Clutch combined elements of funk, Led Zeppelin, and metal with vocals inspired by Faith No More. Formed in 1991 in Germantown, MD, the group included Neil Fallon (vocals), Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass), and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums). They built a local following through constant gigging, and after just one 7″ single (the classic Earache release “Passive Restraints”) Clutch was signed by EastWest Records. Their debut LP, Transnational Speedway League, followed in 1993. A self-titled album appeared two years later and afforded Clutch some mainstream exposure. They jumped to the larger Columbia label for 1998’s Elephant Riders, and many thought the group might join their sonic cousins Korn and Deftones in the alternative metal winner’s circle. That didn’t quite happen. But it didn’t matter, because a quality fan base continued to thrive for Clutch. Pure Rock Fury appeared in 2001, and the similarly uncompromising Blast Tyrant came three years later as their first for DRT Records. Their seventh full-length, Robot Hive/Exodus, followed in 2005 and featured the first lineup change since the early ’90s, the addition of organist Mick Schauer. Among Clutch’s numerous side releases were a groove-based album (2000’s Jam Room), as well as Live at the Googolplex and the rarities record Slow Hole to China, both issued in 2003. Also issued in 2005, Pitchfork & Lost Needles combined Clutch’s 1991 Pitchfork 7″ with unreleased demos and early tracks. In the fall of 2006, the band hit the studio with producer Joe Barresi (Kyuss, Melvins) to record their next album; the resulting From Beale Street to Oblivion appeared in March 2007. In 2008, the band released a CD/DVD compilation of live tracks from shows in New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Sydney titled Full Fathom Five: Audio Field Recordings 2007-2008 on their own label, Weathermaker Music.
Not to be confused with the Canadian heavy metal band from the late ’80s, named simply Sword, the Sword are a retro-metal four-piece hailing from — of all places — the singer/songwriter oasis of Austin, Texas. First conceived in 2003, the Sword really hit their stride about a year later, when founding vocalist and guitarist J.D. Cronise joined forces with guitarist Kyle Shutt, bassist Bryan Richie, and drummer Trivett Wingo, and made a much raved-over appearance at Austin’s famed SXSW festival. National touring stints with everyone from Clutch to indie rock darlings …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead followed, and by mid-2005 the Sword had been picked up by New York-based indie label Kemado Records, with their much-anticipated debut album, Age of Winters, appearing early the next year. Before completing their second album, they contributed two songs (one original and one Led Zeppelin cover) to a split 12″ EP with Swedish heavy rockers Witchcraft in November 2007. Gods of the Earth arrived in spring 2008. Changing their muse from fantasy to science fiction, the Sword released Warp Riders in 2010, a concept album featuring an original narrative written by the band. In 2012 they came back from their sci-fi journey with their fourth full-length, Apocryphon, which blended the fantasy elements of their earlier work with more a more far-out, metaphysical vibe.