Austin metal band the Sword has always had great riffs, but the execution was usually more about passion, not precision. Until now. On Sword's third album, the band tightens its game. The most immediate change involves frontman J.D. Cronise, who has learned how to sing. Warp Riders is a sci-fi concept record — at least that's what the group is claiming — so the music is more technically adept (guitar solos, ahoy!) and more progressive, with organ filling out several tracks. There's more boogie in the Sword's metal too: "Lawless Lands" sounds like a heavy ZZ Top, and "Night City" is a radio-friendly hard-rock anthem. Drummer Trivett Wingo remains the Sword's secret weapon, thumping out minimalist grooves that combine Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, while the guitarists play sludgy, head-banging riffs and screaming leads. But Warp Riders isn't retro — it's an instant classic.
Phil Freeman writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.