The reason: The Austin, Texas, quartet is damned near the King Arthur to the custom-bong crowd, able to lead legions with its Iommi-fortified riffs. And while the band’s name alone gets anyone with a set of chain mail excited, its lyrics about killing frost giants with fire lances really makes those lords crave a good wench for the night.
And as for the indie crowd: “People who come to see us: We might be the only metal band they see all year,” says drummer Trivett Wingo. “They’re attracted to us for some reason.”
And honestly, it’s hard to figure out exactly why that is, because there are few bands that are as unapologetically metal as The Sword. The group is basically a snarling version of a Balrog—the fire-breathing demon that plagued Gandalf. There’s none of the pseudo-danceable beats that hipsters have come to expect. There’s none of the vague classical influences that seep into hard rock. If it weren’t for frontman John Cronise’s hollowed out tenor—a spooky, less nasal version of Ozzy (pre-insanity)—there wouldn’t even be any real melodies, the band instead focusing on how many riffs-per-inch they can squeeze into five minutes of thunder.
Example: The Sword’s sophomore disc Gods of the Earth (Kemando). Songs like “Maiden, Mother & Croon” and “How Heavy This Axe” mix thick Sabbath barks with outlandish tales of dispatching evil, creating fist-pumping powerhouses even Conan couldn’t withstand. And others, like “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians,” are perfect for blaring in a forge while you hammer out the ultimate one-hit pipe. Sure, it can get a little repetitious. All that thumping. All those orc bodies. But once The Sword unleashes the seven-minute instrumental epic “The White Sea,” it’s pretty obvious the band is as unstoppable as an endless convoy of questionably airbrushed conversion vans.
And that might be The Sword’s real saving grace. While much of metal has veered toward simulating a war zone—complete with both gurgling, bloody body vocals and randomly falling smart bomb riffs—The Sword went the road less traveled. And like Robert Frost—oddly, another cornerstone of the fist-pumping crowd—that might have made all the difference.
“All that other shit: That’s gay,” Wingo says. “I know it’s not P.C. to say that, but it is. We couldn’t be a pop band or a screamo band or whatever. This is the kind of music we play naturally together—visceral music that just moves you at gut level. And we couldn’t do anything else. And I think that’s why people like it.”
In fact, a growing number of people seem to be liking it. Wingo wasn’t lying when he mentioned more than metalheads have been showing up at the group’s gigs. The crowd is all over the place, probably because The Sword hasn’t limited itself to playing just metal shows. When the band’s debut Age of Winter (Kemando) was released, the group went on tour with Austin buds …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead—not a metal band by any stretch. And while the group has since hung out with a decidedly heavier crowd—The Sword is supporting Metallica this summer—the group’s willingness to venture beyond its comfort zone has allowed fans to do the same.
“It’s a part of being from Austin,” Wingo says. “There are not really scenes there. Things are more fragmented than that. It’s not like it used to be when you went to all the punk shows and saw all the same people. Now you just go see what they like.”
Which means there’s as much of a chance of seeing a dude with spiked leather armbands at a Sword show as there is seeing some caped girl going by the name Guinevere. There might even be some bearded dude standing in the corner looking ironic. And all it takes to get any of them talking is to just mention The Sword.
THE SWORD@ Club Vegas, 445 S. 400 West, Friday April 25, 8 p.m. 24Tix.com