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'High Country'
(Razor & Tie Records)
Out Now

Johnny Main

johnny main

the sword

The Sword hail from Austin, Texas and were formed by front man John "JD" Cronise and guitarist Kyle Shutt in 2003.

Recommended by Lamb Of God guitarist Mark Morton, the band were signed to the Kemado Records label and quickly released their debut album, 'Age Of Winters'. To support the album, the band toured Japan, Europe as well as the US supporting Lacuna Coil, Trivium, Clutch and Lamb Of God.

The band had three more releases in the form of 'Gods Of The Earth' (2008), 'Warp Riders' (2010) and 2012s 'Apocryphon'. A support tour with Metallica followed the release of the 'Warp Riders' album which really threw the band out to a worldwide audience and the subsequent 'Apocryphon' became the bands most successful album to date. All that may change, however, with the release of 'High Country', which could well be the bands most accessible album to date too.

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Often classed as a Doom Metal band, The Sword have done things a bit differently with their new opus and it has more of a Hard Rock feel to it than anything they have produced thus far in their career. The album is notable not only because it's the most tracks the band have ever included on a single album but the songs are also some of the shortest they've ever produced.

If you take 'Mist And Shadow', for example, it's the only song with a running time in excess of five minutes and with the other exceptions of 'Early Snow' and 'Buzzards', all the other tracks are sub-four minutes, which means that occasionally during the albums fifty minute running time, you find yourself just getting into a track when it comes to an occasionally premature end.

The short instrumental 'Unicorn Farm' is a solid opener with its murky sound which reminds us of where the band have come from before the upbeat 'Empty Temples' begins. With its simple drum beat courtesy of drummer, Santiago Vela III it's really the long guitar chords that keep this number going. The vocals from front man John Cronise are placed quite far back in the mix which allows the main guitar motif to remain very much to the fore.

the sword

Title track 'High Country' has an almost oriental feel to the intro before slow track meanders along and includes a cymbal heavy performance from Vela before 'Tears Like Diamonds' which immediately struck me as a song that could be a future classic for the band. Its simple instrumentation allows the song to flow well and the sparse vocal from Cronise allows the band to concentrate on giving their best musically. The guitar solo is a relatively simple affair too, and doesn't try to steal the show from the overall band performance.

'Agartha' sounds like some seventies TV show soundtrack, with Vela earnestly keeping the snare drum rolling in the background whilst the wailing guitar has a life of its own. A very weird instrumental yes, but also an enjoyable listen which segues straight into 'Seriously Mysterious' which once again maintains a simple sound again with Cronise joined by an unidentified female on backing vocals, giving this track a unique sound in the context of this particular album.

'Suffer No Fools' is by far the fastest paced track with some great twin guitar work from Cronise and Kyle Shutt whilst Vela performs some great drum fills using every drum available to him. It's another instrumental that never outstays its welcome and shows the band can really get the groove on when it suits them. The same goes for the slower tempo'd 'Early Snow' with Vela punching out the simple solid beat whilst the laid back vocals from Cronise dominate.

'The Dreamthieves' was the first single released from the album back in July and immediately garnered favourable comments from fans and critics alike. One of the most accessible tracks here, it benefits from some simple backing vocals giving it an almost ethereal feel. It's no slouch when it comes to tempo and the guitar riff dominating it whilst the drums take a backseat.

One of the heaviest numbers is 'Buzzards' with its razor sharp guitar riff leading the way before the simplicity of 'Silver Petals' which is the albums token acoustic number. The guitar skills on display are truly excellent with not much more accompaniment than some simple drums added a bit towards the end. A high class number than simply flows by without any effort required form the listener but to bask in the glow from the delightful tune.

'Turned To Dust' is another extremely simple song but again, it's an extremely powerful number. Sounding like something that you might find on a Pink Floyd album, the guitar intro hangs in the air, seeming like it has all the time in the world. This doesn't change as the song progresses but as the vocals and drums chime in, so the pace builds up. There's nothing hurried here and the consistent gaps in the melody never outstay their welcome. For me it's just another highlight on an all round great album.

It's about time that The Sword's profile was larger, and this album could be the very vehicle to propel them into the larger league, taking them from club sized venues to theatre sized venues.

You can see the official lyric video for 'The Dreamthieves' here:

You can see The Sword live here:
Tuesday 25th August – Tavastia, Helsinki
Thursday 27th August – Debaser Strand, Stockholm
Friday 28th August – KB, Malmö, Sweden
Saturday 29th August – Lille Vega, København V
Sunday 30th August – Rock Cafe St Pauli, Hamburg
Monday 31st August – Magnet Club, Berlin
Wednesday 2nd September – Arena Wien, Vienna
Thursday 3rd September – Backstage Club, Munich
Friday 4th September – Legend Club, Milan
Saturday 5th September – Rockhouse, Salzburg
Sunday 6th September – Salzhaus, Winterthur
Monday 7th September – Universum, Stuttgart
Wednesday 9th September – Trix Club, Antwerp
Thursday 10th September – Extase, Tilburg
Friday 11th September – Luxor, Cologne
Saturday 12th September – La Boule Noire, Paris
Monday 14th September – Rock City, Nottingham
Tuesday 15th September – King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
Wednesday 16th September – Manchester Academy 3, Manchester
Thursday 17th September – The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
Friday 18th September – Underworld, London
Saturday 19th September – Thekla, Bristol
Sunday 25th October – Aftershock 2015, Gibson Ranch County Park, Elverta

'High Country' Tracklist:
Unicorn Farm
Empty Temples
High Country
Tears Like Diamonds
Mist and Shadow
Seriously Mysterious
Suffer No Fools
Early Snow
The Dreamthieves
Silver Petals
Ghost Eye
Turned to Dust
The Bees of Spring

The Sword are:
John Cronise – Vocals/Guitar
Kyle Shutt – Guitar
Bryan Richie – Bass Guitar/Synthesizers
Santiago Vela III – Drums/Percussion

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