Apocryphon, "that little ol' band from Texas" (the one without the beards) manages to establish themselves as one of the few heavy acts that can sell records on new material instead of a back catalog of nostalgia.
"The Veil of Isis" opens with a signature riff and the ear is immediately drawn to a well-balanced and effected vocal track that was missing from some of the earlier recordings. There is a desperation to the sound that is enthralling. "Cloak of Feathers" could be the strongest track on the record with a driving beat and a tasteful cowbell. A few tracks, such as "Arcane Montane", "Execrator", and "Seven Sisters" nod too heavily towards 70s era metal acts such as Judas Priest, without the vocal punch of a Rob Halford or a Bruce Dickinson. That element aside, it’s difficult to find filler on Apocryphon. The ghost of Geezer Butler, if he were dead, can be heard opening "The Hidden Masters" while "Eyes of the Stormwitch" cycles a riff that will keep the blaze lit. Finally, the record comes with bonus live tracks and a cover of ZZ Top’s "Cheap Sunglasses", while solid, does little to persuade me from listening to the original recording.
It’s clear that the arrival of Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III as the band’s permanent drummer has softened the blow of Wingo’s departure. The influences of Sabbath and Zeppelin, like all Sword recordings, are just beneath the surface providing enough of a tie to the past and yet still leaving space for the future. While it’s always difficult for heavy bands to strike the balance between familiar and innovative, The Sword continues to do that. Fans of previous records will find Apocryphon to deliver the goods, but I wish the hombres would leave the ZZ Top to the drunks at karaoke night.