By: Dominic Walsh
Just into their second decade as a band, The Sword are currently touring in support of their superb new album; ‘High Country’. Hailing from Austin, Texas, The Sword have a stellar back catalogue behind them.
Prior to The Sword hitting the stage, Hang The Bastard provided support. The London based band ripped through a red hot thirty minute set to a gathering crowd with their collective heads banging in unison. Their sludge driven riffs spliced with largely black metal vocals gradually got more and more heads nodding and banging. The between tracks raft of feedback meant that cried appreciation was largely saved for the end.
The PA tracks that sound tracked the void between the bands ranged from Sly and The Family Stone, to The Band, to Boston. This more chilled out mood that the backing music brought fits in line with The Sword's latest opus. ‘High Country’ feels a little less heavy than some of the bands previous efforts, however this didn't show in the crushing performance The Sword bestowed on Manchester. The Academy 3 is a great venue to see bands. It's small, compact, and the sound is pretty decent in my opinion. All these factors worked in The Sword’s favour.
Taking the stage to a strange mix of Glenn Frey's ‘The Heat Is On’, and ‘Unicorn Farm’ from ‘High Country,’ the band tore through a couple of early crowd pleasers in the form of 'Tres Brujas' and 'Cloak of Feathers.' Newer tracks, of which there were plenty throughout the set (and rightly so!), sat well with the bands older and frankly harder material. 'The Dreamthieves' bluesy 'Free' feel sums up where The Sword are as a band in 2015. The classic hard rock feel with bags of swagger and groove that hark back to the 70's when Kossoff, Lynott and Bonham inhabited our planet. 'Early Snow' and 'Mist & Shadow' also showcase the kind of blues/hard rock that The Sword are masters of.
If some of the newer material is unfamiliar to the masses, ‘Freya’ is a stonewall classic. All of their trademarks adorn every second of the track and the crowd popped for this quite superb slab of heavy rock. Another classic in the form of 'Maiden, Mother & Crone' also had the crowd lapping up every razor sharp riff and crashing beat. ‘Dying Earth’, from 2012's ‘Apocryphon’, closed out the main set with some tremendous twin/duelling guitar work. The crash and combustable combination of the riff and drums on ‘Dying Earth’ is immensely powerful on record; the live version just compounds this. Simply stunning.
As the band exited the stage to an exultant crowd, it was clear the band and the crowd were not done. A loud audience during the encore break led to the band returning for a two song encore consisting of new instrumental, ‘Suffer No Fools’, before an almighty rendition of 'Arrows in the Dark' from 2010's ‘Warp Riders’.
As mutual appreciation via the raising of glasses ended the night, The Sword proved once again that they are a stellar band who are going to be around for a long time, especially with how the band have, and continue to evolve their sound.