Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 – The Sword

This was bound to be an awesome night at Rubber Gloves.

The best Metal band out of Austin, The Sword, recently released their new album, “Apocryphon”, and of course with a new album comes a new tour. And tonight, their tour was leading them to Denton, and seeing them was a perfect reason to make the drive up to Denton.

The first act of the night was an instrumental band from Austin, Eagle Claw. Now, I’ve said many times in the past, I am not a fan of instrumental music, so I wasn’t too excited about seeing them. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

By the time I made it up to Rubber Gloves the band had already done there thing and the next act, Gypsyhawk, was pretty much setup and raring to go.

I’ll be frank, personally, Gypsyhawk’s music didn’t appeal to me a whole lot. I wouldn’t say I disliked them, but music is supposed to ignite something within you. It’s supposed to get you excited and make you feel something, and that did not happen for me. Not with these guys.

However, I believe being impartial is a must, and just because I didn’t enjoy their music doesn’t mean I couldn’t or didn’t appreciate it.

When it comes down to music it’s always the voice that makes it or breaks it for me. And while I wasn’t too keen on vocalist and bassist, Eric Harris’s growl of a voice, it did fit well with the nostalgic Metal sounds they produced. And by that I mean they had a Classic, true Metal sound. Most of what they did this night came off their latest effort, “Revelry & Resilience”, such as the second song of their set, “The Fields”. “…This one’s about quantum physics…” Eric said before they started the tune. But some songs from an older EP were also performed this night. I believe one was “Commander of the High Forest”, and I know they did a song that bears the same name as the band, as Eric simply put it as a song about, “…Fucking girls and then leaving town…”.

Okay, those songs and everything else they fit into their 35 to 40-minute long set might not have been my cup of tea, but there’s no denying that these guys are excellent musicians. Guitarists, Erik Kluiber and Andrew Packer, did nothing but shred and rock out. Eric had a nice swagger as well, and knew how to play the bass with the right amount of force, yet also seemed gracefully in doing it. As for drummer, Ian Brown, I couldn’t see much of him, but what glimpses I caught, he was tearing it up.

I might not have become a real fan of Gypsyhawk’s, but they are a great band.

You can find both of their records right HERE in iTUNES. They will also be joining The Sword on all their show dates through December, and you can find all the cities they will be rocking HERE. They’ll also be in Dallas on December 17th at Trees.

After a seemingly short set change, everything was ready for The Sword to take the stage, and then came the waiting.

They didn’t leave the packed Rubber Gloves waiting too long, though. And shortly before 10:30, lead guitarist, Kyle Shutt, singer and guitarist, John Cronise, drummer, Santiago Vela III, and bassist, Bryan Richie, walked onto the stage, too much fanfare. They waved a bit and smiled at the fans as they got their instruments, and then it was on.

