It’s not uncommon for a heavy metal band like The Sword to avoid a hipster-saturated town like Portland. Many folks here would rather spend their Monday night holed up drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon out of a can and pouring over the latest Vampire Weekend album for the fortieth time. Thankfully, there is simply one thing that this Austin, Texas quartet comes to do, and that is rock. And rock is exactly what they did at Portland’s hole-in-the-wall Hawthorne Theater on August 5th, and even in this city they were able to draw a packed crowd of their dedicated fans out of the woodwork.
There were two opening bands, American Sharks and Castle, both of which laid a pretty solid groundwork with heavy riffs and pummeling drum beats, but no matter how heavy and pummeling their music was, it didn’t hold a candle to the brand of sludgy groove metal that The Sword has become so well known for.
Fans were treated to songs from all four of The Sword’s studio albums. The set drew fairly heavily from their most recent release, last year’s Apocryphon (QRO review), with songs like “Veil of Isis”, “Cloak of Feathers”, and “Dying Earth”, but they stayed true to fans in that the majority of the songs that made up the night’s set were taken from their fabulous debut album Age of Winters (2006) such as the ever-popular “Freya”, “Bereal’s Blade”, “Ebethron”, and their encore, which consisted of the heavy Age of Winters tracks “Iron Swan” and “Winter’s Wolves”. What a way to end the night, indeed.
2008’s God’s of the Earth was featured only a couple of times in the night’s opening song, “The Sundering”, and the track “Maiden, Mother, and Crone”, which was featured later in the night. The only bummer of the night (if there was one) was that the exquisitely crafted Warp Riders (2010) was not as equally represented as their other albums, with just the pieces “Arrows In the Dark” and “Lawless Lands” drawn from its list. The only thing that could have made the night better would have been them playing it in its entirety from start to finish, but hey, as it was the night was pretty amazing.
For being such a little guy, lead singer J.D. Cronise sure does have a powerful voice and it couples perfectly with the überly-heavy instrumentation of Kyle Shutt (guitar), Bryan Richie (bass), and newest member Santiago Vela III (drums, and how metal is that name?). The long and short of it is that these guys’ music rocks enough as it is on their studio albums but if you’ve never gotten the chance to see them live then you are missing out.