And so the progression continues - debuting with the solid but rather unremarkable Age of Winters in 2006, smart money was on The Sword falling into obscurity as yet another generic Sabbath/stoner-worship act. Their 2008 follow-up, Gods of the Earth, was mostly more of the same, albeit executed with a bit more maturity and overall skill. But here, on their third album, is where they finally come into their own and prove just how wrong their doubters have been. The change of lyrical scenery from standard fantasy to sprawling space opera comes with a marked improvement in the vocal department - typically weak and buried deep in the mix on prior releases, Cronise's vocals manage to stand their ground with the rest of the instruments here. Speaking of instruments, this album is a veritable buffet of great riffs - mixing a touch of blues into the stoner/doom/heavy blend seems to have really allowed these guys to find their groove. Some of these tracks really remind me of something that Clutch might have put out, and believe me when I say - that is definitely not a bad thing.
In a way, this album reminds me quite a bit of Crack the Skye from 2009 - both are concept albums, both pay proper tribute to the almighty riff, both show substantial improvement in the vocal department and, most importantly, both represent the bands really finding their own respective sounds. The one thing that stops Warp Riders from landing as high on the rankings as Crack the Skye did is its relative lack of atmosphere. In case you haven't noticed, I'm a sucker for music that oozes atmosphere. While this album is certainly a fun ride and brilliantly performed, it never becomes an "experience" for me - just an excellent album of music. I'm sure that last bit is very vague to any reader that isn't me, but I'm not sure how I could put it any other way without sounding ten times MORE pretentious. Pretentiousness aside, throw this one on and prepare to headbang (should commence with the very first riff of the album, if my own research holds true).
Best Track: Arrows in the Dark