Fans of Texas-based rockers The Sword may be forgiven for thinking they’d been given the wrong disk when they purchased their copy of the band’s latest offering, High Country. From the outset, there is a noticeable absence of the charged Black Sabbath-inspired rhythms and powerful doom-laden riffs we’ve come to expect from The Sword. Instead, we are treated to melody over punch, poetry over poetic prose, intricate layers over bare-cheeked walls of sound. That isn’t, of course, to detract from The Sword’s impressive previous albums. Simply, it is to highlight their departure from their own norm, that of a pioneering torchbearer of the doom/stoner-metal scene.
Not one person, warp rider or otherwise, might have predicted The Sword would produce something as radically unexpected as an R&B/rock fusion, yet we get one in the form of ‘Seriously Mysterious’, complete with a sampled drumbeat and leading synth. Even tracks which hark back to the days of Age of Winters do so with an air of complete relaxation; the riffs, melodic and sensual, the beats and basslines, intricate and meditative.
Tracks like ‘The Dreamthieves’, ‘Buzzards’, ‘Empty Temples’, or the incredible ‘Mist and Shadow’ embrace both The Sword’s exemplary traditions and innovative experimentation, combining the heavy kick of the old with the groovy pulse of the new, while others, such as the mournful ‘Turn to Dust’, or the acoustic instrumental ‘Silver Petals’, unveil a more delicate, intricate side to the band. The result? A deeply vibrant album of many shades, engaging and artistic, produced by a band inspired by their own creative ambitions and clearly passionate about fulfilling them.