The Sword‘s transition from previous stoner rock path to a traditional classic rock endorsed sound on this year’s ‘‘High Country’’ album, felt natural and was delivered with proficient ease. So can they merge the coruscating mix of the old and the new into a successful live set? More later.
First up, and the nights only support band is London’s very own Hang the Bastard, returning to Camden after their headline appearance at the more intimate, Our Black Heart pub, (a mere stones throws away) venue at this year’s Desertfest. The aptly titled band, deliver huge concrete slabs of grinding sludge with ferocity and serious intent. Fronted by the rather hairy Tomas Hubbard – a cross between a yeti and a character from ‘Michael Bentine’s Potty Time’ – spares us any in-between songs pleasantries, instead stares out intensely while the band squeal feedback and thunderous chunks of distorted bass. They mean business and although the throat splitting, roar vocal style is an acquired taste, they boast mighty built-like-a-tank riffs and when obliteration is complete, they depart among a cacophony of more stoked up hum and hiss feedback.
Into a sold out show on a Friday night The Sword enters to the ‘Unicorn Farm’ intro and then burst forth with ‘ Buzzards’ from their aforementioned current album, followed by a rather sped up ‘Tres Brujas’, which nearly swerves out of control before they manage to hold it steady. They continue to intertwine the stoner and classic rock elements into their set so well it amounts to an impressive outpouring and a real showcase of the quality material at their disposal. Stoner rock has never been about big sing-along chorus led anthems and The Sword doesn’t buck that trend, but instead focuses on major league hooks and the ability to groove. And boy, do they grooooove! It’s a case of humming along, and in some cases Sword devotees are around me air guitaring, to the very infectious riffs flowing from the elegant fingers of John Croncise and Kyle Shutt -and none more so than when it’s the twin guitar heaven of ‘Empty Temples’ and ‘High Country’.
While the older material produces the greatest response from the crowd – ‘Maiden, Mother and Crone’, ‘Freya’, ‘The Horned Goddess’ – there are certain tracks from the new album which keeps the crowd at thefront rocking out, momentum at full tilt, especially the sublime ‘The Dreamthieves’. If there is a flaw to any ambition to appeal to a larger arena sized audience then it is a lack of a charismatic frontman, but on tonight’s evidence that is small fish when compared to the high quality rock on offer throughout their set, and proof that The Sword is indeed, a definite class act.
The Sword setlist:
Intro (Unicorn Farm), Buzzards, Tres Bujas, Cloak of Feathers, High County, Arcane Montane, Ghost Eye, Tears like Diamonds, Freya, The Horned Goddess, The Dreamthieves, Hexenringe, Seven Sisters, Empty Temples, Mist and Shadows, Maiden, Mother and Crone, Dying Earth, Encore: Suffer No Fools, Arrows in the Dark