Apocryphon (album)

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Apocryphon
Studio album by The Sword
Released October 22, 2012 (2012-10-22)
(release history)
Recorded June–July 2012 at Magpie Cage Studios, Baltimore, Maryland
Genre Heavy metal, doom metal, stoner metal, hard rock
Length 44:10
Label Razor & Tie
Producer J. Robbins, The Sword
The Sword chronology
Warp Riders
(2010)
Apocryphon
(2012)
Singles from Apocryphon
  1. "The Hidden Masters/Arcane Montane"
    Released: April 8, 2014 (2014-04-08)

Apocryphon is the fourth studio album by American heavy metal band The Sword. Recorded at Magpie Cage Studios in Baltimore, Maryland with producer J. Robbins, it was released by New York label Razor & Tie in October 2012. Apocryphon is the band's first album without original member Trivett Wingo, and the first to feature his replacement Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III, who took over from interim touring drummer Kevin Fender in October 2011; it is also the first of the band's albums to be released by Razor & Tie, with whom the group signed in early 2012 after seven years with Kemado Records.

Background[edit]

Following the release of critically successful third album Warp Riders in August 2010, The Sword embarked on the worldwide Warp Riders Tour in October. Early into the first leg, original drummer Trivett Wingo left the band, claiming to be "physically and emotionally unable to continue",[1][2] and was replaced for the entirety of the rescheduled tour by local musician Kevin Fender.[3][4] As he was only a temporary touring member of the band, Fender was later replaced permanently with drummer Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III, who was brought in at the end of 2011 for a run of tour dates.[5][6]

In March 2012, it was announced that The Sword had left Kemado Records and signed a worldwide deal with New York-based independent label Razor & Tie.[7] The news also came with the first mention of a follow-up to Warp Riders, which it was predicted would be recorded starting in June, with a planned release before the end of the year.[7] At their few shows in June, the group performed new songs from the upcoming album for the first time, including "Veil" (later renamed "The Veil of Isis"),[8] "Execrator",[8][9] and title track "Apocryphon".[8]

Recording and production[edit]

Recording for Apocryphon commenced in June 2012 at Magpie Cage Studios, owned by producer and engineer J. Robbins.[10] The recording process – which was completed mostly with analog equipment – spanned approximately five weeks, with the album completed and ready to be mixed by the end of July.[11] Speaking about the decision to work with Robbins, guitarist Kyle Shutt has explained that the group were attracted to the producer's work with stoner rock band Clutch on their albums Robot Hive/Exodus and Strange Cousins from the West, describing the choice as a "no-brainer" to produce an album with an "energetic sound".[11]

Composition[edit]

Music[edit]

Guitarist Kyle Shutt has described the album as "real big sounding, real live and huge sounding", contrasting it with the "technically perfect" Warp Riders,[12] and has also noted that "A lot of the songs are more mid-tempo, but still impossibly heavy".[13] Apocryphon is the first album by The Sword to feature no instrumental tracks.[11]

Writing a review of the album for website AllMusic, critic Eduardo Rivadavia has praised the musical styles of Apocryphon, praising the group for their tendencies to "consistently repeat their choruses for maximum cranial penetration, keep guitar solos melodic, sizzling but to the point, and prioritize leaner working frames".[14] Speaking about the songs "Cloak of Feathers", "The Hidden Masters" and "Hawks & Serpents" in particular, he has noted that the album contains "a smattering of classic rock elements", comparing the sound to the bands Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath.[14] In a review for Loudwire, Chad Bowar had similar points to make, praising the band's "songwriting prowess" and claiming that "the songs are more direct while still leaving room for some experimentation and jamming".[15] Francois Marchand of The Vancouver Sun compared the music to that of Black Sabbath, Sleep and Lynyrd Skynyrd, praising the electronic elements on the album as well as the straightforward nature of its compositions.[16]

Lyrics[edit]

After exploring the concept album model with their previous release Warp Riders, on Apocryphon the lyrical content is "more of a metaphorical reflection of everything we've gone through" according to Kyle Shutt, who has explained that the album "doesn't really have a story, per se ... though there are some similar lyrical themes that weave in and out of the songs".[12] Frontman J. D. Cronise has also added that "There's not as much storytelling [on Apocryphon] as on previous albums. There are songs about real life subjects".[17] Elaborating on his approach to writing lyrics for the record, he explained that "In a way, I realized music as a vehicle for expressing my own views and thoughts. I shied away from that before in favour of entertaining people with colourful narratives".[17]

