The Sword / Saviours / Akimbo

The Sword / Saviours / Akimbo

Sunday, 27 August 2006

Only a Venn diagram could truly depict the crossover for a bill like The Sword from Austin, Saviours from Oakland and Akimbo from Seattle. Of the three circles, metal is the underlying glue and ultimate center, but Akimbo leans more to hardcore as much as Saviours vaguely hint to their screamo roots, but all rock equally live in their own way.

Opening the evening was Akimbo, a three-piece outfit touring in support of their latest album Forging Steel and Laying Stone. Merging everything from punk to metal to hardcore, the early-to-arrive and eager-to-rock crowd flowed to the stage to experience what Mark Borchardt meant when he asked his buddy if he felt cathartic. Lead singer/bassist Jon Weisnewski was all business on stage, performing a heavy and vigorous 30-minute set.

Next up is the band some are hailing as the second-coming of Metallica—a no bullshit metal band holding down the west coast. Saviours lead singer/guitarist Austin Barber calmly walked on stage, thanked the audience for coming and said, “This is a little jam called ‘Holy Slaughter'” as if he was Jack Johnson or something. “Holy Slaughter” is nowhere near a “little jam” and neither is anything else off their latest spleen-splitting full-length Crucifire. Playing most of the songs from the album, they proved why some are comparing them to the N.W.O.B.H.M bands of old.

Halfway through their set the venue was at full capacity and the way the crowd was reacting it looked as if they forgot The Sword were even there. As drummer Scott Batiste was on the verge of destroying his ruby-red five-piece Ludwig (with a ride cymbal resembling a golf umbrella), Barber and fellow guitarist Dean Tyler Morris dueled solos and licks like Iron Maiden's ghosts. The hit of the set was “Circle of Servants' Bodies,” with growling, guttural vocals, Iommi riffs and a hint of doom to finish off this damn near flawless set.

After a short, non-rock-star interval, the gear was cleared away for headliners and heritage metal-shredding path clearers The Sword. There is a desperate need for “something” in music right now and The Sword are holding the torch with the utmost intensity. The two-minute instrumental opener off their debut album Age of Winters was just enough time for the crowd to squeeze up front and forget about personal space and the steady stream of sweat dripping from their brows. This must've been what it felt like to hear Guns N' Roses at the Roxy in 1986. Sometimes you're in the presence of greatness and when you're in on it early it feels pretty damn good.

The next 40 minutes or so was your typical uncompromised, perfectly executed brand of this unironic and welcome style of heavy metal. Songs like the syrupy drone of “The Horned Goddess” and the black as hell epic, “Winter's Wolves,” confirmed the band's tightness, but the focus was transfixed on guitarist/vocalist J.D. Cronise as he appeared to be the master of this domain. Standing slim and hidden by his Ramones-like hair, he sang, with conviction, about legends and myths from Odin's daughters and the spiller of the silver blood. Grasping his pristine Les Paul like it was there to defend his life, he took the crowd on a profound journey and it showed no more than it did on the teeth-grinding head-banger “Iron Swan.” Each song was executed with the precision of a demolition crew, destroying everything in its path but leaving no one injured.

Following the sinister paths of Black Sabbath and Sleep, The Sword will continue to push, evolve and eventually darken the days ahead.

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