Any band that wears masks on stage today is, sooner or later, going to be compared to Daft Punk. It’s a lazy comparison, yes, but one that no one is immune to. Deadmau5 got it, Danger got it. But Magic Sword, a Boise trio that performs wearing dark cowls and what look like fencing masks accented with LEDs, is an even easier target.
That’s unfair, because the band (whose next EP, Legend, is due out on Friday) plays crashing electronic rock that’s about as mold-breaking as the French duo’s first few albums were mold-setting. It’s hard to wrap their sound into a genre. Magic Sword could be the power-metal version of a John Carpenter soundtrack, or Skrillex going through a Conan the Barbarian phase. It could be the album Girl Talk would make if all he had to sample were Iron Maiden guitar solos and the complete works of Goblin. This is the music that plays in the background while you fight the Dragon King on top of Mount Death.
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The word “epic” gets overused, but that’s just what Magic Sword is. From the moment the band took the stage at the hi-dive on Thursday night, the set was all climaxes, starting with a rendition of “The Beginning” that sent waves of synth tone and electronic buzz cascading out over the crowd. Up on stage, The Keeper (the members of the group all use pseudonyms) struck pose after pose, spreading his arms and punching his fist into the air, occasionally hoisting a light-up sword as though he had just pulled it out of a stone.
The crowd, heavy for a weeknight concert at a small venue, played along like the fourth member of the group. In a pretty ingenious move, the band sold miniature versions of the light-up sword for $5 each, and all throughout the show, a small sea of them bobbed to the beat like lighters. The defining aspect of geek culture (the well from which Magic Sword draws its visual language) is the fandom, and by that measure, the three-year-old band is thriving.
Watching Magic Sword play, you get the sense that this is an act built around a geeky ten-year-old’s idea of cool. The show starts with a long, fantasy-style voiceover about the fight between good and evil, as a 16-bit version of the band’s logo pulses on a screen in the background, the words “Press Start" below it. Shreddy solo blends into shreddy solo, played on a guitar with so many sharp points that it probably counts as a weapon. There are comic books featuring the band for sale on the merch table. It's a purer kind of cool, uninterested in style or status, concerned only with how fast it can go, how hard it can rock.