There is a 99.99999999% chance that the world won’t end on December 21st. But one thing’s for sure: The apocalypse makes for killer heavy metal lyrics. The heavens rain, the oceans flail; the continents crack, splinter, and split. Amidst this horror stands a metal band: The Sword. They released a true-to-prefix album that foreshadowed these end-times: Apocryphon. In the face of death, The Sword take up their axes, crank their amps, and embrace destruction.
Chugging chords stop and start, a storytelling canvas for frontman/doomsayer J.D. Cronise. On “The Hidden Masters”, he sets the grim scene: “When the days become as dark as night and the world begins to change/ There are those of you who die of fright, or tear your eyes out from the pain.” He has that operatic Ozzy-ness that all metal vocalists yearn for, and he achieves it with merely average pipes and range.
The Sword’s basic formula (chug-chug-chug) hasn’t changed over four albums, but why should it? Guitarist Kyle Shutt forges riffs that are visceral and satisfying; you can air-guitar to ‘em. It’s heavy metal distilled to its purest form—huge sonics (“The Veil of Isis”), fantastical motifs (“Arcane Mountain”), and endearing ‘80s glitz (“Hawks & Serpents”). To take umbrage at The Sword’s campiness is to miss the point of their music altogether. Sure, it can be cheap and nerdy—but it’s so damn fun.
Apocryphon isn’t doom metal so much as it is metal about doom—an apt concept given society’s recent fixation on Mayan nonsense and apocalyptic tall tales. The world probably won’t end in 2012, but if some dormant force does in fact rise from hell to destroy us, let our final hour be one of headbanging. Let our faces melt not by primordial fires, but by triumphant, down-tuned riffage.
Essential Tracks: “The Veil of Isis”, “Hawks & Serpents”