Previewing the show in a single sentence, my friend told me, “These guys are masters of the One.”
Indeed they are. The Sword – purveyors of a polished version of doom-stoner-epic metal – have their own trademark sound, and it centers around hitting the beat – and hard – on the one. These guys can play whiplash-fast metal, sludgy stoner metal, and everything in between. And they apply their style to epic sci-fi fantasy lyrical matter, which ups the interest ante considerably.
The Sword played Asheville NC last week, and I went to check them out. I had spent some time with their latest, Warp Riders, part of an ongoing metal saga from the band. And I dug the album. Though it’s harder and more metallic that is my general preference, the songs are sturdy, well-written and flawlessly executed. And The Sword are nowhere as pretentious as, say, Coheed and Cambria.
Resplendent in 70s-concert-tour styled Rush baseball jerseys, onstage The Sword looked more like a grunge or garage band. But the navigated the hairpin turns and stop-start rhythms of material form Warp Riders and earlier efforts. Far from being dour deliverers of the metal gospel, the band interacted with the crowd. Having replaced the abruptly-departing drummer Trivett Wingo mere weeks before the date, the band seems to have assimilated new drummer Kevin Fender into the lineup; he plays like he’s been with The Sword forever.
Said crowd was more diverse than I might have expected. Not all t-shirts were back, and there were actually women in attendance. Fist-pumping did occur, but the show was largely free of metal clichés.
The two opening acts were well-chosen. Karma to Burn – notably featuring Daniel Davies, son of one Raymond Douglas Davies and Chrissie Hynde – put on a stellar show. Though the band is technically from West Virginia (of all places), there’s little hint of Appalachia in their stoner-metal sound. And first-up act Mount Carmel were ace as well, showing lots of promise within the confines of their bluesy stoner-rock format.