So I was pretty stoked to see The Sword, live in London’s Camden Underworld. Despite initially being a little lukewarm about Apocryphon, I cranked it hard in the dark days before Christmas. Familiarity bred a comfortable enjoyment of The Sword’s well-worn yet still thunderous riffage.
I was spoiled in 2012, as every show seemed even better than the last. My first show of 2013 – could my run continue?
The Sword were by no means bad. In fact they were a fair bit better than decent in many ways. A strong setlist that covered all four albums and contained favourites old and new like Hawks and Serpents and Barael’s Blade, which all sounded great at volume.
So why the slight twinge of meh that set in after my initial headbangery wore off?
They just didn’t seem to mean it maaaan. These dudes have come under fire for being hipsters in the past and while I wouldn’t stoop to such a tedious cliche, I can now see why copped that particular flack.
Where was the showmanship? The intensity? The feeling that this was something special and unique rather than just another night to slog through before they could slope back to Texas.
Frontman JD Cronise barely said a word or changed expression all night. I have absolutely no idea whether he gave a fifth of a fuck about the sold-out room hanging on his every note.
Instead we had a workmanlike competency that allowed the mind to wander, to realise that many The Sword songs sound mighty similar and that perhaps you had been seduced by the old sock-iness of Apocryphon, mistaking that for some kind of rightness.
The weird thing is that the crowd was nuts. The level of mosh intensity bore little relation to the mild-mannered performance on stage. This irritated me. It’s like the knuckle-heads have decided to jump around regardless of what’s served up and it just doesn’t feel genuine – there’s no real magic in the room.
It’s a funny crowd all round: there’s many a spliff furtively being sucked on (well it is stoner metal, dontchaknow?). But it’s also the first time I have been deliberately attacked.
That sounds a bit melodramatic – I wasn’t shanked or cracked over the skull with a beer bottle.
Some vicious little hobbit just turned around, eyeballed me then elbowed me as hard as he could in my stomach for some imagined mosh pit slight. Of course I shoved the furry fucker full force, both hands to his chest without even thinking and sent him flying. Fortunately, someone stepped in and prevented an embarrassing outbreak of fisticuffs but it left a sour taste in my mouth.
So yeah, The Sword – average performance and an annoying crowd. All in all a bit of a disappointment given my high expectations.
It’s telling I haven’t felt like listening to them since.