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The Sword : Used Future

They may not be as Doom as they once were, but The Sword still know how to put together a truly rocking Stoner album.

Looking back over the five decades since Black Sabbath released their debut self-titled album on Friday the 13th, February 1970, it is truly astonishing how every cog in the wheel of the music business machine has changed. In some ways, these changes obviously benefit the corporations, such as the label not picking up the check for all of the excesses Ozzy and Geezer accrued as in the 1970s, but in other ways, the benefits are for the fans, like the ease of accessibility to music. While pages and pages could be written about the state of the recording industry, the point is that record labels seemingly do not care about artists, their cultivation, and the multi-tiered model leading to their establishment, and the radio, being controlled by a handful of corporate conglomerates, does not care about new artists. People complain all the time that the radio plays the same songs over and over, but just because your local station inundates you with 'Hotel California' and 'Highway to Hell,' doesn't mean there is a lack of new artists creating their own original material. This is prefacing the review for the new album by The Sword because when listening to this album, one gets the feeling similar to the one gained when listening to what people label as Classic Rock or Album Oriented Rock in its heyday. In fact, 'Used Future' as a concept, I believe, addresses this effect directly in the lyrics to the title track, "Woke up in the future, but nothing shiny and new. Robots riddled with rust, circuits gathering dust waiting in twilight for you." The Sword is proliferating the future with a sound that is familiar and dear to all those with a love for heavy music, be it Rock or Metal. Perhaps this is a used future, but if it's filled with monstrous guitar riffs through a wall of fuzzy distortion, why complain? This is the band to recommend to your annoying aunt who says the last good album released was 'Frampton Comes Alive'.

The Sword have now been releasing albums for twelve years. Perhaps this is due to age, but it seems odd that the band labelled as the band to listen to when they debuted is now on their sixth album. The band that was introduced to their label by Mark Morton from Lamb of God, and two years after their debut released supported Metallica on their 'European Vacation' Tour has definitely matured over the years. Whether this maturation is aurally pleasing is up to the listener, but I'd like to give you an idea of the sonic journey charted by pressing play on 'Used Future' and its relevance to The Sword's legacy and the scene in general.

'Used Future' seems to travel along the same path blazed by the previous album 'High Country'. For many, this is equal to a band they love steering away from Metal toward more mainstream Rock, while others see the band having found their nice in the grand scheme of things. 'The Prelude' naturally opens the album, and it is a profound first track that marries up a haunting Doom feeling with synth sounds not far off from the work of Tangerine Dream. It's clearly intentional that the band shifts gears as soon as the listener settles into this mesmerizing melody, and launches into 'Deadly Nightshade,' the first single released, laced with huge Rock chords, and echoing the classic sounds of Blue Oyster Cult and Uriah Heep as well as newer stuff like Clutch. The groove is definitely ruling this song, and controlled chaos is enjoyably unleashed in the latter part when the guitar and the bass are allowed to get crazy with a persistent flange effect on both instruments. The third track, 'Twilight Sunrise,' features single-noted palm-muting off-set by massive bass runs accompanied by engrossing 'Tom Sawyer'-like spaced-out synths.

The title track, ninth in line, is where the band truly begins to shine as they settle into the timeless Classic Rock sound that is evidently their mission statement. One is immediately going to recognize the similarity to legends, Lynyrd Skynyrd, though the band departs from this course later on when huge keyboard and guitar synths are draped over a simple single-note picking pattern of the guitar and bass. The tenth track, 'Come and Gone,' is perhaps the best on the album as it charts a course across and through outer space via the couch and the haze of settling smoke. Seriously, though, this track is an instant classic, extremely catchy, and constructed to appeal to all with its dominating chords underneath which the bass dances on the notes of the given scale, a simple pattern but a place where the bass takes the helm to move the music through its course. As sung in the chorus, "When the time is come and gone, move on." What is truly intriguing is how at the 2:03 mark, the band revisits the same musical motif that opens up the album. The final track, appropriately titled 'Reprise,' is a much more developed realization of the musical phrase begun in 'Prelude' and revisited in the latter half of 'Come and Gone.' It's a motif that will resound in one's head ad infinitum it seems, and unexpectedly shows up when it pleases. It really is a great, simple melody, though.

The Sword have created an entry in their discography that could be thought of as a concept album. With the actual musically- repeated motifs described above to ideas and abstractions presented throughout, the band invites the listener aboard an all-familiar ship to travel to the future via space. Strangely enough, the future does not appear to be much different from the present, and it's even lived-in and rusty. This is a clear answer to those who criticize the band for propagating a sound steeped in the past as it explores familiar territory but with new ideas and concepts.

The guitar tone is pure, tube-driven and tight, flirting with Billy Gibbons, and with a much bigger sound than on previous albums such as 'Apocryphon' and 'Warp Riders'. This album's guitar sound is as if the previous albums' efforts were mono and the new sound is stereo. It truly just opens up. Any fan of Geezer Butler or even Geddy Lee will fall over for the sound and performance of the bass on this record with its solid, yet fuzzy tone playing the kind of material bass players love to play. The drums are on point, big and bouncy, and the vocals are the same Blue Oyster Cult meets Tom Petty vibe as always.

While the sound is almost completely devoid of what most folks think of as Heavy Metal, The Sword have comfortably nudged their way into the Arena Rock category it seems. I cannot help but be reminded of what happened when C.O.C. released 'America's Volume Dealer' back in 2000. The band were the recipients of endless tirades from high-horse-seated people proclaiming the band sold out, but when I listened to it over and over and reviewed it, I could say nothing other than the truth which was that the band had come to a place where they hit a stride and were able to write really catchy C.O.C. songs. The key was that they were still the same band, and the same can be said for The Sword. One can hear the conviction and fun with which the band wrote this new album. In as clear-terms as possible, The Sword is the sound of the experience. The band didn't decide to write catchy riffs to become the new flavor of the week, but rather, have developed a sound over the years and their experiences of playing with each other that defines a shared vision of what Rock should be.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Prelude
2. Deadly Nightshade
3. Twilight Sunrise
4. The Wild Sky
5. Intermezzo
6. Sea of Green
7. Nocturne
8. Dont Get Too Comfortable
9. Used Future
10. Come And Gone
11. Book Of Thoth
12. Brown Mountain
13. Reprise

Duration : Approx. 41 minutes

Visit the The Sword bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-05-07 by Chris Hawkins
Aesthetic Death
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