A Review of Magic Sword
It never ceases to amaze me how the Progressive Music genre continues to thrive and wind its way into new directions as the decades go on. Big names in the genre have ground furrows so deep that it is easy for new bands to get caught up in derivative hell. However, at the Valley Bar on the night of October 19th, it was demonstrated to me that it is still possible to be inspired by the past greats without being eclipsed by their shadows.
To be honest, I had not heard about the Sci Fi Electronic Synthwave band Magic Sword until the day before I saw them perform. This was a band that my wife Monica was going to cover for TPF and she thought that I might like them. I heard just a snippet and thought that they sounded just intriguing enough to learn a little more about them. I visited their website and clicked on the link to see one of their comic books—yes, this band has an ongoing series of comic books associated with it. I looked at the comic artwork’s retro style and thought to myself, “hey, that reminds me of. . .Swordquest!” And that is when I began to smile and look forward to seeing Magic Sword perform.
Swordquest comic book – Atari
Swordquest was not a band as those of you in Gen X know—it was an Atari videogame from the early ‘80s. It was four cartridges in a series designed to be a contest to win artifacts made of gems and precious metals, one of which was a sword. Only the first two cartridges, Earthworld and Fireworld, were ever released. The others never hit the retail market due to the video game crash of 1983. Each cartridge box included a comic book to tell a chapter of the tale of Torr and Tarra, who were on a quest for the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery. The artwork in Magic Sword’s comic book is strongly reminiscent of that found in that of Swordquest’s. I could see the potential building for great quantities of coolness at that night’s performance.
After a few initial difficulties getting to our destination, we walked down the steps into the subterranean rooms of the Valley Bar. Despite the forbidding-looking staircase, this spot is a friendly, pleasant spot for drinks and nosh in Downtown Phoenix. We made our way to the stage area, which was beginning to fill with twenty and thirty-somethings talking and having drinks. After a short time, the room lights went down, the stage lights came up, and the opening act, GLOB, began its performance.
GLOB was a steady stream of systematic, psychedelic, synthesized sound—Meltwave; their performance periodically punctuated by popping rhythms. They played a single, long jam that slowly changed over time. It was, indeed, a sonic GLOB, never in one place for long, and always evolving in shape and timbre. While they played, a similar effect, albeit visually, was projected on the screen behind them. All said, they created a great atmosphere and set things up for Magic Sword perfectly. [Glob is an experimental Audio Visual band. WE STRIVE FOR IT.]
YouTube | Victoria — GLOB
As for the Sword itself, I kept asking myself who these guys sounded like. I heard synthesizer work reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, and Vangelis, guitar work reminiscent of Steve Hillage, and power chords reminiscent of Rainbow. One song that kept coming to mind listening to their music was the piece "Allez Ali Baba Black Sheep Have You any Bull Shit: Maya Mama Mantram" from (Planet) Gong’s LP Live Floating Anarchy 1977—at least the last half of the song when the instruments really started going. Reminders of Gong were everywhere, not just from the Hillage guitar sounds, but even in the band’s eye-in-triangle logo, which was quite similar in many ways to Gong’s.
Magic Sword and Gong logos
Also ever present in the performance was the Sword emblem, whether it was projected on the background graphics, or used as an LED-lit prop on stage, or found in the dozen or so light-up plastic swords waved to the beat of the music by members of the audience.
Dark Tower Game – Milton Bradley
To recapitulate, Magic Sword didn’t sound like it was derivative of any of the elements that, at times, I was reminded of. It sounded like itself, and was often quite startlingly original. Magic Sword sounds like a late ‘70s/early ‘80s Prog band that, somehow, I had never heard or heard of until 2016. It had the sound—it even had a mythology that gave context to its music. The costumes the band members wear on stage and the backstory would all be campy without the music having substance. Because the music kicks ass, all the props and garb work—in fact, it’s oddly the perfect complement to the music. Great quantities of coolness indeed.
This Fall...The Awakening Tour
Prog lives! And it will continue to live through the hard-edged sound of Magic Sword and other bands who will continue to take the genre into unknown realms.
Magic Sword — Volume 1
Special thanks to the hauntingly, pandemonic howl-Empress Terra Lopez, Rituals of Mine (a.k.a. Sister Crayon) for turning us onto Magic Sword!
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