Trackpacking is a recurring series highlighting musicians that inspire me to travel.
I’ve been having a lot of fun lately exploring musical genres I’ve historically avoided. There’s been some bluesy rock, some heavy metal, even some – I hesitate to say it – borderline country music playing on the speakers around the house. If you track the trajectory of Trackpacking articles here on Traveling Savage, you can see how my musical tastes morph and mutate throughout the seasons. Perhaps it’s no surprise that today’s Trackpacking selection follows on from Swiss folk-metal shredders Eluveitie, but really, I blame Anthony Bourdain.
On a recent episode of No Reservations, Bourdain attended SXSW and generally ate his way around Austin with various hometown bands. Interspersed with his usual gluttony were clips of the bands playing at SXSW. One band in particular, The Sword, captured my attention. This quartet of unassuming shaggy-haired dudes were grinding out songs built around some of the catchiest riffs I’d heard in recent memory. It seems I’m a little late to the party, as The Sword have developed a cult-like following across the country, not to mention their own hot sauce (Tears of Fire), which apparently made the FDA sweat through its approval process. How could I not like this band?
I quickly dove into The Sword’s skull-splitting back catalog, and one thing became abundantly clear – these guys knew how write songs that take over your central nervous system. I suddenly found my head and neck moving in a rhythmic banging motion as Freya (see below) and then Winter’s Wolves came on. I guess it must have been 20 years, in the early 90s when I first discovered Metallica, since the last time I felt so attracted to straight-up hard rock music.
While The Sword’s music is generally lumped into the metal genre (often further pigeonholed as “stoner metal”), I find it a bit harder to categorize. It straddles the line between heavy metal and hard rock, and the visceral sound of it harkens back to the 90s and then the 70s. In fact, if Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin had a lovechild, its name would be The Sword. The Sword’s music is not a monotonous wall of chugging guitars, it’s a groove-laden smorgasbord of grimy riffs and technical percussion.
When it comes to my tastes, most metal bands go astray when the vocals arrive – it’s usually some demonic, open-throated roaring that just isn’t my style. J.D. Cronise, The Sword’s lead singer, opts for a different approach. As in, actually singing. Though his tone has been a divisive point for many metalheads, I find it refreshing and I think it’s ultimately what makes The Sword’s music accessible to a wider audience.
The aspect of The Sword that has elevated them into near-constant rotation for me is their vocal subject matter. They are my people — nerds — or at least J.D. is. He sings about Nordic gods, lost civilizations, ancient myths, and fantasy worlds like Game of Thrones. He cites H.P. Lovecraft, the father of the Cthulhu mythos, as his biggest literary inspiration (arguably mine as well) and adds Robert E. Howard (father of Conan the Barbarian and others) as a close second.
It’s a good time to get into The Sword. They just released their fourth studio album, Apocryphon, and they’re on tour around the USA as I type this. In fact, I’m going to their show in Chicago tomorrow night. Check out the tracks I’ve suggested below. If you like the sound, you can’t go wrong with whatever album you choose to start with, though I recommend their first album, Age of Winters.
Pack These Tracks
- Freya, from Age of Winters.
- Ebethron, from Age of Winters.
- Maiden, Mother, and Crone, from Gods of the Earth.
- Tres Brujas, from Warp Riders.
- Cloak of Feathers, from Apocryphon.
Create a Moment with The Sword
- If there was ever music that works for both CrossFitters and LARPers, it’s The Sword’s.
- Beat back the zombie horde at your front door.
- Chug away the miles on an epic road trip (think Mad Max or Death Race 2000).