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The Sword Makes Secret Apperance in Austin During 4th of July

Grilled Burgers, Corona and a handful of all-American rock n roll were on the agenda for this year’s 4th of July celebration. The only Independence Day fixture mixing from this equation was fireworks, and due to unrelenting drought, Austinites would have to drive to a satellite community to participate in that tradition. The Spider House Café played host to these festivities. Billed as the “Summer of Sam,” the bill featured a variety of acts of varying style.

For the most part, “Summer of Sam” was a two-stage local band festival. The Sword is a national powerhouse, but still an Austin-based group. The club kept The Sword’s performance on the down low, printing a TBA special guest on the show’s flyer. By far the most popular metal/hard rock act in Austin, most of The Sword’s shows often sell out, so this word-of-mouth performance kept the small club from bulging at the seems, although the group still played to a packed house.

Situated near the campus of University of Texas (hook ‘em Horns), the Spider House Café features an indoor and outdoor stage and an outdoor patio that seems to never end. The event kicked off outdoors around 3 PM. An outdoor bar provided beer to wash down the smoker-grilled hamburgers. The burgers were the school-cafeteria-bulk variety, but costing a dollar a sandwich, nobody complained about the quality.

Arriving around 5 PM, my introduction to the outdoor stage came in the form of electro goth rockers Troller. The guy/girl combo merged vocals amidst heavenly tones of ethereal electronica. One patron told me the beautiful female vocals reminded him of the beautiful-but-deadly song of the mythical Siren. TA of Hod and Ancient VVisdom hailed the group’s music as “fuck music.” I couldn’t disagree with either of those descriptions. I don’t often see goth bands, so their performance was a nice change of pace. According to the band’s Myspace page, Troller is brand new. I expect to see their names on flyers for Austin’s goth-industrial club, Elysium.

The Well ascended the stage with Sabbath-like guitar chords. Unfortunately, I missed most of their set because it came during an interview with Ancient VVisdom. Nathan Opposition and I could barely hear each other, so we walked into the cult (fitting) section of the video store next door and finished our talk. From the little I saw, The Well didn’t bring anything new to the table, but their stoner/doom sound seemed an appropriate style—one of the only bands of this ilk at the show—to open for The Sword.

After The Well finished, Ancient VVisdom began to assemble their vast collection of stage props and unconventional instruments. Amongst these items were antlers, incense, railroad spikes, chains, knives and a tribal mask. In a fashion that brought to mind the chain-rattling haunts of Jacob Marley, singer/percussionist Nathan Opposition wacked his drum with chains during the heavy-blues jam, “Devil Brain.” Opposition also struck a machete with his stick, but soon abandoned that practice when he failed to hear its metallic clang. He also tapped a cymbal with a knife.

After the show, acoustic guitarist Justin “Ribs” Mason noted the difficulty of pairing an acoustic with an electric guitar and bass, which rang true at the beginning of AV’s set. Soon all instruments fell into harmony, though, and the band was in top form. This was the first time I had seen new bassist, TA (Hod) with the band. He definitely raised the band’s energy. The group, especially Nathan Opposition, played with more gusto than their latest recording “A Godlike Inferno.” Michael AVV added heavy guitar licks and tricks to his brother’s suede vocals and Ribs’ serene guitar chords.

AV marked the end of the scorching heat on the outdoor stage. However, the air-conditioning and plush-cushioned seating inside the ballroom (29th Street Ballroom) served only as a refresher before The Sword. The first band consisted of a bunch of kids who couldn’t figure out what style to play. A bass string snapped during the early part of their set, leaving their singer in an embarrassing predicament and the band out of tune. The next band played a high-energy set of hard rock that the crowd responded well to, but the singer couldn’t stay in key. His voice was akin to an asthmatic Robert Plant.

Once The Sword began to set up, the crowd hastily made its way into the ballroom. The diversity of the crowd was a testament to The Sword’s popularity. Dudes banged their heads and dudettes shook their shoulders and hips. College students, hippies, stoners, head bangers, and punks filtered in to show their support. One dude with long, Ric Flair-style blonde hair sported a black Miami Vice cap (I remember the first time around when those were neon pink). It being the 4th of July, people showed their patriotism with red-white-blue-colored clothing. One girl’s American-flag pants precisely detailed her delicious curves—hot women were abound!

Cloaked in one of the better light systems around town (for clubs), The Sword opened with the first three tracks from their latest recording “Warp Riders.” Live drummer Kevin Fender brought his sticks down with authority, matching the hammering guitar notes that bring in “Unearthing the Orb.” His aggressive playing injected the crowd with massive doses of energy. Heads banged and hands waved in unison to the stop-n-start motions the band often took. Guitarist Kyle Shutt was spot on with his solos, and his activity—moving around the stage and swaying his guitar, made for an exciting spectacle.

While The Sword focused mostly on newer material, they played at least one song from each of their three full-length recordings. One of the surprises of their set (at least for a first-timer), a cover of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses” sounded very close to the original. It was a good choice considering it was a cover of a fellow Texas band and it translated well. The doomy tromp, melodies and thrashing rhythms of “How Heavy This Axe” was a personal favorite.

After playing for over an hour, The Sword called it a night. After stepping off the stage and into the crowd, a single-syllable encore “SWORD” brought the band back onto the stage to play one of the heaviest songs of the night. The set list has “Wolves of Winter” listed as the last song, but I don’t think that was the song.

Below, I have provided The Sword’s set list.

Unearthing the Orb
Tres Brujas
Arrows in the Dark
Celestial Crown/Barael's Blade
How Heavy This Axe
The Chronomancer I
Massacre (Thin Lizzy cover)
To Take the Black
Cheap Sunglasses (ZZ Top cover)
Night City
Wolves of Winter

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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