MP3: Town Hag by Sword Heaven
It is difficult to separate Entrance, Sword Heaven’s new long-player on Load Records and first internationally distributed release, from their infamous, sensory-pounding live show. Despite a number of solid releases on various labels in a variety of formats over the last four years, Sword Heaven are a live spectacle first and foremost, and Columbus’ finest curators of what the glossy magazines might call noise. Witness just one of their sets – drummer Aaron Hibbs’ neo-pagan ritualistic introductory procession, contact mic tied around his throat like a noose, eyes popping as he pounds not sticks but mallets on a simplistic kit, Mark Van Fleet’s sheet metal concoctions, PVC-flute as a Viking horn, scratching and screaming at the audience until veins appear in his neck – and you’ll not only “get it”, but you’ll wonder how they could possibly get “it” properly to tape. Impossible.
Enter Entrance, a distillation of the group’s finest ideas since they permanently trimmed the line-up from four down to its two core members. Four songs, thirty-three minutes, recorded on four and eight track tapes inside Columbus’ downtown communal art-space, Skylab. The record will go a long way in solidifying Sword Heaven as recording artists to couple with the duo’s performance track record (not to mention the two member’s other performance outlets – Hibbs as a record-vying hula man, Van Fleet as a traveling gallery owner and curator). I’ll just come out and say it: Entrance sounds leaps and bounds better than anything they’ve previously released. Load Records, the legendary Providence, RI noise label home to some of the last decade’s best experimental records, agreed to release a Sword Heaven album before ever watching them play.
Entrance plays out like two halves, with each side containing a brief opening track amended by a longer (ten and thirteen minutes) one. All of the trademark Sword Heaven sounds are here: assaulted drums triggered beyond capacity, maniacal throat-screaming about ancient weaponry and such, blasted-out crashes from inventions you’ll never encounter again. Mystic industrio-psychedelia. No guitars. The press release will tell you it sounds like early Swans, but I’ll provide a better cheat sheet: Merzbow’s digital terrorism, Temple of Bon Matin’s strobe-shock, the spiral chaos of Tatari-era Boredoms, a touch of David Yow’s baiting.
It’s not easy listening by any means, but taken as a whole Sword Heaven are an inviting combo. Withstand the harsh tones and follow the pounding beat for long enough and you’ll see the other side of Sword Heaven and Entrance. A monumental work.
Join Sword Heaven for their official release party this Saturday, September 8th, at Cafe Bourbon St., with fellow Load artist Kites. Also playing are Deadsea, Russian Tsarlag, Times New Viking and Swamp Leather.