||THE SWORD HAVE PRODUCED AN EXTRAORDINARY BUT THOROUGHLY ENJOYABLE ALBUM
The Sword: 'Low Country'
Release Date: Friday 23rd September 2016 (Razor & Tie Records)
It was September 2015 when The Sword released album number six, 'High Country' to great acclaim from critics and fans alike. Hailing from Austin, Texas, the band was formed in 2003 by front man John "JD" Cronise and guitarist Kyle Shutt.
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.
In the next five years The Sword had three more releases in the form of 'Gods Of The Earth' (2008), 'Warp Riders' (2010) and 2012s 'Apocryphon'. A support tour with Metallica as part of their 'Death Magnetic' World Tour followed the release of the 'Warp Riders' album which really threw the band out to a worldwide audience and the subsequent album, 'Apocryphon', became their most successful album to date. All that helped the 'High Country' album maintain their success, despite them not playing dates in Europe (arguably one of the largest worldwide markets for rock and Metal bands) to promote the album, preferring instead to play less than forty shows in North America and a handful of dates in Canada, Australia and new Zealand.
The new album, 'Low Country', is to all intents and purposes a twin to the 'High Country' album, but this isn't simply the cast off from 'High Country' slipped out to buy the band a bit more time and to increase their album count, but a selection of tracks given the stripped down treatment. Out go the impressive electric guitar chords and the thundering bass lines and in come the acoustic guitars and softer vocal performances creating an altogether different take on the songs.
Things kick off with 'Buzzards' which is the least acoustic of all the tracks. The underlying electric guitar can be heard so it's a loose interpretation of acoustic. Having said that, it's a much more stripped back version of the track than was previously available. 'Early Snow' has a country feel to it that you just don't get in the original electric version, but the song suits the style so well that the electric version becomes almost obsolete.
'Empty Temples' introduces the backing singers whose vocals add an extra dimension to the song that was otherwise lost on the 'High Country' version and, again, this acoustic version turns out to be another firm favourite of mine. The track 'High Country' is a true acoustic performance and it turns out that Cronise can give a great subtle vocal performance as he winds his way through the track.
'Seriously Mysterious' features female backing vocals once again and these blend so well with that of Cronise. The ukulele has come back into fashion in the last decade and its use on 'The Bees Of Spring' during the into really makes the track standout from the rest. As the ukulele fades, the guitar takes over but the changeover is seamless.
As the album closes up, they've added in 'The Dreamthieves' which was a top tune for me on the 'High Country' album and it's the only track here that, even though it's stripped back, still retains a heavy edge to it. The short instrumental of 'Unicorn Farm' closes what is an extraordinary but ultimately thoroughly entertaining album.
Listen On iTunes...
You can see The Sword live here:
Thursday 22nd September - Gasa Gasa, New Orleans, LA
Friday 23rd September - Saturn, Birmingham*
Saturday 24th September - Exit/In, Nashville*
Sunday 25th September - The Underground, Charlotte*
Monday 26th September - Lincoln Theater, Raleigh*
Wednesday 28th September - The Broadberry, Richmond*
Thursday 29th September - Stage AE, Pittsburgh**
Friday 30th September - Filmore, Silver Spring**
Saturday 1st October - Radio City Music Hall, New York**
Sunday 2nd October - House of Blues, Boston**
Tuesday 4th October - Metropolis, Montreal**
Wednesday 5th October - Massey Hall, Toronto**
Friday 7th October - Filmore, Detroit**
Saturday 8th October - Good Year Theater at East End, Canton**
Sunday 9th October - Riviera Theater, Chicago**
Monday 10th October - First Avenue, Minneapolis**
Wednesday 12th October - Diamond Ballroom, Oklahoma City**
Thursday 13th October - Warehouse Live, Houston**
Friday 14th October - Emos, Austin**
Saturday 15th October - Gas Monkey Live!, Dallas**
Tuesday 18th October - Brooklyn Bowl, Las Vegas**
Wednesday 19th October - Marquee Theater, Tempe**
Friday 21st October - Ace of Spades, Sacramento**
Saturday 22nd October - Warfield, San Francisco**
Monday 24th October - Roseland Theater, Portland**
Tuesday 25th October - Moore Theater, Seattle**
Wednesday 26th October - Orpheum, Vancouver**
Friday 28th October - Neurolux, Boise***
Saturday 29th October - Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City***
Sunday 30th October - Bluebird Theater, Denver***
Tuesday 1st November - Launchpad, Albuquerque***
* With Ruby the Hatchet
** With Opeth
*** With C Average
'Low Country' Tracklisting:
Mist And Shadow
The Bees Of Spring
The Sword are:
John Cronise – Vocals/Guitar
Kyle Shutt – Guitar
Bryan Richie – Bass Guitar/Synthesizers
Santiago Vela III – Drums/Percussion