Speaking about opening track "The Veil of Isis", Cronise has described the lyrical content as "a little more metaphysical than a lot of our previous stuff", explaining that it "talks a lot about cycles of nature and life and death and birth and transformation and death and rebirth".[18] Elaborating on this, he explained further that "the song is about ... moving on from one phase of the natural cycle to the next and the recognition of the knowledge revealed when such transitions occur", revealing that the title is a reference to Isis, an Egyptian goddess, and that "the 'veil' is that which hides from us the true nature of the universe that, during our earthly existence, is largely hidden from us".[18]

Packaging and title[edit]

The first details of the album were revealed on June 5, 2012, amongst which was the title Apocryphon.[10] Speaking about the title of the album, Kyle Shutt has explained the meaning of the word as being about "secret writings or secret teachings about things that maybe shouldn't be known", revealing that it was chosen (by frontman J. D. Cronise)[11] as a metaphor to "mask what [the band are] really going through".[12] Cronise himself has explained that "The word apocryphon came up while I was researching Gnosticism, early Christianity, theosophy, and other esoteric subjects", describing the term as referring to "books that were either banned or removed from the biblical canon".[17]

The artwork for the album, which was produced by comic book artist J. H. Williams III, was officially unveiled on September 10, 2012.[19]

Release[edit]

Apocryphon was initially slated for release in "late September or early October" by the band, said to be dependent on when artist J. H. Williams III completed the album cover.[13] The official release date of October 22 was revealed in late August,[20] with the regional release dates revealed a week later.[21] The album was released in a number of formats and merchandise bundles, including a CD with t-shirt and poster,[22] an LP with digital download,[23] and a bundle including CD, LP, cassette, digital download, t-shirt, and autographed poster.[24] The Sword will tour in promotion of Apocryphon for "at least two years",[11] starting with a North American tour from October to December 2012.[21][25]

The first song to be unveiled from Apocryphon was opening track "The Veil of Isis", which was made available for streaming online on September 25, 2012;[18] this was followed by title track "Apocryphon", for which an official lyric video produced by P. R. Brown was released on October 1.[26][27] The band began a new marketing campaign in October, whereby fans could unlock streams of tracks from the album by arranging symbols featured on the album cover in the correct order.[28] An official music video for "The Veil of Isis" was later released in November 2012.[29]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 72/100[30]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic[14] 4/5 stars
Alternative Press[31] 2.5/5 stars
Consequence of Sound[32] 3.5/5 stars
Loudwire[15] 4/5 stars
PopMatters[33] 8/10 stars
The Vancouver Sun[16] 3/5 stars
Ultimate Guitar Archive[34] 8.3/10

Upon its release, the critical reception for Apocryphon was mainly positive. Writing a four-star review for the website AllMusic, Eduardo Rivadavia praised many elements of the album, including the musical compositions and the lyrical themes, concluding his review by explaining that "Apocryphon basically sees The Sword inching its well-established aesthetic along, slowly but surely; cautiously dabbling in new sounds rather than drastically altering their direction ... operating less timidly and with more satisfying results than anything released since that classic first album [Age of Winters]".[14] Loudwire reviewer Chad Bowar was similarly positive, dubbing it the band's best album to date,[15] while Francois Marchand of The Vancouver Sun compared the album positively to predecessor Warp Riders, describing it as "tailor-made for headbanging and slamming back cans of cheap beer ... a lot of fun".[16]

In its first week Apocryphon sold nearly 17,000 copies in the United States, debuting at number 17 on the US Billboard 200 albums chart (the highest position achieved by the band).[35]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by J. D. Cronise, all music composed by The Sword.

No. Title Length
1. "The Veil of Isis"   5:32
2. "Cloak of Feathers"   5:25
3. "Arcane Montane"   4:06
4. "The Hidden Masters"   4:49
5. "Dying Earth"   5:22
6. "Execrator"   2:46
7. "Seven Sisters"   3:30
8. "Hawks & Serpents"   4:31
9. "Eyes of the Stormwitch"   3:10
10. "Apocryphon"   4:59
Total length:
44:10

Personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2012) Peak
position
US Billboard 200[36] 17
US Billboard Hard Rock Albums[37] 2
US Billboard Independent Albums[38] 3
US Billboard Rock Albums[39] 4
US Billboard Tastemaker Albums[40] 5

