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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chops vs. Taste

posted by on April 23 at 13:35 PM

The Sword, Slough Feg and Children @ Neumos

I missed seeing any of New York act Children because I wasn’t allowed to take my camera into the show even though I was reviewing it. “No Professional (removable lens) Cameras.” I had to walk my SLR all the way back to my car. What a stupid rule. Whoever made that rule is stupid.

Slough Feg, though I had never heard of them before this show (nor had anyone else I was with) has been a band for 18 years. They are the perfect example of a band that has great chops but horrible taste. Imagine metal music parallels science fiction: this band is original programming on the Sci-Fi network. My first, and continued reaction to Slough Feg was: “Are you fucking kidding me?” They sounded like mixing Joe Satriani’s Surfing with the Alien and speed metal. The singer looks exactly like the extra from the Kids In the Hall who had a dark, thinning mullet and always played a total cheeseball. You might remember him as the juggling street performer in a flying pig skit, or Mark McKinney’s coworker in the one about killing a mouse. It’s a random association, I know, but they are doppelgangers. He was wearing black swirl body paint all over his torso covered by a vest, his curly, thinning mullet bobbing with his intense head thrusts. He was very into his own shit - which was pretty fun to watch. I couldn’t tell which was harder to take seriously, the way the band looked or the choices they made musically, but I can say that after sitting down upstairs after about five songs their music sounded a little less ridiculous with the band out of sight. I decided it was probably these guys that set the rule about no professional cameras being allowed in the building.

sloughfeg.jpg

It’s not too hard to find baseline similarities between Slough Feg and the Sword. Both deal with fantasy metal, but the fantasy Slough Feg encapsulates is just so… nerdy. So nerdy in fact it’s almost come full circle to the point where it’s funny. Here is one of the t-shirts they sold. It has some sort of a large dog-man in a space suit, holding a laser gun. Very Star Fox. On the back of the shirt is a wicked spaceship. You can just imagine that laser dog man blasting around space, fighting aliens, listening to this band.

Normally there’s a sense of anger when you realize you’re never going to see a band you love in an intimate setting again. For some reason seeing the Sword in a completely packed Neumos, people chanting along and banging their heads in unison, I had the exact opposite reaction. I don’t want to see the Sword play a small venue like the Croc again (though I am glad I got to see it), I want this band to dominate the metal world. I want this band to be like Dethklok is on Metalocalypse. The Sword are the perfect example of a band that has great chops and impeccable taste, whose live performance is fast and heavy and awesome on every front. They are the almost impossible combination of interesting, original and accessible – there is no reason that anyone who likes metal shouldn’t be able to get into their live show. Any misgivings I had about Gods of the Earth were remedied last night. Their newest single “Maiden, Mother and Crone” is the lame duck on the album (and has a terrible video) but doesn’t suffer the same fate live. Their set is a nonstop barrage of epic, galloping metal. They’re not the most talented metal band on the planet, or the fastest, or the most original. But they may be the smartest. They’re maxing out their stats in all the right areas. They are appealing to both the metal masses and the metal snobs. The Sword are the real fucking deal.

RSS icon Comments

1

I saw the sword last time they came through neumos and our group of five or so people were kind of bored with their sound live. I liked the sound on the CD but live I couldn't get hyped for it. I think it was the vocals that fell flat the most for me.

How were the vocals last night?

Posted by drew | April 23, 2008 3:45 PM
2

I use my friend who grew up in a small town in Washington on '80s metal as a barometer on modern metal bands, I bring over CDs when we play poker. This guy grew up with a mullet, drove a truck with air-brushed scenery on the side, and lived on weed, Priest and Iron Maiden. The Sword didn't go over so well. I'm not sure mainstream metalheads are ever gonna fully get The Sword, much less hear them. 3 Inches of Blood, on the other hand, were an instant hit and seem more like the candidate to cross over into arena level metal. At least that was the results of my unscientific metal head test.

Posted by dan10things | April 23, 2008 3:51 PM
3

The vocals were great last night. His voice was strong and always in key. I thought this Neumos show was definitely more impressive than the last one.

