The album is named after the term "air-drawn dagger", which was used in William Shakespeare's Macbeth to characterize an emotional outburst. The album is entirely instrumental, and has a different sound from Sasha's other work, such as the Xpander EP. Its tone is more atmospheric and relaxed compared to his mix albums. In a 2013 interview with Dupspot, Sasha stated that the production of this album had relied heavily on use of the Roland JD-800 and the Waldorf WAVE synthesizers, describing them as "the sound of Airdrawndagger". In press releases and marketing, the album was advertised as Sasha's "debut artist album", despite The Qat Collection's release in 1994. Sources reviewing the album largely acknowledged this and described Airdrawndagger as his debut, with notable exceptions including The Guardian, who wrote that "he released [his debut album] in 1994, the underwhelming Qat Collection, but that has been erased, Stalin-style, from his history".
The album was announced in July 2002 with live performances of it scheduled for 24 and 31 August 2002. The album was first released on 5 August 2002. It was released in the UK and Europe through Arista Records, a former subsidiary of BMG. The album was distributed in the US by Kinetic Records on 6 August 2002. The vinyl release of the album was given a variant album cover, with the full spike ball shown. A digital download version of the album was issued on 17 May 2010 by Deconstruction Records. The album's single, "Wavy Gravy" was released on 19 August 2002 through BMG and Kinetic, and promoted by a remix contest held in 2003. The single charted on the UK Singles Chart at position 64, and on the UK Dance Singles Chart at position 4.
Airdrawndagger received generally positive reviews from critics. AllMusic reviever Glenn Swan gave it four stars out of five, summarising his review with "Airdrawndagger has a sharp blade, and hovers with threat, but it takes almost half the album before it draws blood" although stated that "[when given his mix albums and remixes], Airdrawndagger sounds a bit anticlimactic by comparison".BBC Music reviewer Christian Hopwood noted that "[the] album might come as a disappointment to anyone expecting something akin to a DJ mix CD" but praised the album, describing it as a "glittering, euphoric masterpiece". Robbie Y from Resident Advisor wrote a very positive review, rating the album 5.0 out of 5, describing it as "mixed and produced to perfection, not one stone in the making of this album has been left unturned". However, Pitchfork gave the album a negative review, rating it 2.5 out of 10.