The Sword, Garuda, Eagle Claw
February 12, 2011
Better than: dealing with the ramifications of a water-pipe burst at my house. Thanks, Snowpocalypse!
The Granada Theater in Dallas hasn't exactly been a haven for metalheads in recent years.
No, despite piling up accolades as a top-notch venue for just about any other type of act that might swing through town, heavy metal has somehow fallen through this venue's cracks for the most part.
Saturday night, however, found the Granada as metal-central for Dallas, thanks to the groove-heavy headlining set by Austin metal titans, The Sword. And the few hundred black T-shirt-wearing folks that made it out seemed to fully grasp that The Sword is more than a "Texas band." Indeed, this is a serious act with a global following.
Prior to The Sword's start at around 10 p.m., intrigue was high, thanks to the fact that this show would be one of band's the first with the band's new drummer, Kevin Fender, who replaced original drummer Trivett Wingo a few weeks ago. After Fender's display during the slightly over an hour-long set, though, it's safe to say that he has managed to fit in quite snugly. His honed-in ferocity during extended instrumental jams made that much quite evident.
In fact, snug is an apt term: The entire foursome -- Fender, lead singer John "J.D." Cronise, guitarist Kyle Shutt and bass master Brian Richie -- seemed to find their way from groove to groove and simply hold on for dear life until the time was right for them to jump inside of said groove and hang out for a bit.
But there was nothing lazy or meandering about these hang-outs. Really, this set was anything but.
The band, which has toured the world with various kings of metal, including Metallica, simply got to work and seemed to place all eight of its members' feet squarely on the pedal. Perhaps providing a knowing nod to the folks that helped make the band's latest release, the sci-fi-riffic Warp Riders, a Billboard chart success, Cronise and company wasted little time in thrashing towards what is perhaps that album's signature song, "Tres Brujas."
After that introduction of more recent material, the crowd's devil-horned fist-pumps and roars only intensified with the offering of older, and clearly beloved, songs such as "Gods of the Earth" and "Freya."
Closing the set with an urgent and precise "(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire," it was hard not to feel as though the frenetic set was merely getting started, instead of coming to its practical close. And during the couple of tunes which served as the obligatory encore, another instrumental showcased Fender's prowess and his ability to be a positively contributing member of the crew, even at this early stage.
There isn't any disputing that this is an act that draws its primary inspiration from metal titans such as Black Sabbath, who blazed metal trails decades ago, and not from the modern-day wearers of guy-liner that seem to occupy the metal shelf-space of the modern day.
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Here's the trick: The interpreting of inspiration is only deemed derivative when it's done lazily. And, on this night, The Sword's soulful interpretation of sounds form the past, mixed with an energy that is firmly generated from the here and now, is not only fresh, but vital.
Personal Bias: Not much of one, really. But these guys did blow me away at last year's Austin City Limits Music Festival and made me give a crap about metal again.
Random Note: With a set of only a bit over an hour, including encore, I felt as though it was too short. Perhaps that's a sign of a new drummer still learning the ropes?
By the Way: Those in the know aren't just whistlin' Dixie when they say good things about The Libertine, the Lower Greenville pub. In fact, that might just be the perfect pre-concert spot for those attending a show at the Granada.