Neil Young once wrote in a note to Stephen Stills: “…funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way.” The evening that led to me attending The Sword show at The Record Bar in Kansas City on December 3rd may not have ended spontaneously but it sure began that way.
The lure of a metal show is always greater after a crappy day at work. It was also a Monday so that sweetened the pot. It wasn’t until the knock on my front door by others going to The Sword show that I submitted to the urge. I packed a cooler and said I was in. What I knew about The Sword was quite possibly less than you if you are reading this. I only knew they sounded like Metallica and Black Sabbath and that I should probably bring my ear plugs.
Before I fell witness to The Sword I was forced to endure an opening band. This was scary because bad metal bands make me want to bang my head against the wall (ironically this might be encouraged by many of them.) Gypsyhawk took the stage in sleeveless tees and possibly more hair than any other band of four members I have ever seen. As I rolled my eyes at what I expected to see the band tore into “Overloaded” and made me think twice about my preconceptions of what I was about to see.
Gypsyhawk wasn’t a distortion filled head-banging band like I expected; they were a clean sounding ’70’s style rock band that was actually quite tight. With a bass player/singer flanked by two guitarists sharing leads they pushed a “get high” agenda making no secret of their affinity to chemical substances. They had soaring guitar leads on the opening song “Overloaded” and enticed a massive sing-along of “Live, Eat, Fight, Drink” on “Hedgeking.” They would follow with a not very surprising choice of a cover with the quintessential 70’s song “Black Betty.” They got a great response from the crowd but unfortunately seemed to have a low amount of traffic at their merchandise table for the cheers they received.
The Sword would make their way through the crowded bar to take the stage just before 11:00. The mental image I had of the band would be off. The guitarist with his long hair and Metallica t-shirt was really the only member to fit my idea of what I thought they looked like. Instead the band was relatively clean-cut looking and the lead singer, J.D. Cronise would be much smaller than I anticipated. Misconceptions aside, the band was all business and terribly impressive.
The group was perfectly in-time throughout the night. Their music has heavy guitar riffs and is very loud but has a very high amount of starts and stops. These starts and stops were perfectly executed by the band that was obviously a well-oiled machine. Cronise would stand over the mic and sing down at it with his thunderous voice that boomed through the small but packed venue. His vocals would still be clear and easily heard which is something that is rare for this type of music and a big reason I don’t listen to more of it. The Sword would tear through their catalog with songs like “Hidden Masters” “Arcane Montane” “Hammer of Heaven” and “Maiden, Mother & Crone.” One shirtless fan would work as the conductor of the mosh pit throughout the show with the violence of the pit likely reaching its peak during the slam-dance rocker “Tres Brujas.”
The Sword would end their regular set with the lead song from their newest record Apocryphon, “Veil of Isis.” Unable to climb back through the dense crowd for a proper encore, they would remain on stage to take a short break before capping off their 80 minute set with the standard gig enders “Baraels’s Blade” and “Winter’s Wolves.”
Gypsyhawk setlist from The Record Bar in Kansas City, MO 12/3/12:
- The Fields
- The Red Wedding
- Black Betty
- Commander of the High Forrest