12 years into a musical career earning The Sword various accolades and tour spots with some of the best in the heavy metal scene (…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Year Long Disaster and Metallica) the experienced musicians are back with their fifth album High Country, but not as you once knew them. It seems that as the industry has began to change, the guys behind The Sword have given themselves a breather from the head banging, hard core music and have used a multitude of different influences to craft this new release. High Country sees a different, more refined sound reminiscent of classic rock releases from the 70s and 80s.
Unlike anything else they’ve ever released before High Country samples a lot of electronic rhythms, computer made beats and an abuse of the echo pedal. It’s a new age throwback to power rock that you’d associate with acts from Woodstock or now commonly known as ‘stoner metal’. There’s a lot of transfixing guitar melodies and almost hypnotic waves of sound that lull you into a weird state, although if you were part of the stoner crowd I’m sure it would take you to higher places. Some standouts like “High Country”, “Suffer No Fools” and, “The Dreamthieves” invoke a sense of old school classic rock and utilise some punchy drumbeats that emphasise the rasp in John “J.D” Cronise voice.
For a band that’s over a decade old it’s hard to shake the head banging and heavy guitar that got them to this point, but their true voice just got lost in the production of this one. The Sword got lost in the excitement of trying something new because overall the album seems confused. Are they still a heavy metal band that’s just dialled down their sound? Or are they a hard rock band that’s embracing the electronic era that’s upon us? Each track of High Country might work as an individual song on it’s own merit but when you put it all together there’s just too many elements and it doesn’t make for a seamless record.