"Traditional" metal heads may not get it, but they are also steadfast in their reluctance to listen to anything that doesn't sound exactly like what they've been listening to for the last 20 years. I consider them a lost cause. We'll see how well the Sword received at Ozzfest this year, that will be a good barometer.

Posted by Jeff Kirby | April 23, 2008 4:29 PM
4

Well, if you want The Sword "to dominate the metal world," you can't consider traditional metal fans a lost cause. Who do you think goes to Ozzfest in big numbers? I like The Sword a lot, but I think they will have a problem finding mass appeal. Oh... you also mentioned them being the smartest metal band, but I'm sure locals Bloodhag beat them out in that category.

Posted by dan10things | April 23, 2008 5:03 PM
5

Sure, Ozzfest has it's share of old school metal dudes, but I think it's primarily Nu-Metal/Headbangers Ball types. They're the lions share of the metal market. If the Sword want to make money playing metal those are the dudes they're going to have to win over.

And as far as being "the smartest," I didn't mean book smarts (Bloodhag would win that fight hands down). I meant smarts in terms of songwriting, finding a niche, forging a unique a sound, choosing imagery, sweet merch, etc. They're getting it right on all fronts (except that stupid video they just made).

Posted by Jeff Kirby | April 23, 2008 5:25 PM
6

Did anyone else see The Sword at SXSW? They weren't billed as The Sword but as Zombie Eaters and they played all Faith No More covers. Rad.

Posted by Starbird | April 23, 2008 7:26 PM
7

I like the Sword on record, but the one time I saw them live I thought they were REALLY boring. Of course, they were following Saviours and Akimbo, so they really didn't stand a chance.

Posted by bunnypuncher | April 23, 2008 8:24 PM
8

I'm glad I'm not the only one who had to make the camera schlep.

I went to the show for the curiosity factor, but ended up enjoying The Sword's performance in spite of my knee-jerk indie-kid snarkiness. I was really disappointed no one used the gong, though.

Posted by Brittney Bollay | April 24, 2008 8:34 AM
9

I'm glad you liked The Sword, good to know you fit in the MTV poser demographic for those guys. They are about as 'metal' as my left nut. The new album jacks more NES tunes than the Minibosses and The Advantage put together.

Once you pick your knuckles up from the ground you might start to appreciate the sheer genius and talent of Slough Feg. Go ahead, crack on something you don't understand or fits into your skewed little vision of what 'metal' should or should not be. It's for all to enjoy and if you did some research being all 'mr reviewer' guy you would see the tie ins between their name, the shirt graphics and the songs. But you didn't.

Posted by bobcat | April 24, 2008 9:46 AM
10

Slough Feg killed. The Sword is rumored to have been put together by a label, so they're the backstreet boys of "metal". And you're the one talking about taste?

I'm really glad to see that Slough Feg does not share a fanbase with The Sword. Next time Slough Feg plays the Comet or The Funhouse, we won't have the poser army there.

And comparing The Sword to Dethklok was perfect: Hot Topic kiddies and hipsters who simply like what everyone tells them to like sure do love both!

Posted by Doomsdayzach | April 24, 2008 10:50 AM
11

Jeff, maybe you should be a little less concerned with what the bands are wearing (or not wearing) and how their merchandise looks and pay more attention to the songs themselves. I don't see how the visual aspect of a band can interfere with the sound of the band. What's wrong with Joe Satriani mixed with Speed Metal? What choices did they make musically that were hard to swallow? You mentioned that, but failed to elaborate.

Next time how about a review of the performance, and not a review of how unhip the band is?

Posted by J | April 24, 2008 11:34 AM
12

If you want to bring an SLR to a show with signed bands you should always get credentials through the label well in advance. If you don't get the credentials then you shouldn't ever expect to be able to take photos. Some bands (or their management and labels) simply don't want just anyone to take photos of them. Without knowing who will be taking photos with "professional" equipment there is no way to control the usage of the images. Look at Ebay for an example, tons of people are selling photos of musicians and the musicians aren't making a dime off of them or getting any publicity via editorial use.

