“She wore a cloak of feathers
And rode a mare of purest white
A silver chalice in her hand
A look of sadness in her eyes
A thing of beauty to behold
But a sorrow to possess
She’ll take all that you offer
Until there’s nothing left
Face hidden in shadow
Beneath a hood of quills
The pinions of her raiment
Conceal all her ills”
– “Cloak of Feathers” The Sword
Let’s have a show of hands; who likes crunchy riffs, crafty lyrics, amazing artwork, and a body of work that is quite impeccable to the most novice ear? Sounds like a winner, right? Well that helps describe one of the best bands you’ve probably never heard of… The Sword (based out of Austin, Texas). Their new album; High Country, was released on August 21, 2015 to critical acclaim from critics for their switch over from a more heavier pace to a more classic hard rock vibe by channeling Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top (another Texas native band).
Since their first major album release, Age of Winters, the boys from Austin demonstrated their ability to create a well-written concept album based on fantasy/sci-fi. Not to mention some wicked riffs that would make anyone break out into some air guitar no matter where you are at the time. I’ve personally seen The Sword a total of five times before the announcement of their latest tour with local Atlanta favorites, Royal Thunder. This was a tour made in metal heaven and this concert hopper was not missing this stop in Atlanta for anything! The band’s new album, High Country, is a milder depart from their normal formula of a constant barrage of thunderous doom-influenced guitar riffs by both J.D. Cronise (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) and Kyle Shutt (lead guitar).
From their past body of work, they have been grouped into the Doom metal category with album titles such as; Gods of the Earth (with a few tracks based off of the George R. R. Martin series: A Song of Ice and Fire.) and Apocryphon (this album was more of a “metaphorical reflection of everything we’ve gone through” and compared to their previous albums these songs are “about real life subjects.”). Instead we are treated to a flash back of the late 70’s psychedelic, stoner hard rock sounds with this latest release (Deep Purple for example). This departure has left mixed emotions with some of their fan base, but to this reviewer it is not always about staying hard and keeping continuity in one’s sound. It is about the musician and what they are trying to explain within the complex layers of lyrics and riffs. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see them again at one of my favorite Atlanta venues, The Masquerade.
Local band, Royal Thunder, has also been making a strong case in the hard rock scene over the last year. Touring extensively in support of their latest release, Crooked Doors, Royal Thunder has become one of the premiere Atlanta bands to gain worldwide notoriety. Miny Parsonz (lead vocals and bass) took no prisoners with her haunting and soothing vocals as she belted out a solid performance with the band in front of friends, family, and longtime fans.
Parsonz’s voice has so much soul and raw emotion, that each track held the audience on the edge of their proverbial seat during the entire set. After a solid execution for their hometown, Royal Thunder ended their 8 track 50 minute set much to the crowd’s dismay. You could feel the energy as they gave the crowd all they had before bowing out for the headliner. If you haven’t checked out Royal Thunder, I suggest you give them a listen and see what all the fuss is about.
The road crew started the set up for The Sword quickly after Royal Thunder left the stage. I was getting that giddy feeling in my stomach as I could see the stage being set for The Sword’s triumphant return to Atlanta. Those who knew from past experiences were excited for what we knew was coming. Those who were watching The Sword for this first time, were equally excited but for different reasons. They had no clue what was about to transpire. It all began at 10:15 PM on a Thursday evening in Heaven.
The Sword began their set with a classic off of Warped Riders, “Tres Brujas” to the excitement of the crowd. The Masquerade went insane as J.D. and Kyle shredded through the song with ease. Knowing that they went back to their third album (2010) for the opening track, I was ever curious as to what other older tracks would grace our ears tonight. Sure enough they led right into “Lawless Lands” which is another track off of their third album. A song I have yet to hear perform live by The Sword until this night. They moved to their fourth album, Apocryphon, for the next two tracks; “Cloak of Feathers” (one of my all-time favorite tracks whether live or recorded) and “Eyes of the Stormwitch”. The next eight songs would be a good mix between their latest album, High Country, and a few from the Age of Winters.
We all witnessed Kyle, Bryan Ritchie (Bass and backing vocals), Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III (Drums) and J.D. simply put on a clinic for musicians this night as they played their hearts out for the audience. These guys prove that it’s not the size of your rig, but how you use said rig. Wow… just simply wow. They ended their regular set with two great tracks from Apocryphon; “The Hidden Masters” and “Dying Earth”. These are two incredible songs to see performed live as they simply accentuate their musical talents easily as they play these tracks flawlessly. For an encore, they came back out to perform two of my favorite songs off of Warped Riders; “The Chronomancer I: Hubris” and “Arrows in the Dark”. They finished just shy of 11:45 PM with a total of 17 tracks (15 regular and a 2 song encore) for the lucky fans who attended the High Country tour.
Check out this 2012 video (apologies for the cell phone quality, but they brought down some heavy riffs this night) from YouTube chronicling the opening of their set from The Masquerade off the Apocryphon tour. The Sword is on tour until December 19th ending the tour in Corpus Christi, Texas. Why not end your year on a good note with some great live music from The Sword, visit theswordofficial.com/tour to see if they are playing near you on this leg of the High Country tour. From all of us at ConcertHopper.com, we want to wish you a joyful and happy holiday season. As always thank you for your continuous support in 2015 and we are greatly looking forward to what 2016 holds for us all! So much music to share and so little time.
 Rachel Lazar (July 27, 2012). “The Sword on ‘Huge Sounding’ Fall Album Apocryphon’” Spin. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
 Andrew Tijs (Ocotber 2, 2012). “The Sword Announce New Album Apocryphon” Noise11. Retrieved November 27, 2015.