Austin, Texas’ The Sword are a prominent band in metal’s “green” movement. Though this movement’s luminaries at the blunt end of the glowing tip such as Black Sabbath, High on Fire and Kyuss may have their own brands of rolling papers, The Sword have their own blend of green to bring to the party.
Used Future, The Sword’s sixth studio album since its full blossom in 2003, is as innovative as green/stoner/doom allows, while continuing to roll in the fields of the medicinal forefathers. Used Future is a The Sword album in the right places yet expands the mind of its album with solid doses of Earthless along with hints of Mother Mars and Led Zeppelin when not anchored to a Page riff. Perhaps due to GPS coordinates in regional roots, Used Future is imbued with the second-hand scent of the Kings of Leon.
Now that The Sword sound has matured into full potency, John Cronise and crew face the dilemma of elbowing through the crowd of hardcore followers to justify a stab into the black spotlight of wider fame. Used Future is The Sword’s solid chance for recognition beyond the constituency of the green metal party. The tendrils of rising smoke from Apocryphon to High Country have foretold of the primo excellence of Used Future.
For the first metal album in some time that does not start with a cheesy intro of a rainstorm, crashing waves or cut-and-paste nihilistic quotes, Used Future drifts right into an intro that uses music for atmosphere. The formula police might bust down the door at any moment. “Prelude” is an actual prelude that rams right into the hard-rocking “Deadly Nightshade,” an obvious opener that blends ninety percent of the sound of The Sword with ten percent of chart-appeal.
The band drives its Scooby Doo van through the Seventies blocks before turning on Highland Highway. The spiral staircase riff solo out at the end of “Deadly Night,” sits perfectly in the left ear as counterpart to the song’s staccato hammer.
Instrumentals have more prominence on Used Future than the albums of their peers, especially the mini-concept punctuation of “Prelude,” “Intermezzo,” “Nocturne” and “Come and Gone Reprise”. Keyboard-filled as much as a San Francisco pot café on Saturday night, a grand piano pad chimes a chain-link melody through the four pieces. As on the past three studio albums, Bryan Richie’s keys and bass are the delicious intoxicant in The Sword’s joints.
The songs that take the steps to a higher plane in the round-top sepia tone of Tucker Martine’s production, “Sea of Green,” “Used Future” and “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” provide the best moments of inner awareness. Load up in the Mystery Machine and head over to Jack for merry munchie meals for the after-listening party.
(released March 23, 2018 on Razor & Tie)
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Listen To The Sword- “Deadly Nightshade”
I think you hit it. “Sea of Green,” “Used Future” and “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” are a power trio of thoughtful sonic ecstasy. I fear many former fans will stop listening before they even get to these tracks unfortunately. They are gonna miss out.