I walked into Slim’s just in time to see The Sword come on stage, wriggling my way through the very dude-heavy, black clad, beard wearing crowd to get a spot where those damn posts didn’t obstruct my view. A banner sporting the band’s name hung behind them, in the fantasy metal style that any cool child of the ’80s knows well.
This packed house bodes well for this newish Austin band. They have several things working for them, indicative of how a band can become successful in today’s music climate. First, this kind of music- doom-stoner-fantasy metal- is just not being made anymore by new bands. The Sword is able to make music that sounds both throwback and fresh at the same time. Second, they got their song ‘Freya’ in Guitar Hero 2. Third, they have been opening for Metallica. And fourth, they are really fucking good.
Anyone who knows me or reads this knows I’m a sucker for synchronized headbanging. 3 heads of long hair whipping up and down while these complicated riffs are being executed is the ultimate in metal showmanship. How do they do it? Sometimes with eyes closed, sometimes barely taking a peek at their fingers, the real question is how do they not get dizzy?
The middle front breaks out into a push fest, despite Slim’s large permanent ‘No Moshing, crowd surfing…’ sign. Lead singer J.D. Cronise tells them to calm down on the dude-on-dude action, but of course they don’t listen. Several others in the periphery are breaking out into compulsory air guitar. And then there are the drunken jocks. Why, oh why, does metal always attract this contingency? It’s only when you go into goth or glam metal that they fall out of the picture.
Though the vocals were a little hard to hear this evening, it is still hard to not compare them to Sabbath. The lyrics just glide on top of the heavy metal beats. The four piece works in balance- the guitar is as important as the bass and the drums and the vocals.
The Sword also pulls all of this off without being cheesy. The whole fantasy, Tolkien-inspired Norse mythology thing, as well as the hair action and metal faces could derail taking a band like this seriously. But they manage to be intense without being over the top.
There was little talking to the audience, except for saying that ‘Maiden, Mother & Crone’ was for the ladies (all 15 of us). They worked their way through songs spanning both of their albums, in an hour and a half set that included a two song encore. The first song of the encore was a KISS cover (I think). While I left sufficiently rocked, my only wish was that they had played their cover of ‘Immigrant Song’. Maybe next time…
I’m also and 90% positive that Jello Biafra was rocking out a few feet away from me. That dude is awesome.
The Sword performance: 9/10
venue (Slim’s): 7.5/10
value ($16/ticket): 9/10
youtube from an Istanbul show/from KemadoRecords
Setlist, anyone? Please leave it in the comments!