The Sword

Used Future

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"Deadly Nightshade," the lead single from the Texas rockers' sixth studio long-player, finds the Sword almost revisiting the muscular, Black Sabbath-inspired blues-metal that figured so prominently on their 2006 debut Age of Winters. That molten slab of sonic might proves to be a bit of an outlier however, as the remainder of the excellent Used Future sees the band continue its transition from stoner metal stalwarts to tube-driven, classic rock-loving Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult, and Thin Lizzy enthusiasts. Recorded in Portland, Oregon and produced with considerable snap and sizzle by Tucker Martine (the Decemberists, My Morning Jacket), the 13-track set is a controlled blaze of tight, '70s hard rock riffage, fuzzed-out desert blues, and jammy progressive metal that occasionally probes the outer reaches of retro-rock in search of a new spark -- the LP was made available in a version featuring a USB drive containing the full album and visualizer, housed in an eight-track cassette shell. Looking backward for inspiration is hardly a crime, and the band's genuine affinity for the past is reflected throughout, with highlights arriving via the punchy, Hammer of the Gods-adoring "Twilight Sunrise," the highway-ready, Southern-fried title cut, and the ambidextrous "Sea of Green," the latter of which dumps everything from the band's vintage spice cabinet into the pot and cranks the burners to 11. Generously spackled with clever instrumental bits and imaginative but never flowery lyrics, Used Future is the most effective and compelling distillation of the Sword 2.0.'s sound to date.

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