"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," claimed Ralph Waldo Emerson, but in heavy metal, hobgoblins constitute a good thing. Apocryphon rolls out disc No. 4 in Austin metal torchbearer the Sword's winning streak, and it's precisely what we've come to expect from the unrepentant headbangers. Still the poster child for Seventies values (Black Sabbath), the local quartet cranks out bludgeoning rhythms, catchy riffs, and arty, fantasy lyrics from the same well of inspiration it drew on for LPs one through three. Expecting significant evolution from dinosaur lovers isn't only pointless, but undesirable. Given a perfect balance of melody and power on "Arcane Montane," "The Veil of Isis," and "Dying Earth," change remains beautifully avoidable. A few atmospheric Moog intros aside, Apocryphon stomps with familiar, even comforting, satisfaction. Sword touring partner Eagle Claw also rides a new horse across the landscape, axes aloft. Produced by the big brother band's Bryan Richie, sophomore full-length Timing of the Void revels in an even more openly sensual guitar orgy. Moving forward a decade with its hero worship, the instrumental quartet seems to have spent its teenage years with a pile of Dio-era Sabbath and early Metallica tapes, letting bottom-heavy licks soak into impressionable brains. The resulting sludge stays as thick and viscous as it oughta be, without clogging the gears. "Ophidian," "Book of Water," and the nearly quintessential "Uzumaki Vortex" remain graceful while hammering your skull. Dispensing with unnecessary vocals, Eagle Claw achieves headbanging purity.
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