Gypsyhawk - We begin tonight's sold-out metal show with a twin-guitar four-piece from the metal-Mecca we know as LA. The bass player handles the lead vocals with the guitarists chipping in to help. I chatted with guitarist Andrew Packer before the show, so look for that interview write-up here in a couple days time. He mentioned some of the more classic hard rock bands that I grew up with including Thin Lizzy and it was great to see one of those classic Gorham-Robertson double leads right in the opening song. Gypsyhawk is definitely old school hard rock with an understanding of the newer approaches as well. They play sort of the classic southern style, but don't lapse into endless boogies or overwrought ballads. They lay the power chords on, thick and heavy, with nice cutting vocals and a strong overall sound. The solos are sharp with good wah-wah pedal usage. They never carry things overboard, and present a tight gutsy set. This is old school music brought up to date that will appeal to a good cross section of hard rock and metal fans. We need more bands like this.
Eagle Claw - From the Sword's hometown of Austin, Texas, comes another metal band with a twin guitar line-up. This time the microphones are only used for stage patter, as these guys play instrumental metal ranging from classic riffs to stretched out math rock patterns. It immediately becomes clear how brilliant a bill this is tonight, as these guys provide the Yang to the opening band's Yin with the Sword encompassing it all into the center of their sound. What do you get when you take a Metallica and have them cover King Crimson? Or perhaps the inverse of that? The result is something like this highly engaging sound these guys create. Shifty, quick, and exciting, these guys pull off instrumental music that keeps the song oriented fans every bit as involved as those that simply love the heavy precision presented in this 36 minute set.
The Sword -OK, local promoters, it is high time to realize that this Austin smart-metal band has grown up to the big-time. Not Metallica big, but tonight's sell-out was quickly earned through their high quality, hard touring approach to fast, strong and smart metal/rock music that has been evident for many years onw. They feature compositional skills and clean execution of vibrant and even fun heavy music. The vocal work of one of the two guitarists is very rooted and real, even with the slight strain he showed (and apologized for) late in the set. Everything flows by seamlessly, as they roll out songs with just a few friendly words in between for their many fans packed up front. I believe this is the fourth time around for me, and I never get tired of their performances. The balance they achieve between the many sub-genres of hard rock/heavy metal music is not as easy as they make it sound. If you are intrigued by heavier bands, but don't find it your style, I highly advise you to put that toe in the water with this band. They may open up forgotten parts of your mind.
Quote of the Night - From the opener... "Most of you look about 12 years old, so you probably heard your Mom listen to this." as they launched into a ripping version of the classic, "Black Betty".