Band brings metal to VT



The small, tight-knit Burlington metal community came out in full stride on Sept. 19 to see The Sword, the 21st century “retro-metal” gods from Austin, Texas.


The Sword — frequently labeled as “retro-metal” for their sound that pays homage to the marijuana-induced heaviness of Black Sabbath and the bluesy hard rock of Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy — are sometimes accused of simply ripping off their contemporaries. 


But the 200 or so people who showed up to their headlining show at Higher Ground — including those people well into their 40s and even 50s that — together, made up a predominantly male crowd, begged to differ.


“The Sword are the sound of awesome,” Matt Longo said. “Inexplicably catchy, consistently impressive, always identifiable yet willing to evolve — they are a rare, indomitable force.” 


A metal show in Vermont is a rare occasion; the crowd unleashed their separation anxiety in full blast to the obvious glee of the band on stage. They headbanged, moshed and even jumped up and down to the sounds of The Sword.


Two acts opened the show. The first, a local Iron Maiden tribute band called Made in Iron, did a competent job of getting the older guys in the audience to nod their heads and sing along. MonstrO, a psychedelic stoner-rock group from Atlanta that sounded like Incubus channeling the dreaminess of Pink Floyd while covering Saint Vitus followed. As they finished up, The Sword walked on stage to the cheers from the crowd. 


As the band tore into the opening notes of their first song, a mosh pit formed in front of the left side of the stage, which stayed there until the last song and eventually swallowed the entire front of the crowd into its rage.


The Sword played a solid 75-minute set, covering tracks from all three of their full-length albums, as well as their long-neglected split record with the stoner-rock band Witchcraft. 


“Night City” and “Tears of Fire,” two of the cuts from their newest album “Warp Riders,” stood in stark contrast to their older material. During these songs, the band seemed to be yearning for a more anthemic, arena-friendly hard rock sound, which they had been developing over the course of their albums.


As the band announced their last song “Iron Swan,” the entire front of the crowd whipped into a frenzy for this rockin’ heavy metal group that had come all the way from Texas. 


Hammering out the final notes, the band walked off the stage to the thunderous applause of the crowd. But it wasn’t long before they came back out after hearing the massive shouts of “One more song!” 


Judging by the large and enthusiastic crowd that showed up, it was clear that, although uncommon, metal shows in Vermont are not unwanted.