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog Ref.
North America October 22, 2012 Razor & Tie CD (standard) 7930183356-2 [41]
CD (deluxe) 7930183376-2 [42]
LP 7930183356-1 [43][44]
CS none [45]
DL none [46]
Australia October 26, 2012 Cortex Records CD CTX687CD [47]
Europe November 2, 2012 Napalm Records DL none [48]
November 5, 2012 CD (deluxe) NPR462LTD [49]
LP NPR462LP [50]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Trivett Wingo Leaves The Sword, All Tour Dates Cancelled". The Sword. October 11, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Sword Drummer Quits". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). October 11, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Sword Announces Rescheduled U.S. Tour". The Sword. November 4, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ "The Sword: Temporary Drummer Announced, U.S. Tour Dates Rescheduled". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). November 4, 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  5. ^ Joe Robinson (October 17, 2011). "The Sword Name Santiago 'Jimmy' Vela III as Permanent Drummer". Loudwire. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Sword Reveals New Drummer". MetalUnderground.com. October 17, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "The Sword Sign New Worldwide Deal With Razor & Tie". Razor & Tie. March 24, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c "The Sword Concert Setlist at Kings Barcade, Raleigh on June 20, 2012". setlist.fm. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  9. ^ "The Sword Concert Setlist at Sonar, Baltimore on June 21, 2012". setlist.fm. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "The Sword: New Album Title Revealed". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). June 5, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Kyle Shutt (July 26, 2012). In The Studio: The Sword's Kyle Shutt on analog recording, comic books and hitting the road. Interview with Matthew Colwell. Alternative Press. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Rachel Lazar (July 27, 2012). "The Sword on 'Huge Sounding' Fall Album 'Apocryphon'". Spin. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b J. D. Cronise; Kyle Shutt (June 23, 2012). The Sword Talk New Album + Metal Scene Complaints at Orion Music Festival. Interview with Chuck Armstrong. Loudwire. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  14. ^ a b c d Eduardo Rivadavia. "Apocryphon - The Sword". AllMusic. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c Chad Bowar (October 22, 2012). "The Sword, 'Apocryphon' - Album Review". Loudwire. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b c Francois Marchand (October 22, 2012). "Album reviews: The Zolas, The Sword, Aidan Knight and more". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c Andrew Tijs (October 2, 2012). "The Sword Announce New Album Apocryphon". Noise11. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c "Song Premiere: The Sword Headbang in 'Veil of Isis'". Rolling Stone. September 25, 2012. Retrieved September 25, 2012. 
  19. ^ "The Sword: 'Apocryphon' Cover Artwork, Track Listing Revealed". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). September 10, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  20. ^ "The Sword: 'Apocryphon' Release Date Announced". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). August 30, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b "Apocryphon Tour Dates / Europe & UK release information". The Sword. September 5, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  22. ^ "The Sword - Deluxe CD/Shirt/Poster". Razor & Tie. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  23. ^ "The Sword - Apocryphon - Orange Standard LP". Razor & Tie. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  24. ^ "The Sword - Ultimate Bundle". Razor & Tie. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  25. ^ "The Sword Announces U.S. Headlining Tour". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). September 5, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  26. ^ The Sword - Apocryphon. YouTube. October 1, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  27. ^ "The Sword Launches Lyric Video for Apocryphon at Spin.com". Razor and Tie. October 2, 2012. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Visit our website...". The Sword (Facebook). October 17, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  29. ^ "The Sword release new video for "Veil of Isis" (watch), played Webster Hall (setlist/video)". BrooklynVegan. November 15, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Apocryphon Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved November 5, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Critic Reviews for Apocryphon". Metacritic. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Album Review: The Sword - Apocryphon". October 24, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2012. 
  33. ^ Dean Brown (November 1, 2012). "The Sword: Apocryphon". PopMatters. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Apocryphon Review - The Sword". Ultimate Guitar Archive. October 29, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  35. ^ "The Sword's 'Apocryphon' Cracks U.S. Top 20". Blabbermouth.net (Roadrunner Records). October 31, 2012. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Billboard 200". The Sword Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Hard Rock Albums". The Sword Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  38. ^ "Independent Albums". The Sword Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  39. ^ "Rock Albums". The Sword Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Tastemaker Albums". The Sword Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  41. ^ "North America, CD Apocryphon" (in Japanese). HMV Group. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  42. ^ "Apocryphon (Deluxe Edition)" (in Japanese). HMV Group. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  43. ^ "Sword, The - Apocryphon (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  44. ^ "North America, LP Apocryphon" (in Japanese). HMV Group. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  45. ^ "Sword, The - Apocryphon (Cassette, Album)". Discogs. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  46. ^ "Apocryphon by The Sword". iTunes. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  47. ^ "Australia, CD Apocryphon" (in Japanese). HMV Group. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  48. ^ "Apocryphon by The Sword". iTunes. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  49. ^ "Apocryphon (Limited Edition)" (in Japanese). HMV Group. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  50. ^ "Europe, LP Apocryphon" (in Japanese). HMV Group. Retrieved October 23, 2012.