Posted by Chris Slack | April 24, 2008 12:25 PM
13

What label was the Sword put together by? Kemado? They've been playing small shows since 2004, recorded their debut album by themselves and earned every bit of notoriety they've gotten. They're getting on MTV because they're accessible - for once a metal band MTV has chosen to pay attention to is also awesome.

I listened to Slough Feg's set. I thought they made terrible musical choices. Great musicians but outdated and corny as fuck. I respect their chops but those dudes are stuck in an outdated era of metal. I commented on how they looked because they looked particularly ridiculous.

Posted by Jeff Kirby | April 24, 2008 12:53 PM
14

"I thought they made terrible musical choices. Great musicians but outdated and corny as fuck. I respect their chops but those dudes are stuck in an outdated era of metal. I commented on how they looked because they looked particularly ridiculous."

This only shows that you're more interested in image than you are with musical ability and integrity. All you care about is what is fashionable and trendy. You have no integrity. You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself. If you don't like Slough Feg, that's cool. Everyone has an opinion, but the reasons you hold your opinion are so false it's unbelievable.

Posted by Doomsdayzach | April 24, 2008 1:54 PM
15

Jeff, we all value opinions but as a writer at least study or listen to the bands you are writing about rather than talking out your ass like Eric Grandy does about metal.

Judging a band by their clothes alone is pretty fucking gay anyway you put it.

Posted by bobcat | April 24, 2008 2:34 PM
16

By the way, my bad. The Sword was not put together by a label, but it was a "manufactured" band.

http://www.mediafire.com/?1sjjxx0x1j2

Page 49 of the PDF file.

Posted by Doomsdayzach | April 24, 2008 2:37 PM
17

Chris - about the SLR fiasco: Most of the writers (ie: any writer/photographer for any accredited publication) have a 'carte blanche' to attend any shows at local clubs. Problem is 99.9% of them will strut in at the last minute like a horny cockatoo expecting a red carpet and rose petals being thrown upon their triumphant entrance. If they aren't let in, they have little hissy fits and write about it in their blogs.

Names have been withheld to protect the weak.

Posted by bobcat | April 24, 2008 2:51 PM
18

woah. as easy as it is to accuse a writer from The Stranger for caring about trendiness over substance (and it is very, very easy), come on.
I was way embarassed to look at him wearing that fucking vest, and I totally dig Slough Feg. their songs ARE indulgent (gee, why don't we start this one with another five-minute guitar solo?), but their licks are catchy, and I like the guy's voice.
I don't know what they have to do with speed metal, though (yeah, Slayer, Anthrax, and . . . Slough Feg?). and if you want to see chops, go check out Nevermore or Nile, or any other extreme metal band, really.

but saying they're outdated is a terrible reason to hate something. there are plenty of great bands that are completely obsessed with bygone music, like, you know, THE FUCKING SWORD. every time I've seen The Sword, I just think to myself "dude, the seventies must have been such a rad time to be a stoner." I love The Sword, they write great songs, sound awesome, and I'll totally go see them every time they come through town, but they're so not doing anything new.
which I think kind of hurts them with metalheads - they don't branch out very much. but that's not a very good reason to hate a band either.

Posted by Rev, Andrew | April 24, 2008 2:54 PM
19

oh yeah, and I totally heard J.D.'s voice crack a couple times, but he never sang flat or sharp.

Posted by Rev. Andrew | April 24, 2008 2:55 PM
20

The Swords success plan:

1) Rip off 'High on Fire'
2) ????
3) Profit!

Posted by bobcat | April 24, 2008 3:00 PM
21

Bobcat - I'm very familiar with the "carte blanche" thing but I still take the time to ensure I have approval from the labels/artists to take photos. If one wants to get the shots one have to cover their bases to make sure one gets them :)

Posted by Chris Slack | April 24, 2008 3:15 PM
22

Jeff (may I call you Jeff?) You really do yourself a disservice by continually failing to elaborate on your critique of Slough Feg. Basically what I am reading is accessable = good, complex = bad. Good journalism does not that make.

