Austin heavy metal band the Sword’s 2006 debut earned the group a coveted spot touring the world with Metallica and repeated appearances on the popular video game Guitar Hero, impressive feats for a band signed to an independent label. The Sword’s third record, Warp Riders (Kemado), is its first full-blown science fiction concept album, complete with song titles like “Chronomancer I: Hubris” and “(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire.” Cronise (front, center) is the band’s 34-year-old singer-guitarist and main songwriter.
How did you get started playing music?
I heard Led Zeppelin and thought I should play guitar. It seems to be a typical story: You hear something and think, “I need to do that,” and you figure out how to play “Smoke on the Water” and it just goes from there.
I’m never really sure how to define “heavy metal,” particularly in this day and age.
For me heavy metal is the musical equivalent of science fiction or fantasy. It’s also akin to classical music in that it’s very epic and powerful and stirring. To me, a riff and drumbeat can have as much power to create an image in your mind as a lyric.
The Sword has frequently been compared to metal pioneers Black Sabbath. Does the comparison flatter you or bother you?
Oh, it totally flatters us. We don’t necessarily think it’s always true, though. A lot of times people hear certain things and say, ‘Oh, this band sounds like Black Sabbath,’ and they don’t really listen to the other 90 percent of it. But you can’t really complain about being compared to one of the greatest bands of all time.
One thing that defines contemporary heavy metal is those exaggerated, screeching voices. But you don’t really do that.
I like some of those bands, but I think that kind of thing is a little overdone. I don’t have a crazy vocal range, and I’m not angry enough to be screaming or growling all the time. I prefer to just sing.
Do you take metal seriously or do you approach it with a sense of irony?
I take it