Cut a rug with the danceable Sword

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Friday, December 3, 2010

If the Sword's first two releases had elements of - in heavy metal terms - sludge, its third release, "Warp Riders," is hot sauce. While those earlier albums channeled band members' inner new wave of British heavy metal, the new one from the Austin-based rockers has some Texas boogie. It's Judas Priest, Southern style.

"Warp Riders" is a science-fiction concept record, but JD Cronise's lyrics are not the main attraction. Although the slick production has moved Cronise's vocals to the front and made for a more polished sound, the focus is still the twin-axe onslaught of Cronise and Kyle Shutt. But now there is more melody in the metal, giving it sass.

To be sure, though, this is still metal, and it's one of the best metal releases of the year. The guitar riffs belong in the smoky arenas of the 1980s. Besides the Priest influence, there are flourishes of Metallica and even the occasional Motorhead pacing. The songs are more up-tempo than when the band was categorized as "stoner metal." But songs such as "Lawless Lands" and "Arrows in the Dark" are enough to jolt even the most stolid of smokers upright into a state of a hyperalertness.

"Warp Riders" is not earbud music. It's not even speaker music. It's metal the way it once was: ear-splitting. But this is not aggressive metal. To be sure, the guitars will bring you to your knees, but as you go down, you might be tapping your feet.

- Benjamin Opipari

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