Posted by JJG | April 24, 2008 3:33 PM
23

I really do like The Sword, I own all their LP's and listen to them fairly often. However, Slough Feg blew them away. The Sword sounded great, but could sure learn a thing or two about stange presence. I don't think the bass player moved or even looked up during their entire set. I can sit at home a listen to the albums real loud if I want and it wouldn't be too different.

I can't believe that the reviewer has the nerve to use the word original in a review of The Sword. Come on now. Have you ever listened to ANY stoner metal? Black Sabbath? Just goes to show how important the tunes are. Maybe next time Slough Feg can show up in some hip "vintage" clothes and perfect long hair, maybe then they will go over better.

Posted by Harby | April 24, 2008 4:03 PM
24

I'm glad some folk are jumping on this rock crit douche-baggery. Funny thing is, the Sword asked Slough Feg to do this tour because they're huge fans so they would agree that Jeff is, indeed...a douche bag. As to the whole SF/Fantasy thing...Don't you have bands mixed up? At least SF have fun with it in a tongue in cheek way. The Sword seem to me like they take the whole D&D thing a bit straight laced.

And the Sword are...OK. If I were to grade them in their metal exams I'd give them a solid "B", but you can only write so many variations on Fairies Wear Boots. I guarantee Slough Feg will have a much longer legacy than the Sword.
SF = Songs
The Sword = Riffs

Posted by JustMike | April 24, 2008 7:18 PM
25

Damn, bobcat, I didn't even have anything to do with this post, but all right. For someone who thinks we write out of our asses, you sure have your face pretty far up our comments section.

Posted by Eric Grandy | April 24, 2008 8:23 PM
26

Everyone likes The Sword because they don't do anything special -- they are utterly unoriginal, totally palatable.

Jeff has written some decent things about metal in the Stranger but he definitely lost some of my respect with this one. Hadn't even heard of Slough Feg before the show? Bad sign.

Posted by Virulent Vomit | April 24, 2008 10:20 PM
27

I'm not sure that it matters whether or not he did his "homework." His job is to review the show as he saw it. Plus, he didn't really discredit the band...sounds like he just couldn't get into it.

Posted by Bob Johnson | April 24, 2008 10:40 PM
28

hey eric you should be stoked... when i thought about 'people that write and pull shit out of their asses', you were the first person that came into mind!

Posted by bobcat | April 25, 2008 9:10 AM
29

"His job is to review the show as he saw it. Plus, he didn't really discredit the band...sounds like he just couldn't get into it."

I think he does a disservice to a band by basing his entire review on their attire and haircuts and literally ignoring the entire performance aspect. All this fake "journalist" (and i use the term loosely) did was spread negativity about the band without addressing why... other than the fact that they looked ridiculous and had a sound from an "outdated" era of music. How does music become outdated anyway? Great music is always going to be great music, regardless of time.

And it's already been said many a time, but again, he's getting a boner for THE SWORD who are a blatant Black Sabbath rip-off (and not a very good one at that). First Sabbath album came out in 1970, Surfing with the Alien came out in... what, late 80's? So using the reviewer's own "outdated" argument, please tell me which album and sound is more out of date? Maybe it's just because all the hipsters on the hill discovered Holy Mountain and decided it's trendy, so it's more acceptable to enjoy that?

By the way, categorizing Slough Feg as "speed metal" is hysterical. Go buy Fistful of Metal or Spreading the Disease. That's speed metal. You have no idea what these terms mean and you have no business writing a metal review. Fucking disgusting.

Posted by Doomsdayzach | April 25, 2008 11:11 AM
30

Was going to say the same thing as 29 but he did a plenty good job of it on his own. I'll add that when you throw out critiques like "outdated and corny as fuck." and " bad musical choices," it would behoove you to back up your statemen with a proper arguement.

Posted by JJG | April 25, 2008 12:09 PM

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