Three metal bands played at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre on Tuesday, May 20th. Philadelphia veterans Stinking Lizaveta opened, and they were the furthest afield of the three acts. Bassist Alexi Papadopoulos played a dark, continuous rumble with his electric upright, as opposed to the conventional, more riff-synched anchor of the other bands’ bass players. His brother Yanni provided common metal elements: power chord riffs and whammy-oriented soloing. He’s a proficient player, but a couple of his solos were based entirely on key changes, and so sounded cheesy. He did get some novel sounds from playing with his mouth and feet. The band finished strong with “War of the Worlds”, which put their rapport and chops to use. Following a sudden slowdown and decrescendo led by drummer Cheshire Augusta, they came right back with a massive, climactic acceleration.
After Soundgarden bridged the gap with “Jesus Christ Pose” blaring over the P.A., Miami’s Torche took the stage. Their rhythm section was the mathiest and loudest of the night, with drummer Rick Smith changing the beat about every four bars and never short on power. Meanwhile, guitarists Steve Brooks and Juan Montoya threw down hard riffs that let up only for solos and the occasional rhythm break. Brooks’ strong lead vocals were often the sole discernible melodic element. Unfortunately, he was too low in the mix, as were Smith’s toms. Smith’s energy may be misdirected: he changed beats so often that the band didn’t develop much groove.
Torche is a versatile band. Late in their set, as Montoya picked up his new, dark green Electrical guitar, they made a slick transition from mathy rhythms to a denser, gloomier sound. But despite Smith rising from his kit to attack the drums, the band’s intensity fell off, and they never got back to where they were before slowing down.
Those two bands were no slackers, but the crowd of about 200 clearly favored The Sword, going nuts as the immense “SWORD” banner behind the stage finally backed the correct band. Although their Iron Maiden-style metal is unremarkable, the Texans are definitely on top of their game. Every instrument sounded good; drummer Trivett Wingo in particular enjoyed great live sound. He didn’t hit like Smith, but his quick snare rolls and constant agility were perfect alongside Bryan Richie’s four-fingered bass playing. And when the guitar riffs break into solos, the band shows some character, as frontman J.D. Cronise’s shredding complements Kyle Shutt’s bluesy style.
The Sword still has some room for improvement. Although the guitar solos were confident and right for their songs, some came to sudden or awkward ends that didn’t square with the riffs that followed. When Cronise and Shutt soloed together, they nailed the dueling harmonies and rhythms, but they left the band sounding thin. In fairness, that’s bound to happen when playing live and without overdubs. A greater problem was that there wasn’t much to distinguish each song from the next, so there was little suspense or narrative to their set.
Like disco and bluegrass, metal has a fanbase that expects certain established musical elements and is more gratified by their good execution than by innovation. The crowd raised up the time-worn metal gestures – horns, fists, and that thing with the outstretched fingers that pulls back into the guy’s chest while forming a fist along the way – for the most classic and time-worn moments of the night, the bulk of which were during the headliners’ set. The Sword delivered the fix, no upright bass, doom breakdowns, or banter required.