What better way to begin a show than with the lead track and single from the bands new album, “The Veil of Isis”. The intro itself got the fans fired up, and once Santiago started pounding away on the drums, a good portion of the people began banging their heads in synch to it. Then John opened his mouth to sing the first line, “As the night arrives the day concedes her crown…”. Sadly, this was were the only hindrance of their set came in to play, though it was certainly not the bands fault. The sound system at Rubber Gloves isn’t always the best, and such was the case tonight, and for the first few songs, it was next to impossible to understand what was being sung. Yes, it sucked, but there are some lengthy (and heavy) instrumental parts on that song, and at least those weren’t impacted. They fiddled with their instruments for a moment, and whether it was their intention or not, that little delay succeed in building anticipation for their next song. It was the only of their set that I didn’t know. Perhaps a cover, or maybe a song that has never made a record, either way, it was every bit as good as everything else they did this night. Santiago wound that song right into the next, “Hammer of Heaven”, before John and Kyle ripped into their guitars and Bryan started attacking his bass, truly getting it underway. I was slightly surprised, seeing as the song was released as a one-off single earlier this year, which gave me the impression it was more to get something new to the fans rather than one that would make its way into the live show. It was a beast of a song live, though, and Bryan and Kyle shouted the chorus, which is the song title, right along with John, giving it a lot of extra force. By this point, all of the technical kinks had been resolved, and the vocal were much clearer… And just in time, too. They soon busted into “Tres Brujas”, which got everyone worked into a frenzy, and a small mosh pit was born. It lasted throughout the show, though fizzled out here and there, and it did make it hard to fully watch the band, but that’s part of what comes with seeing a band like The Sword. Anyway, it was great getting to hear that song, seeing as it is my personal favorite of the bands, and it was the mythical lyrics like those in that tune that captivated me and made me a fan of theirs in the first place. The music was obviously the main focus of their performance, in the fact that they seldom spoke to the crowd, instead doing the songs as close together as they could, and next up they pulled out “Maiden, Mother & Crone”. After it, they did an older one from 2006’s “Age of Winters”, “The Horned Goddess”. The song has never stuck out to me on the recording, but life, it’s a whole different matter. While instrumental stuff isn’t my thing, it’s the instrumental portions that really make the song. Be it the full-band going with the flow of the music bed or the short, incendiary guitar solo Kyle goes into. It’s just thick, delectable Metal that will have you banging you head to the music at every possible chance. “We’re gonna play some new songs for you…” John said after that song concluded, as they geared up to do some more stuff from “Apocryphon”. “Cloak of Feathers” was song they did from it, while Bryan started them on the rhythm heavy, “The Hidden Masters”, with some light bass notes, which soon grew more thunderous. “This next song is called Seven Sisters.” John told the crowd. It’s a standout track from the album, and it’s every bit as good live as the recording would lead you to believe. I liked that tactic, start with mostly older stuff, then throw some new tunes in around the halfway mark, but they made sure not to overdo it, and next got back to their classics with the fan favorite, “Freya”. It was pure, in-your-face Metal complete with some killer guitar licks, proving that old-school Sword songs are sometimes the best. After “To Take The Black”, they did two final new songs, the first of which John dedicated to the East Coasters who had survived hurricane Sandy. “…Hopefully they aren’t in the Eyes of the Stormwitch…” he said, then added that was the title of their next song. It’s a good one, but I was more enthralled by the title track itself, “Apocryphon”, which was one of their best songs of the night, as it was one they seemed to be really into. They had been telling their fans for the last few songs they were nearing the end, and now came the final song of their 71-minute long set. They then lit into “The Chronomancer I: Hubris”, which gave the show a nice, finalized feeling, yet also left you wanting more.

And surely there would be more. Right?

Maybe thirty seconds passed from the time they disappeared backstage to the time one of their roadies walked on stage and to the center mic. “Are there any Sword fans here!?” he asked. The fans erupted, to which he said, “Well let ‘em know!”. After he finished and started to walk away, the band reemerged, took their spots, and got ready for a 9-minute encore.

They had in-store two fan favorites, both of which are my favorites by the band. First up was “Barael’s Blade”, and when they got to the part where John starts singing, they chose to instead repeat most of the intro again. When they got to the chorus of the song, they let the audience handle it, as almost everyone shouted out, “Behold! The bastard’s blade!” They quickly moved on to the next and last song, and with a few light taps on one of his cymbals, Santiago revealed it to be the song that everyone seemed to want to hear most, “Winter’s Wolves”. “Can’t you see what you have wrought here? Bloody battles will be fought here…” John soon sang, before getting to what is my favorite line from their songs, “…I would mount your head on bloody spears outside your palace gates, and watch as crows peck out your eyes, and your cities are laid to waste.” They then brought it to an end as most bands do, all striking their instruments a few times in unison, Bryan viciously so, allowing the sound to resonate a little in between, before stopping it all together.

Even with the technical difficulties at the start, this was still a spectacular performance. They brought their A game and left it all on the stage, and how many bands do you see these days that do that?

Really, The Sword is one of those bands that every other band could take lessons from. They’re phenomenal performers and incredible musicians who know how to make extraordinary music. Metal music that is. Anymore, (most) Metal bands have singers that scream incoherently, but just like the band that opened for them, The Sword is a band that pays homage to the classic sound of the genre, but with a definite modern influence. And John actually sings, not doing anything even close to screaming.

I was blown away by their set, and my third time seeing the band live was definitely the best.

The band will be touring the U.S. in support of “Apocryphon” until December 18th, with a European tour starting in early January. You can find all their tour dates HERE, and if they are coming to a city near you, believe me, you don’t want to miss out on them. Also, they will be back in the area on December 17th, performing at Tree’s in Dallas. Also be sure to check out their records in ITUNES.

When they finished, it wasn’t even midnight yet, making this a VERY early show by Denton standards. I was glad for that, though, because that meant I could get home at a decent hour, even with the hour long drive back.