After conquering the realms of fantasy and science fiction, classic metal revivalists the Sword head into a more metaphysical space on their fourth album, Apocryphon. Though they return to the looser, more groove-heavy sound of their earlier work, the spacy influence of Warp Riders can still be felt here and there, with songs like "Execrator" bringing occasional flourishes of psychedelic, effects-drenched guitar work. All over the album it feels as though the Sword are bringing together everything they've learned from their other records, and with its combination of ambition, heaviness, and swagger, titular album-closer "Apocryphon" feels like a one-song "best-of", bringing everything the band has done before it together into a singular epic metal journey. This combination makes for a sound that isn't so much more mature as it is more refined. The Sword feel more confident and in control on Apocryphon, and the feeling comes through with each titanic riff. And while we're on the subject of rough edges, singer John Cronise delivers his best performance yet. Listening to "Cloak of Feathers," his vocals feel more powerful and substantial, and with the frontman feeling more in command, everything else seems to follow suit. The bottom line here is that for all of their tweaks and changes, the Sword are still a band all about massive riffs and epic lyrics, and while other bands might be more structurally complex or aggressive, few can offer the instant cosmic journey that dropping the needle on Apocryphon can.
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney