Oh well. Music fans are supposed to be selfish, right? Very High Fidelity. At any rate, Warp Riders IS utterly righteous--a concept album centered around an original science fiction story written by the man himself, J.D. Cronise (featured in my hot dudes of heavy metal post). The story is that of Ereth, an archer banished from his homeworld of Acheron, a planet which has been divided into two sides of eternal light and darkness due to tidal locking, of all things. Yeah, the band are a bunch of dorks. Excellent! According to Cronise, the bent of the story is more science fiction overall, what with spaceships, moving through time, and the like, but there are fantasy elements as well--Ereth is an archer, after all, and his movements mimic those of the hero on the quest. Overall I found that the story felt like Campbell written by Clarke, which is to say, perfect. Musically the sound varies a bit from previous albums; though none of The Sword's records really have an overarching style, the predecessors of Warp Riders were on the doomier side. Noted by Cronise himself, Warp Riders is a rock'n'roll album. At its height it's totally '70s ("Lawless Lands" has one of the sweetest guitar riffs I've ever heard, though the title track sounds like thrash metal composed by Bene Gesserit sisters), chunky and danceable and very hairy. Even the album art is right on point, harking back to the pulpy sci-fi book covers of the '60s and '70s.
The first is of warp and weft on a loom, the second of what space theoretically looks like when it is warped to allow for faster-than-light travel. As you can see, the spaceship travels on a horizontal line--the weft--with the vertical lines of the warp twisting and distorting to allow its passage, but remaining intact otherwise.
Does there exist a more perfect metaphor for human history? I mean really. For one thing, the image of woman as weaver is as old as mythology (often coming in threes, as in the case of the Moirae and the Zoryas), and it's clear that the sisterhood and the tres brujas are weavers--of space and time, of possibility. The arcane sacrifice which the sisterhood makes for the warp riders is never stated explicitly, but we can imagine--not that we need to. Women have always made every sacrifice necessary for the sake of men's ambition. Even in Dune, which I find to be shockingly feminist for the time period in which it was written, the Bene Gesserit--awesomely powerful, intelligent, and significant female characters--are waiting for their Ereth, though to Frank Herbert's credit they are extremely active in their waiting. The "shining angel" of Warp Riders, the spaceship destined to save Ereth's life and then to be used by him, the living womb traveling across through the ether to meet her fate; the mysterious "Lady" referenced in the final track, who keeps her promises; the sisterhood who seemingly exist only to make space travel possible: these are the functions of women. Notably, the functions of men--to move at liberty, to fight, to explore, to learn--are also present in the forms of Ereth the voyager (and his phallic weaponry), the pirates of "Night City", and the Chronomancer (a magician of esoterica and strange lore). The male characters space-hop, chill at bars on the Night Side of Acheron, gather armadas, ferret out ancient knowledge from caves and tombs, and generally do the explorer-warrior-sage thang.
If I sound bitter, apologies. I'm not--really! This is really an awesome album. I love the band who created it, I love sci-fi and fantasy stories, I love concept albums. It's totally solid and definitely worth listening to, and it's still on constant rotation in my car. But my appetite for deconstruction is difficult to slake and a story like this is hard to resist, but thankfully, this is one case in which my awareness of certain gaps in the story does not detract from my enjoyment. The ratio of awesome to eh is heavy on the awesome side. Cheers, Swordspeople. And have no fear! I'll get around to Thor eventually.