music (2006-52)

The Dudes Are Stoked

Fans everywhere bow down to The Sword

by John Sewell

In today’s post-whatever rock scene, having a deeply ingrained sense of irony is almost as important as having guitars and drums, maybe even a bass. In hipster circles, certain groups have elevated the practice of parody to such a degree that their very fakeness is seen as a selling point. Hey, it’s all been done before so why

Austin, Tex.-based band The Sword is one of those acts that automatically come under suspicion for perpetrating the crimes of genre pilfering and musical satire. The band’s choice of song titles like “Celestial Crown,” “The Horned Goddess,” and the sprawling eight-movement instrumental “March of The Lor” all seem so over-the-top, they’ve just gotta be milking the irony to the max, right?

“There is no irony whatsoever,” says The Sword’s bassist, Bryan Richie. “We are dead serious about what we do.” And judging by the thunderous riffage and aural bludgeon of the debut album, Age of Winters (Kemado Records), The Sword is forging a timeless metallic alloy on par with Sabbath, The Melvins, and Pentagram.

“If I had to describe the band to someone that had no clue, I’d just tell them that we are heavy metal. Not stoner rock, not doom, not death metal—just heavy metal,” says Richie. “I’m kind of suspicious about a lot of these bands that are claiming to be metal these days.  These bands like Trivium, for example, they are called heavy metal. I mean, they have the double kick-drum and the fast leads, but there’s like this emo-core breakdown in every song. 

“When I think of real metal, I think of bands like Arsis or Nihil,” Richie continues. “It’s so damn weird and limiting, this classification.  There’s not many really, like, awesome bands. That’s a problem, finding bands of our caliber to tour with ’cause we want to give an awesome show. I hope I’m not being too negative here. I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy.”

The Sword is currently on tour with Clutch, but will headline the Knoxville show as Clutch takes a night off. Needless to say, Clutch is one of the bands that Richie feels is appropriately awesome to tour with. “Wherever we go, you see more dudes wearing Clutch shirts at the shows,” enthuses Richie.

A traditionally male-dominated genre, heavy metal bands rarely feature female members, and metal audiences are predominantly longhaired guys in black T-shirts. So it seemed logical to ask Richie if The Sword was doin’ it for the dudes.

“We’re not doing it for the dudes,” says Richie. “When I’m on stage, I concentrate on my playing and hardly even look at the audience. We’re doing it for ourselves. We’re not doing it for the ladies, because we all have girlfriends at home. We’re doing it for the cash! I’m doing it for me! And the dudes are definitely stoked.”

There is still a nagging perception that members of The Sword are hipsters, probably because they didn’t pay their dues as much as the metal community thinks they should’ve. Their label, Kemado Records, is rumored to be funded by Disney, which certainly isn’t very metal, but might explain why the band has so much promotional muscle behind them. The group is also plagued by genre pigeonholing, oftentimes referred to as doom or stoner rock.

“I don’t like being called stoner rock,” says Richie, who had previously admitted to partaking of the herb before the interview.  “To me stoner rock would be some dude sitting in his room with a guitar doing bong-hits, playing some sludgy, repetitive riff, and not doing anything. We’re not like that ’cause we get things done. We’ve played about 200 shows this year.

“This has been a really busy year for us,” Richie continues. “We’re working on some new songs, making some beats that are as assaulting as possible. Musically, we’re writing songs in a key other than C [laughing], and things are going well. We’re all contributing.”

As for the future, Richie says that the band’s only purpose is to make heavy music and tour as much as possible. “We are contractually obligated to Kemado for the next record, but after that we have no intentions either way as to whether we’ll go with a major label or an indie label.

“Personally, I don’t like normal work,” he continues. “I had regular jobs for years, and I hated them. So I just want to keep playing and keep making some cash, doing what I like best.”

Who: The Sword w/ Kylesa and The American Plague