Razor & Tie (label)
07 August 2015 (released)
10 September 2015
The Sword’s last album ‘Apocryphon’ was a mammoth success worldwide and the band, inevitably, found themselves in the position of needing to follow it up. The question was “do we do another concept album and try to copy the success of Apocryphon?”
The answer seems to be “Hell No!” and they have moved in a totally different direction without losing that instantly recognizable sound.
After holing up to write songs after the last tour John Cronise was conflicted:
“I didn’t even intend for the demos to be Sword songs,” he explains. “But then I realized that I had taken on a sort of limiting view of what The Sword was, and that wasn’t actually what I wanted it to be. I think the new album is more reflective of the music I listen to and where our heads are at collectively. With each of our albums, it’s become less about fury and bombast and more about trying to write good songs. We realized that our music can go wherever we want it to go. There’s no pre-determined course here now, and there never was.
”High Country became new territory for The Sword, and they began doing things differently. That approach included more attention to backing vocals and harmonies, implementing more synthesizers and percussion elements, and tuning to E-flat instead of all the way down to C. As a result, the guitars stand out as more vital and vibrant than ever.
“I felt like the low tuning had become more of a crutch than a tool,” he says. “It was all a matter of trying to keep things fresh, and not fall prey to habits or expectations. We wanted to break out of any classifications and just put out a good rock record.”
And that pretty well sums up the album. It is an excellent rock record and the songs are stronger, melodically, than in previous albums while they have retained the power and aggression of what has gone before. They have, inevitably, lost a little of the po-facedness of the first few albums but that is no bad thing as they sound more free and less constrained than in the past and Kyle Shutt especially is playing better than I can remember. Bryan Richie [bass], and Santiago Vela III [drums]lay down a massive foundation to the band while Cronise’ vocals show a wider range that in previous albums.
Unlike previous albums, the songs show a wide variety and personal favourites are ‘Seriously Mysterious’ which simply pounds the rhythm behind a synth and harmonies and ‘Buzzards’ – the most Sabbath-like track on the album. ‘Mist And Shadow’ opens with a distinctly Southern Americana groove but develops into a complex rock track that swings between beauty and power. ‘The Dreamthieves’ is the most Sword-like number but tempered with some Blue Oyster Cult style harmonies.
I’ve been a fan of the band since I first heard ‘Gods Of The Earth’ back in 2008 and through ‘Warp Riders’ and ‘Apocryphon’ I have enjoyed their single minded approach to music.
With ‘High Country’ they have definitely moved into a new space and one where they needed to go.