Having evolved from their previous, heavier sound, The Sword’s latest album, Warp Riders is a mixture of early, pre-therapy Metallica, New Wave of British Heavy Metal riffing, and a heavy ’70s rock influence. And you know what? It works. Warp Riders starts off strong with the instrumental “Acheron/ Unearthing the Orb,” a fast-paced, riffing monster that begins with some nice Conan the Barbarian-inspired atmospheric pomp. The guitars here recall vintage Metallica at their best, with Trivett Wingo’s propulsive drumming anchoring the song down. [Editor’s note: Drummer Trivett Wingo left the band shortly after this review was written. The Sword have not named a new drummer as of press time.]
The ’70s rock influences are apparent throughout, but remain influences rather than slavish copies. You can pick out a lot of dusty ZZ Top throughout the CD, John D. Cronise’s vocals and guitar riffs can be reminiscent of Witchfinder General, and “Night City” is as good a Thin Lizzy homage as you’re going to get. If the riffs aren’t as instantly memorable as prime Fu Manchu, they definitely grow on a listener, making Warp Riders a rewarding album to revisit again and again.
Warp Riders is a concept album, but don’t let that bother you. Like most concept albums, you’ll only have a vague idea of what is going on, but the inspired riffing is about the only concept you’ll really need to grasp.