While Aftermath was watching The Sword at Warehouse Live Sunday night, our mind went forward, H.I. McDunnough-style, into our own future. We imagined ourselves waking up on some less-than-velvet morning 20 years hence, cracking open a cold one from the fridge and walking out to the garage to change the oil on the family car. He would walk over to a stereo, crank up Age of Winters and burn one down while the wife and kids were out at the grocery store, playing a little air guitar in a foggy doped-up haze like the axeman we always wanted to be. As every track from The Sword's 2006 debut unfurled like mountains being created lo those millions of years ago, Aftermath could revel in each lick from Bryan Shutt and J. D. Cronise's guitars. The Austin group is one of only a handful of bands making expertly old-school proto-metal. When they started making waves in 2004 it was refreshing to hear such a young band dishing out slabs of Deep Purple and Sabbath-inspired jams instead of the hardcore and rap-infused skronk we had been inundated with for almost half a decade. Each member of the band had his part on lockdown; between Cronise and Shutt, bassist Bryan Richie and drummer Trivett Wingo, there was no musical fat in the band. That line-up has continued to be a lean mean proto-metal machine. Sunday, the band started off by debuting new material. The first to appear, "Chrono 1," began with a healthy instrumental intro that spanned nearly three minutes and got heated enough for Wingo to ditch the shirt he wore onstage. "Freya" came in seamlessly right after with nary a second-long break in between. Two more new ones followed, both laced with a new, pronounced sense of boogie that hasn't been heard out of The Sword except during live jamming and various cover tracks. It wasn't just Cronise's vintage ZZ Top shirt making us think that. Even titles like "Tres Brujas" gave a hint of what was afoot. Live, one can hear the pronounced difference between Winters and 2008 follow-up Gods of the Earth. The former was a quick and precise collection from the band's Sabbath-inspired universe; the latter was the band going widescreen and turning from analog to digital. The things brewing in the stuff at this point feel like a move from out of the decrepit dungeons and snowy tundras of the earlier work and into an unholy modern urban boogie-rock Thin Lizzy kind of animal. That was not more evident than on the new "Night City," which almost had an early Kiss vibe to it. Think a more evil "Detroit Rock City."
The Sword encored with Lizzy cover "Cold Sweat," their own "The Black River" and the last of the Winters trio that put them on the map, "Barael's Blade," which all decimated the crowd into starting one of the most happiest and strangely slow-moving pits we have seen in a long time. That little old metal band from Texas is about to flip the script on us again. Alright alright alright...
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