After a questionable foray into Renaissance-faire prog with its sophomore record, Gods of the Earth, the Sword returned to what they do best on this year's Warp Riders: Sabbath-indebted stoner metal performed with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Naysayers might note that Riders skews too close to the homogenous, fuzz-addicted textures of the Austin band's debut, Age of Winters. But the album underscores that the Sword's strength is beastly, down-tuned songs that are as welcoming as they are unrelenting — which perhaps explains why its fan base of hipsters and dungeon masters is gradually beginning to include normal human beings. The latter camp may have seen the Sword live up to its stadium-size-riffs reputation while opening for Metallica in 2008.
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