Preface: watching The Sword was like getting your heart gauged out by an actual sword; in a really good way, though.
The band out of Austin, Texas absolutely ripped apart the infamous Montreal club known as Foufs. Equipped with their new 2018 album, Used Future, mighty The Sword were greeted by hungry fans who eagerly awaited the band’s return to the city. The Shelter People were originally slotted to open, but were replaced with Montreal’s very own Prieur&Landry only a few days before the show. The match was a righteous one, as both bands delivered fuzzed-out vibes rooted in the blues.
With their gear tucked into the nooks of open spaces that remained on stage, Prieur&Landry got the crowd warmed up. The duo had no problem delivering a thick sauce of grungy blues tunes. Aesthetically, they could have very easily walked out of a time machine from the 90s. Their music definitely had that vibe as well; dirty, ragged blues. Running through an array of different amps, guitarist Gab Prieur was able to fill the airwaves with a phat tone. Listen to the song “Wicked Love” and you’ll understand more clearly what hearing this band live must have been like. Drummer Eliot Landry was like a Sasquatch behind the kit; big, hairy, and heavy hitting. The dude broke like five sticks in the span of the last song alone. If you dig through the band’s self-titled LP, you’ll find a lot of the material that they played live that night and with it, you’ll feel the same energy. Songs like “The Day I Die” and “Their Minds are Made Up” are perfect examples of the stoner blues. The best part of this duo is that they are based in Montreal, so look into these guys and catch them live in and around the city.
Following their set, blankets and gear were removed from the stage to reveal The Sword’s cavalry complete with synths, keys, jumbo tasty cabs for guitar and bass, and le kit. The first few seconds of “Seven Sisters” was an outright assault on the senses. Pure might poured out of the sound systems and drowned the crowd in mega distortion and fuzz tones that characterized their 2012 album Apocryphon. It didn’t take long for some new material to creep off the set list and into the guts of the crowd. “Deadly Nightshade” might sound a bit more ‘tamed’ than the band’s earlier heavy metal, stoner-rock sound, but rest assured that the musicians on stage delivered everything at full throttle. Major props must be given to drummer Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III who laid down vicious yet precise rhythms for the ENTIRE show. He drew my eye for most of the set and did not at any point seem to falter. The band performed like a well-sharpened blade: elegant to behold, brutal to meet.
It must be added that this weapon was a versatile one as well. At some points, the band had the crowd losing their minds in mosh pits; at others, they nestled everyone down as minds soared through psychedelia. On top of holding down bass, Bryan Richie was also in charge of manning the futuristic looking synth and keys set-up. “Nocturne” turned the battlefield into more of a graveyard, with harrowing synth sounds shaking your insides while simultaneously grabbing your mind with hypnotic melodies. Acoustic guitar also rang with the beauty of the Wild West. Guitarists John D. Cronise and Kyle Shutt brought the heavy distortion to the field. At the core of the heaviness were blues-rooted riffs and mojo reminiscent of ZZ Top. Cronise also provided excellent vocals with a voice that cut through all the distortion and flowed over all the riffage. The title track of their new album is a great example of all those elements.
Seeing a band like The Sword is always a trip. With so many albums in their arsenal, you’ll always be excited to see what they pull out live. Unfortunately, they didn’t play anything from their 2006 release Age of Winters. Listen to that album and I guarantee that you’ll understand my disappointment. Regardless, Used Future is a fresh cut of the band’s energy and it seems to have allowed them to expand the limits of their live show. So grab a copy, give it a listen and dive into the rest of their discography.
The Sword is still sharp, people.
Written by Ben Cornel
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Mike Milito