"Warp Riders", the third full-length album from Austin, Texas metal luminaries THE SWORD, sold around 8,900 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 47 on The Billboard 200 chart.
"Warp Riders" marks the first release where the group has worked with an outside producer. Helmed by Matt Bayles (PEARL JAM, MASTODON, ISIS), the album is anchored by an epic science-fiction narrative. The storyline is a psychedelic space opera that explores temporal themes of death and rebirth. "Warp Riders" also finds THE SWORD expanding its range from pure metal to include bone-crunching hard rock at large. Rather than dampening its sound, the band actually sounds more amplified than ever, spewing out some of its most scalding riffs to date and channeling an unearthly bellow from its low end.
Opening track "Acheron/Unearthing The Orb" begins with ominous, fog-drenched atmosphere before a flurry of nimble fretwork and galloping drums storm out of the gate. The energy doesn't let up once and by the final moments of closing cut, "(The Night Sky Cried) Tears of Fire", an intensely satisfying resolution sets in. Guitarists Kyle Shutt and John "J. D." Cronise execute punishing acrobatics while injecting melody at every turn. Bryan Richie's warm bass lays down the foundation and ripples with menace. Trivett Wingo's drumming explodes with the perfect balance of both precision and dexterity.
In a recent interview with Decibel magazine, THE SWORD guitarist/vocalist John "J. D." Cronise stated about the new effort, "This is what you'd technically call a 'concept album,' though I'd describe it as more of a soundtrack to a story I came up with. All the songs are about aspects of the story, but they don't cover every detail from beginning to end. It's a science fiction story, and it deals heavily with themes of light and dark and perceptions of time. One of the main settings is a planet, which has experienced tidal locking, creating a side of perpetual day and a side of perpetual night. The reason for creating a narrative to base the songs around was essentially to provide interesting and varied lyrical subject matter with a core theme to tie it all together."
Cronise previously told AOL's Noisecreep that "Warp Riders" has a broader hard rock sound but stressed that the band's aim isn't to broaden its appeal outside of the heavy metal market. "If more people listen that's great, but we're not doing it for that reason," he said. "We are just more interested in expanding our sound for ourselves. If we wanted to expand our audience we should just remake the second album over again, rather than challenge people with something new."
"Warp Riders" track listing:
01. Acheron/Unearthing the Orb
02. Tres Brujas
03. Arrows in the Dark
04. The Chronomancer I: Hubris
05. Lawless Lands
06. Astraea's Dream
07. The Warp Riders
08. Night City
09. The Chronomancer II: Nemesis
10. (The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire
"Tres Brujas", the new video from THE SWORD, can be viewed below. The first of a trio of conceptually linked videos ("Tres Brujas", "Lawless Lands" and "Night City") that tie in themes of "Warp Riders" was filmed in the hot California desert with Artificial Army. It's described in a press release as "'Seven Samurai' crossed with 'The Magnificent Seven' meets 'Mad Max' filtered through the imagination of THE SWORD."