:: Bluebird Theater :: December 4 ::
By Joe Kovack
Forged in the deep cauldrons of the Earth surrounded by molten lava bubbling its way to the surface, The Sword emerge like a phoenix, creating its own mythology as it rises to the sky with intensity and purpose.
The Austin, Texas four-piece have steadily created their own brand of classic metal-inspired heaviness that continues to progress as they journey forward like a hero destined to save the kingdom from evil. Riddled with lyrical symbolism and built on layers of catchy riffs and heavy licks, The Sword have become synonymous with folklore imagery and a blistering metal sound that is reminiscent of Black Sabbath but is unique and unrivaled today.
With the release of their fourth studio album Apocryphon, The Sword have cemented themselves as pioneers of a sonic experience contrasting that of their contemporaries. Unlike 2010’s critically acclaimed concept Warp Riders, in which the story was like a sci-fi novel, the new album ditches the concept theme and stands on its own as just 10 songs that were built to rock.
“Warp Riders was a story J.D. had and we had 10 songs that were wildly different from one another. That album was all over the place musically, but the concepts really tied it all together and made it into a nice package,” guitarist Kyle Shutt said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “But J.D. [Cronise, vocalist and guitarist] doesn’t have a bunch of stories laying around that he can just write operas about. I mean, we all read a lot and you put enough stuff in your brain and different flavors of things will come out, but I guess that’s just what he was feeling at the time when he wrote it. We don’t really talk a lot about what we do. We just do it. Nothing’s really too deliberate.”
Recording for the first time outside of their hometown of Austin, the band spent six weeks in Baltimore with producer J. Robbins (Clutch, Jawbox), and immersed themselves in 12-hour days, six days a week, bringing together the bits and pieces of riffs from their canon of musical strength and using the peculiar energy of the city to channel their inspiration into the 10 song album. “[Baltimore] is just a brutal place. I don’t know how people put up with it on a daily basis, and it’s not like I’m ragging it ’cause I’m not. There’s just so much art, awesome music and film that come out of there, but it’s such a nightmare kind of a place [laughs]. It’s just very unique, there’s not another place like it that I’ve been to. It was an experience I’ll never forget,” Shutt recalled.
While Apocryphon — the group’s first album with the label Razor & Tie — isn’t tied to a central theme it still is wrought with metal symbolism of past and future. On “Cloak of Feathers,” for example, J.D. sings, “She wore a cloak of feathers, and rode a mare of purest white/A silver talon in her hands, a look of sadness in her eyes.” On the title track, however, the group sounds as if they’re on a speeding spaceship, singing, “Set adrift in the multiverse, by the whims of fate. In thrall to the demiurge, we all await escape.” Those concepts are brought together through dueling guitar solos, intricate riffs and a new drummer that added a much needed percussive presence to accentuate their brand of prolific classic metal for the modern age.
“Trivett [Wingo] took a dump on our world tour and we were left high and dry without a drummer and had to cancel everything,” Shutt said. “We held some auditions and a bunch of people tried out, but this guy Kevin [Fender] knew everything already, so we could just hit the road immediately and make up those dates. Then we remembered Jimmy [Vela] from the auditions and we thought we’d give him a second chance and just whooped him into shape a little bit. I really don’t miss Trivett. Jimmy’s a badass drummer and I think we made a great decision going with him, and writing the record with him was awesome.”
Over the past year, in addition to lineup changes, label changes and making a new album, the band has also been broadening their marketing. The metal revivalists now have their own signature hot sauce called “Tears of Fire,” named for the final song off of Warp Riders, and a beer with Baltimore-based Oliver Breweries called “Winter’s Wolves Beer.”
“We have kind of shaken up the ways we do things a little bit,” Shutt said. We’ve been singing backups for the first time on the tour and it seems to be going well. It’s actually a whole new show so the people who have seen us six times, it’s not going to be the same. But it’s still heavy as balls.”
:: The Sword ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: December 4 ::
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