Back in fall 2006, the Sword — who, at that time, were just a retro-metal four-piece out of Austin, Texas, who were trying to spread the word about their doom-chord-thick debut, Age of Winters — were on tour in Canada with Trivium, when out of nowhere, they were approached by an ominous man, claiming to be the brother of Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach.
Of course, they reacted like most folks would in the face of lame, has-been name-dropping. Still, they humored the man and decided to chat him up.
"He tells us that he was hanging out with [Metallica drummer] Lars [Ulrich] and that he loved our record," recalled bassist Bryan Richie. "We just sort of laughed it off, and after that, as a joke, we just started putting Lars on the guest list each night. We figured, 'If he does like our record, maybe he'll show up wherever we're at.' "
But Lars never showed, and the inside joke lived on. That's until the Trivium tour took the Sword to San Francisco's Slim's. "We were shocked, because he actually showed up to see us," Richie continued. "It was crazy. He totally just wanted to hang with us. He didn't necessarily care about watching Trivium." And really, who could blame him?
Ulrich wanted to talk shop with the Sword, but, since Trivium had taken all the club's dressing rooms, the boys snatched up a couple of bar stools and escorted the file-sharing detractor to a shadowy back alley. "That's where we kicked it with Lars," the bassist explained. "We're talking, and Lars goes, 'We're going to take you guys on tour.' And I'm just like, 'Sure. This is one hell of an ego inflator, but I'll believe it when I'm on it.' "
In July, following their appearance at this year's Bonnaroo Music Festival on June 12, the Sword will, indeed, be heading out with Metallica and Down for a seven-gig European tour, which launches July 16 in Bergen, Norway. "It's pretty mind-blowing," Richie enthused.
For a little-known band, signed to an independent label, the Sword have certainly come a long way since forming back in 2003. They've released two critically lauded LPs, 2006's Age of Winters and 2008's Gods of the Earth, and may even participate in this summer's Ozzfest (when asked if his band had been approached for the heavy-metal festival, Richie demurred, saying, "I don't really know that I'm at liberty to talk about that").
Sales of Gods of the Earth — which was released earlier this month and, had it not been for time constraints, would have featured guest appearances by Lamb of God's Mark Morton and Clutch's Mick Schauer — have been better than you'd imagine. The record debuted at #102 on Billboard's Top 200, selling more than 7,500 copies, and last week, it fell to #145, selling around 5,000 units.
"It's insane what writing some badass songs will do for your career," Richie joked.
While the Sword's J.D. Cronise wrote the majority of Age of Winters on his own, over the course of four years, Gods of the Earth was a group effort, from beginning to end — an effort wrought with the pressures most bands face while trying to evade that "sophomore slump."
"It went from one very large contributing member to four contributing members," Richie said. "We all brought ideas to the table, and even though the general parts for the first record were written by J.D., there were a lot of things that were fleshed out in the studio. Each member was able to put his own spin on those tracks. This time, it was much more of a group experience. They were both a labor of love to make and get finished, and I feel the same way when I listen to both of them. These are two really good albums that don't necessarily sound alike.
"We could have played out the whole 'every song in the key of C' thing, and done another record like Age of Winters," he added. "But we didn't want to. All along, I had the confidence that, whatever record we were going to make, it wasn't going to suck to us. That's really what matters — putting something out you really believe in."
Now that they've got two albums under their belt, and a glorious opening slot on Metallica's upcoming tour, the Sword — who will be out with Slough Feg and Children through April 29 in Oklahoma City — can now concentrate on what really matters: investigating the smoking habits of extraterrestrials.
"We're trying to find out if aliens smoke [marijuana]," Richie explained. "We're really trying to get to the bottom of that one, and that's why we feel our shows in Lubbock, Texas [on April 14], and Albuquerque, New Mexico [on April 15], were canceled — because we have been thumbing around and trying to figure out if aliens do smoke the kind. I'm guessing they're not stoked and not looking to be had just yet."
Richie said that the guys' gig in New Mexico was nixed after the club they were supposed to play at burned to the ground, and the Texas date was canceled after police busted the joint for serving alcohol to its underage patrons.
"[The aliens] went so far as burning down the club in Albuquerque and informed the police that Jake's in Lubbock had been selling booze to children," the bassist explained. "I'm just going to go ahead and assume it was the aliens, because I think we know too much."
The rest of the week's metal news:
It's been little more than two weeks since Velvet Revolver sent frontman Scott Weiland packing, and guitarist Slash is still running his mouth about the split. During a recent interview with Kerrang! magazine, Slash said that Weiland's dismissal was a long time coming. "[Scott] didn't know that we were already planning on extraditing him," the guitarist said. "When we started touring the second record, it just felt like we were losing Scott, as far as our connection went. We basically didn't speak a word [during the band's recent U.K. tour]. We gave him the cold shoulder like nobody's business. There were a couple of arguments around the stage, but other than that, nobody spoke to him. I imagine he was quite uncomfortable." Slash, who spent years alongside Axl Rose in Guns N' Roses, said the band is looking forward to finding Weiland's replacement. "At least people know what we're doing — they know we're a rock-and-roll band and that we're successful enough that you're going to have to be on your game if you're going to hook up with us," he said. "I just want to find this guy so we can write some songs." ...
Following the recent departure of bassist Todd Evans, Gwar have announced the return of Casey Orr to his "Beefcake the Mighty" role. Guitarist Balsac the Jaws of Death said fans will get their first chance to see Orr's return this May, when the band heads out on a brief tour of the Midwest and East Coast. No dates for the trek have been released yet. Evans left Gwar so he could focus full-time on his band Mobile Deathcamp, which, rumor has it, will serve as direct support for Green Jellÿ's upcoming summer jaunt. ... Divine Heresy, featuring former Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares, have been added to the lineup for this year's New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. If you can't make it up to Worcester, Massachusetts, you can catch the Heresy this May, on tour with Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity and Firewind. ...
Gwen Stacy were struck with some bad luck recently in Los Angeles, when nearly $3,000 was pilfered from their van. "We stopped at [a] grocery store to get some food and just to get out of the van for a little bit," the band said in a statement. "After being inside for close to 10 minutes, we came out, [and] we noticed our driver's-side window was busted out. We found that our cash box was stolen." Needless to say, the band's in a tight spot — but rather than establish a PayPal account and beg for donations, the Christian metallers ask only that "you keep us in your thoughts and prayers." Or maybe you could go see the band live and buy some merch. Check the band's MySpace page for a complete list of dates. ... The pride of Brazilian death metal, Krisiun, are hard at work on their next LP with producer Andy Classen (Rotting Christ). The still-untitled effort is slated for release this summer, and when more information about the record is released, we'll bring it to you here. ...
Canadian prog-metallers What's He Building In There? have lost two guitarists — Christopher Cookson and David Halk — and replaced them with another. Mason Tikl will be taking over guitar duties, and Aiden Stevenson has joined the band as its new bassist. The band's self-titled debut hit stores last year, and already, the boys are working on new material, they said in a statement. ... Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky will soon hit the studio to begin tracking their debut offering for Nuclear Blast. The Grand Partition and the Abrogation of Idolatry is being produced by former Death guitarist James Murphy and could be in stores as early as fall. ... Duck Duck Goose have inked a deal with Warcon Entertainment. The newcomers have posted a new track, "Sgt. Slaughter," on their MySpace page. The song appears on the band's forthcoming LP, Noise, Noise and More Noise.