Instead, it is more productive to think of them as a product of some of metal's earliest and most defining bands, like Black Sabbath and Slayer. While their retro-tinged, classic metal sound and propensity to use a combination of Norse mythology and fantasy literature and source material for their lyrics has attracted a lot of attention since their debut in 2006, with Apocryphon The Sword have hit their stride.
While stoner metal implies (at least to me) something more down tempo and psychedelic in flavour to what The Sword play, Apocryphon borrows heavily from the genre's billowing riff structures and thick, ooozing sound.
The riffs are also incredibly hook-laden and catchy, making this record and easy listen that can be enjoyed just as well as a distant background soundtrack or an intense and focused listening experience. There's also just a little bit of a darkened atmosphere that adds just a bit of spine-tingling ominousness.
The vocal performance on the record is a highlight. The lyrics are insistent enough to be genuinely interesting while remaining easy and engaging to sing along to. The songs also have a catchy structure centred on powerful choruses that make the stirring, at times anthemic vocals even more of a central focus.
But while Apocryphon is certainly a sing-along record with solid vocals, that is not to diminish the contribution of the groovy, cleverly deployed drum assault and the smart, searing guitars. The production is also spot-on, accentuating the fat, fuzzy ruffing with just that perfect bit of smudge without declaring its presence or being too heavy-handed.
The more that The Sword fully embrace their quest for epicness, the more successful Apocryphon becomes. While grooving, exploratory pieces like “Seven Sisters” are enjoyable, it is the deep, fist-pumping stadium numbers like “Hawks and Serpents” where this record really shines. With this release, The Sword are finally unsheathed.
(released October 22, 2012 on Razor & Tie)