Review: The Sword – Fowlers, Adelaide

Has it really been ten years since the release of ‘Age of Winters’? Ten years since we heard the riff of Freya and wondered who this Texan juggernaut was. A few years later I caught The Sword at a festival in Australia and this fresh band trundles onto stage in the bright afternoon sunshine to play in front of a solid, appreciative audience. That day The Sword looked relieved and excited to travel all this way and here was a ready made audience. I remember their performance well that day as we were beaten into submission by ‘How Heavy This Axe’, ‘Night City’ and the finale, ‘Winter’s Wolves’. Gone in a blink of an eye.

Fast forward five years and we are in Adelaide this time to see The Sword do their thing. This is their first headlining tour of Australia and New Zealand and its to support their most recent album the, ‘High Country”, which is a bit of a deviation for the band from the groove, almost stoner metal, they have been cranking out.

They came on stage after The Clowns, the Melbourne punks who should fight it out with Mammoth Mammoth for the title of Australia’s most dangerous band. The crowd was still reeling from a stormer and the audience seemed to grow again in size for the arrival of The Sword. The band I saw this time looked a bit older and that comfort and confidence from touring was there. As soon as they fired up, well thats The Sword. The audience have gone up and The Sword just hit the groove. I’m distracted as its the most animated I have seen a crowd at the start of a gig in a long time, so clearly The Clowns have done their job. That immense cloak of sound. Is that ‘Unicorn Farm’ , obviously first time I’ve heard it live, but it has the volume of VOLUME. It’s just an immense sound where there’s a clear melody with a drone that underpins the whole set.

Just noticed that Bryan Richie has gone the Geddy Lee with the floor pedals for the synth lines. Obviously going to be a big ‘High Country’ night but why not after the album charting so well in the UK and US. Hold on, thats ‘Tres Brujas’, I’m trying to listen to while the crowd goes berserk and as the beer goes up as we watch the lazy spiral of cans across the audience. Security gets twitchy as the first crowd surfer hits the deck, thankfully in rhythm with the set. So now I can tell all you doubters that ‘High Country’ itself sounds pretty damn good live and its just a winner. Sure the band have evolved but just listen to it, its immense.

The band aren’t very chatty tonight and just walk back to the amp to pull out a wall of feedback and drive into the next song. Then wander forward to deliver another riff and another beauty of a track. The night just goes on and I’ve packed the camera away and gone into the crowd on the right side of the barrier, pushing in like those few years ago to get a view of The Sword, no longer the unknown but bringing a new, fresh sound to yet another audience.

I know from the people that I speak to at gigs that true fans have no limits with their band but they have their favourites. There was concern about ‘High Country’ from a few there and conerns about a gig heavy with the ‘new album’. Genuine concern from a few worried fans before the gig. Afterwards it was all smiles. A perfect gig in many ways, bringing an new album on your first headliner tour and just delievering to an appreciative crowd. The Sword are immense and thats from someone who said that they had peaked too early with ‘Age of Winters’! I am delighted to be wrong and happy to be continually proven wrong. Great gig, loved every minute of it. The ‘High Country’ is well worthy of a follow up and a chance to rediscover The Sword all over again.

Review and Photography: Craig Grant

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