with momentum you never have time to feel worn down. Instead, when it’s over you feel so energized you’re ready to go back to Track 1 and start over again. I did this for four days straight, but all good things must end. I now reluctantly move on to whatever the CD Odyssey next has in store for me.

Best tracks: Tres Brujas, The Chronomancer Part 1: Hubris, Lawless Lands, The Warp Riders,

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