The previously heavy metal band The Sword have cut into the hard rock category with the recent album High Country. Already enjoying success within the metal community, having been handpicked as a supporting act for Metallica on multiple occasions, frontman Cronise refused to let the music be confined by genres. A departure from low tuning and the unmistakable Black Sabbath influence, the Texan rockers attempt to breathe new life into their work, yet fail to bring about new energy.
Beginning with an instrumental entitled “Unicorn Farm” the group introduces a synthesizer driven backdrop to the additional fourteen tracks to come. Prominent in the psychedelic “Agartha” and the bland “Seriously Mysterious” the synth may be a shot at targeting today’s electronica-crazed youth; the latter of the two tracks allowing listeners to hear melody for only a fraction of the time frame.
The theme of the album quite obviously appears to be nature. With tracks such as “Early Snow” and “The Bees of Spring” painting images of picturesque scenery, though failing to provide innovation following the initial layout of guitar chords. The overall mellow and toned down feel of High Country does reflect the tranquility of nature, yet is a bore to an audience accustomed to the group’s doom metal tradition. This does not, however, tarnish the gems of the collection. A personal favorite being “Mist and Shadow” containing the striking guitar licks that make the album memorable. As well as “Dust” containing a deep message foreshadowing the inevitable day that all will be eroded into the titular substance.
The Sword may have lost the electricity the group carried through Apocryphon, nevertheless, sparks are still present. High Country gave the band members opportunity to experiment with style; whichever direction their results carry them, they will have the tools to create electricity once again.