Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sword at Metro 12.12.2010

Sometimes, what you need is just a total throw-down hard rock show. Sunday night was horrid, weather-wise, in Chicago. Bone-chilling cold, high winds, blowing snow, the full package of winter crap weather. Getting to the show was a pain in the ass. Walking from the Addison Red Line stop to the club was downright painful. Thankfully, I get aside some bucks to cab it home.

The openers were a Band from Columbus, OH called Mount Carmel. Pretty good, kind of an Allman Brothers vibe, with a bit more edge. Also a three-piece.My buddy Shea, who went with me, liked them enough to pick up a CD. I thought they were pretty good, not really pretentious, but lacking in a bit of stage presence.

Then followed Karma to Burn, which was an odd act. They played for a good hour, really intense, really heavy. Great live act. Trouble is, only two songs had vocals. Now, I'm all kinds of good with instrumental hard rock, love me some Joe Satriani, but the thing is...Satriani serves up catchy melodies on the guitar. Karma to Burn just lay out the stomp. It was like watching Metallica with no vocals, the melody wasn't exactly apparent. This sorta made everything kinda sound the same.

In a live environment, with this style, I'm actually OK with that. It's high-energy, the crowd was into it, and they really worked for it. I just couldn't imagine buying a CD with 10-12 songs that all sound the same, and don't even have lyrical content (on the main) to differentiate them. So, loved 'em live...can't imagine becoming a "fan."

Ah, but then...the main event.

I freakin' love The Sword.

It's a love that's really sprung from their latest record, Warp Riders. (Yes, I have written about this album a lot.) The first two albums, Age of Winters and Gods of the Earth were really good throwback heavy metal albums, I really enjoyed them. Each has what I would call classic tracks. However, the formula didn't gell on every track, but the latest release is where I think everything comes together for this band.

I read a brief interview with guitarist/vocalist/songwriter J.D. Cronise where, when asked if touring with bands like Metallica impacted the new record, his response was that it made him want to take the focus away from "being heavy" and more toward storytelling. This is so very, very obvious in the results. Yes, Warp Riders is heavy, but it's also lyrical, and it grooves. It's the exact sort of progression curve a band should have in the genre. As they move forward we're seeing more and more of what the band can do.

this is all to say, if they'd just got up there and played the new record front to back, I would've been over the moon. It is a concept record, after all, so it's a possibility. That did not happen, and we got a fine selection of tracks from the earlier albums.

When people ask me about The Sword, at some point, or another, I usually say "a throwback band." There are other acts that have gotten that label, Wolfmother comes immediately to mind. To me, the thing that sets The Sword apart from these other groups is a certain sense of authenticity. I mean, Wolfmother...I dug some tracks, the first album was pretty good, but it always struck me as a hipster's idea of what a 70's metal act was. Andrew Stockdale is talented, but there's just a little too much "cool" in the mix. The outfits are too thought out, too designer, and the hooks feel more than a little over-engineered to sound like off-the-cuff, "let's thrash" riffage.

I look at The Sword, and they look EXACTLY like the hessian kids who used to gather at "cancer corner" 'round the back of my high school, and talk about how "fucking rad" the new Iron Maiden cassette was. If it was just the look, I might still be skeptical, but then there's the vibe that comes off the stage. They seem unaffected by the adoration that's heaped on them. Cronise, for example, almost seems embarrassed by the whole thing. As I left the venue, the bassist, Bryan Ritchie, was just standing there, hobnobbing with some guy about two feet from the fans shuffling out, and Cronice stepped out into view at the end of the hall. I threw the horns, and he kinda waved back...I immediately felt like an idiot.

See, CByrd? There are places where the horns work, and some they don't ;). In the hall after a show just makes you look like a meathead.

Thing is, that reaction, the sorta embarrassed, "oh, hey guys"? Makes me love that dude more than anything. Could it be an act? Sure, every band, every musician, has an act, I think. An image they cultivate, and use to keep the world away from their "real" selves. Still, it just feels like a bunch of guys that cut some tracks, and the heavy metal world came to them.

Anyway, yes...A throwback band. When you watch The Sword play, you get the sense that this is a group that could've come up in the 80's, or even the 70's, without much change. The first two albums felt very much like Black Sabbath, and Warp Riders peppers in a heaping helping of Thin Lizzy. It's a sense of hard-workin', blue collar hard rock. I dig that, and always have.

I guess as a last point, as a immediate, physical example of how much I enjoyed this show...My neck is stiff as a board, today. Total whiplash.

Heh heh...The metalheads know what I'm talking about.

Night City, Freya, Lawless Lands, (The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire, How Heavy This Axe, Winter Wolves

Acheron/Unearthing the Orb  
Tres Brujas  
Barael's Blade 
Arrows In The Dark 
How Heavy This Axe 
Lawless Lands 
Fire Lances Of The Ancient Hyperzephyrians 
The Chronomancer II: Nemesis 
The Horned Goddess 
Iron Swan 
Night City 
The Black River 
(The Night The Sky Cried) Tears Of Fire  

Winter's Wolves

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