Album Review: The Sword – High Country

There is a real retro feel to the music industry right now; 2015 having seen comebacks and artists who made their names years ago producing vibrant new material, as well as newer artists picking and choosing from history and wearing their influences on their sleeves. So, The Sword fit right into the current musical climate with the distinctly seventies feel to their hard riffing groove and the super fuzzy old school sound of their well crafted songs.

However, there is a strong experimental side to the band, which the foursome certainly explore here on their fifth album ‘High Country’; they don’t always get it right but it makes for an interesting, yet flawed, record.

Things start brightly with the fuzzy bass line of ‘Unicorn Farm’, which is followed by a heavy dose of old school rifferama on the opening handful of tracks, with the hard rocking ‘Empty Temples’ and the brooding title track showing off their song writing skills. ‘Mist and Shadow’ also stands out for the accomplished guitar work of John Cronise and Kyle Shutt, which cuts and swathes like brush strokes on a canvas, evoking a real sense of landscape.

Things go a little awry in the middle however, with ‘Agartha’, a sci-fi inspired instrumental of free flowing percussion and bendy guitar sounds, as well as the lyrically awful ‘Seriously Mysterious’ with its synth sound and effect ridden guitars – “Pixie Witches” anyone?

‘Suffer No Fools’ provides some respite with riff after riff of hard driving rock on this smoking instrumental, but the rot has set in and my enthusiasm is starting to wane. The hooky ‘The Dreamthieves’ tries to turn things around, but they’re singing “feel your spirit taking flight” and to be honest, I can, away from ‘Buzzards’, which is a song about buzzards.

After the final instrumental, the acoustic folk of ‘Silver Petals’, we do get treated to some big ass riffing on ‘Ghost Eye’ and a down home rock n’ roll finale on ‘The Bees of Spring’ but it’s all gone a bit “riders at the gates of dawn” for my liking.

Sonically speaking The Sword make a great racket, as they sure play a mean guitar, but lyrically they are very much into the ethereal, which (for me) is a shame, because it makes it difficult to take them seriously; at times it works, like on the first half of the album, but by the end it wears a bit thin.

3/5

‘High Country’ by The Sword is out now Razor & Tie Records.

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Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)

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