The Sword has cited ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons as an influence, and it finally becomes apparent in "Lawless Lands." The simple blues-rock formula gives way to an epic, yet melancholy climax featuring some of my favorite lyrics from the album.

Through twilit skies he rides,
Searching the darkened side of the world.
Into the night,
Never knowing he has been lead astray.

Through lawless lands he flies
Across the burning face of the world.
Under the suns
His life begins to slip away.

It's here that Ereth meets the Warp Riders, space pirates who "cross a universe in hyper-spatial flight," and "ride the warp of space into the womb of night." There's some Greek mythology mixed in, but how it relates to the rest of the story is still opaque to me. It's also nice to hear Cronise exploring different melodic possibilities with his voice – his range is similar to that of Ozzy circa 1971, and his understated, chanted vocals are usually a nice counterpoint to all the berserker guitar riffing, but taking a different approach is part of what sets Warp Riders apart from the prior albums.

The Warp Riders take Ereth to the dark side of the planet, Night City, "where the killers and the pirates hide." This song wouldn't feel out of place on a Kiss album (perhaps Destroyer), and has a ridiculously catchy chorus that's a bit surprising coming from The Sword. Frankly, I love it.

The album comes to its grandiose conclusion with "(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire." There's something about Cronise's voice that lends gravitas to lines like, "This is the hour of the Phoenix, when all must be reborn in flame," that might otherwise sound silly.

Finally, The Sword has produced a video (the first of a trilogy) for "Tres Brujas." It's actually my least favorite song on the album, but the video is excellent and shows that The Sword have grasped something far too many metal bands overlook: when you write songs about wizards and space pirates, you can't take yourself too seriously. Although, J.D., please regrow the beard and the hair. The Sonny Bono look is just not working.

The Sword is touring the U.S. through October before heading to Europe and then Australia.