Gleaming, Unsheathed

For Austin shredders the Sword, 'metal' isn't a dirty word.

"We're just normal dudes," bassist Bryan Richie says to sum up his band, Austin-based metal quartet the Sword. "We don't go seeking crazy adventures, nor do crazy adventures come seeking us."

But life doesn't have to be crazy to be an adventure, and over the past two years, the Sword have been swept up in one heck of a whirlwind. After being overhyped at SXSW—where the then-unsigned foursome played the Relapse Records showcase, only to not hear from Relapse until 10 months later—the Sword finally inked a deal with hipster label Kemado (home to Dungen, Elefant, and Lansing-Dreiden), following a long, drawn-out signing process. But that deal was worth the wait, as their Kemado home has turned out to be a blessing in Richie's eyes.

"I mean, if you get us all in a room and we're just hanging out with the dudes, then we fit in," Richie says of the New York–based label. "But, I mean, as far as genrewise, no, totally not. But that's one of the beautiful things about it. Like, say, if we were signed to Relapse or whatever, we'd just be another metal band on a metal label. I'd rather be the only metal band on a label and be the sore thumb and be like, 'Well, this is the heavy band on the label.'"

Surprisingly, in a scene crammed with bands that prefer to remain genreless, the Sword take pride in calling themselves metal, perhaps because their brand of metal hearkens back to the genre's classic days when enormous riffs filled arenas and left the headbanging fans deaf. Recalling the grand, aggressive sound of groups like Black Sabbath (which Richie insists is not an influence), the Sword tear through their songs with might and vigor, still leaving room for expansive melodies and quiet, reflective segments. But what is it about the Sword that sets them apart from all the other bands that also turn their amps up to 11 and crank out thrashing, aggressive tunes? According to Richie, it's the level of songwriting that separates this group from the masses.

"Without sounding too pompous or too asshole-ish, I think we've got some really killer jams," he explains. "Unfortunately—and it's sad to say—I don't think people are really concentrating on writing good songs anymore. So, with that said, here we are with an album full of ripping tunes. What turned me on about the band when I joined it in the first place was, 'Wow, these songs are awesome! I need to play in this band!'"

Songwriting may be key, but what really gets the fans going is a killer live show, and the Sword can certainly offer that. They have been constantly touring since the release of their long-awaited debut on Kemado, Age of Winters, last February, fine-tuning every nuance of their stage shows, which are surprisingly "relatively injury free."

"We're all perfectionists, so we're all really into the fact that we can make [the songs] just as good, if not better, than they sound on the record," he elaborates. "So why would we not do that? I mean, what else are you going to do all day? That was the thing [with touring] Europe; you'd have all this time to sit. Hurry up and wait, that kind of thing. So every night it was like, 'I've got an hour—I'm just gonna shred. I'm gonna do this as hard as I can do it and make it kick as much ass, so people enjoy it.' That's my whole thing on it: I just want to put on a good show."

After the show, however, Richie is adamant about his dislike for highly inquisitive fans—but don't be put off by his gruff demeanor.

"Try not to ask us too many questions if you see us somewhere," he begs, making one question what he actually thinks of this query-based conversation. "We don't like being interviewed outside of interviews. Don't come up to me on the street and be like, 'Hey! So who are your influences?' We're totally cool with people coming up and hanging after the show—because we're probably sick of seeing the rest of us—but it always sucks when those people just want to ask you a bunch of questions. Please don't ask us shitty questions." He pauses, perhaps realizing the harshness of his statement. "But we'll be really nice!"

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