The Sword and Gypsyhawk blend metal with nerd and geek culture
It's a revenge of the nerds, metal-style.
Stoner-metal bands The Sword and Gypsyhawk are slowly but surely chipping away at the belief that those who read comic books and worship esoteric subjects can't rise from their basements to win the girl as well as a little respect.
The Sword's most recent album, "Apocryphon," debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard album chart, despite song names such as "The Veil of Isis" and "Eyes of the Stormwitch," as well as the album sharing the name of Gnostic Christian texts of secret teachings.
"We're geeks or nerds or some kind," acknowledged The Sword's singer and guitarist John D. Cronise, who shares an affection for graphic novels and video games with his bandmates.
Take the lyrics from the band's single "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians" from its sophomore CD, "Gods of the Earth":
Our legends tell of weapons
Wielded by kings of old
Crafted by evil wizards
Unholy to behold
"This type of music is the equivalent of science fiction, or comic books," Cronise said. "It's adventure rock."
But despite song titles and name of the fourth album "Apocyphon," the music is a measured retreat from the concepts and themes that guided the band's earlier three albums. While still bearing the influences of Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath, the songs performed by the Texas-based band tend to be more personal and metaphorical.
"We didn't have an agenda when writing this album," Cronise said. "I realized that I could [write differently] now. [In the past] I preferred to write with more obscure intentions and fantastically [fanciful] language."
Southern Californian hard-rock band Gypsyhawk, touring in support of its new album "Revelry & Resilience," are also fascinated with the subjects that define the nerd sub-subculture. The band's lyrics are inspired by science fiction and fantasy stories, while musical influences include Deep Purple and the harder edges of Muscle Shoals.
On the tour bus, you're likely to see band members playing a role-play game like Magic: The Gathering, reading George R. R. Martin, or watching "Game of Thrones."
"That's always going to be a part of us," said guitarist Andrew Packer, who insists that the band's goal is to become a party-rock band beloved by the cooler masses of the mainstream.
All four members cut their teeth in the punk scene, but Packer said they grew tired of "trying to look tough." "We wanted to have fun," he said, in describing the band's transition. We wanted to do something that was fun, but with good musicianship. No one seems to have as much fun as we do. I want girls there shaking their butts."
Winning the girl sometimes mean encountering other men in bands that are "tough," and Packer said he tries to encourage his bandmate, bassist, lyricist and singer Eric Harris, who is a Dune fanatic Harris to read more Cormac McCarthy or less geeky subject material, to no avail. But if the members of Gypsyhawk ever have to fight another band in a back alley, no need to fear for Gypsyhawk's safety.
"We've certainly read enough about swordplay," Packer said.
A geek rock show
The Sword with Gypsyhawk in concert.
When • Wednesday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m.
Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $14 at SmithsTix