Warp Riders (Kemado)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Aug. 27, 2010
The SwordWarp Riders (Kemado)
"Upon the forsaken world of Acheron, the Archer is exiled from his tribe," posits Warp Riders' written intro. "In his solitary wanderings, he makes a singular discovery within an ancient ruin ...." What he's found constitutes a way back home for the Sword. Where 2006 debut Age of Winters put 1970s hammer and anvil to the local quartet's metallurgy, and Gods of the Earth two years later put a finer point on its attack both compositionally and sonically, Warp Riders pulls back from the genre's heavy/heavier/heaviest abyss. Not that you'd notice given instrumental prologue "Acheron/Unearthing the Orb." As with the first two Sword albums, Warp Riders' scene-setter claps the story slate – this time from deep space rather than middle earth as previously. Best of the three openers, its deep-canyon vibrato preps a lean, mean thrash machine gunning a pouncing pace. Road tripping with Metallica obviously sharpened the Sword. Then, as with "Barael's Blade" on Age of Winters and more so with instantly memorable "Maiden, Mother & Crone" from Gods of the Earth, "Tres Brujas" (three witches) slaps down a free-ride blast of 8-track tape at a contemporary tempo and ballast, principal composer, singer, and guitarist J.D. Cronise putting forth a more expressive vocal than previously heard. This bitch "Brujas" screams Sam Raimi. "Arrows in the Dark" likewise loosens a volley of deep-fried riffs encrusted with Cronise and co-composer/guitarist Kyle Shutt's fat string dance, their exhaust from some inner-planetary drag race. Succeeding Sabbath, "The Chronomancer I: Hubris," lacks its immediate predecessor's vocal homing device, but seven minutes of hostile guitars and rhythmic topography crag a relentlessly alien world. "Lawless Lands" then takes ZZ Top 23rd century. "Part II: The Android & the Sword" rides the lightning once again, hurtling "Astraea's Dream" through a hook straight off of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. At a tight four minutes, the title track takes its time but soon enough jettisons its generic first half for another off-world flyby: "We ride the warp of space into the womb of night," cries Cronise. Watching its back is Thin Lizzy clone (crone) "Night City," seemingly left off the Emerald Ones' Bad Reputation. Back-end gallops "The Chronomancer II: Nemesis" and closer "(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire" together account for nearly a third of another typically succinct Sword forging without distinguishing themselves apart from a strafing of drums from relentless Trivett Wingo, whose percussion otherwise gets buried in the closer. Otherwise, Warp Riders rides the high country.