Last year, on a balmy night in mid-August, a trailer rolled up in Old Town carrying a bunch of gear and two masked men in full-length druid cloaks. Signs posted on walls and telephone poles around town, emblazoned with a cryptic message that included the date and an illustration of a medieval weapon, had prophesied the arrival of a group named Magic Sword. Those in the know tracked the duo's movements via social media as it traveled from its hometown of Boise to Portland. It was a sight to behold: two Ghosts of Christmas Future cloaked in LED masks, playing heavy-metal electronica by way of a nostalgic gamer.
While the members of Magic Sword prefer to maintain their anonymity—its founding member prefers to be referred to only as "the Keeper"—he is fairly forthcoming when it comes to the origin of the project. It began, rather innocuously, on a retreat in Washington.
"It was like this 10-day thing where you take a vow of silence and just meditate all day," the Keeper says. On the seventh or eighth day, he experienced an "epiphany," visualizing a blueprint for not just the band's sound but its look and mythology, which extends to its albums and accompanying comic books. While it might be easy to pigeonhole the group as a gimmicky theater troupe, between the Keeper and his partner, the Seeker, Magic Sword comprises years of industry toil, from DJ and production gigs to time spent in several other bands. The costumes, the Keeper admits, were just a fun afterthought that stuck.
Magic Sword's debut record, Volume One, does a couple of things brilliantly. First, it proves the band's ability, embracing '80s movie soundtracks, electro-rock warriors such as Ratatat and metal masters like Dio in equal measure. It also demonstrates the band's awareness of its own hyperbolic creation. "We've got a couple mottoes, but one of them is like, 'Let's take it to the point where it's just way too cheesy, and then just pull it back slightly,'" the Keeper says. That near overindulgence can be heard in the colossal EDM builds and ghostly effects of "Only Way In" and the cinematically eerie "In the Face of Evil." This is a band that likes to throw on old movies, hit the mute button and compose its own score. "I think we try to make everything seem a little bigger than it is," the Keeper says.
It's also a band with a short but growing history of pop-up performances. Last October, Magic Sword played five action-packed minutes in downtown Boise before getting shut down by the cops. There are more shows like this in the works, the band says, planned to take place between the recording of its second album and an East Coast tour. Throughout, the plan remains to be over the top in presentation, but not so much that it becomes overbearing.
"We don't pull up on the trailer with signs that say, 'Magic Sword: Follow Us on Facebook!'" the Keeper says. "It's more like, you see an image of the sword, and if you feel you want to search us out, then that's great. And if you don't, maybe you'll catch us next time. And I like it when we pull away and people are like, âWhat the hell was that?ââ
SEE IT: Magic Sword plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Copy and Cuff Lynx, on Friday, Jan. 16. 9 pm. $10. 21+.