Released: August 2015
Having begun their career more than a decade ago as a kind of science fiction Black Sabbath, The Sword looked destined to churn out chugging skullbreakers of riffs for the whole of their career – and we wholeheartedly applaud them for that.
But fifth album High Country sees them going that little bit more vintage, chucking in a few classic rock influences into their heady cauldron brew of stoner metal and extra-planetary lyrics.
Just one listen to Empty Temples or the title track reveals that it isn’t all about the overdrive pedal, but the twin-tusk harmony guitars perfected by Thin Lizzy shine through with aplomb.
It’s a much less heavier affair than the likes of Freya which catapulted them to the consciousness of thousands of teen rockers on the Guitar Hero games, but fear not – their trademark riffing is still intact.
The snarling charge of High Country sees The Sword tackling the best of both worlds – harmonic classic rock and bottom end riffmongery to make the likes of Sabbath and Metallica proud.
Frustratingly though, vocalist John Cronise’s vocals are still way back in the mix. It’s something that has been a problem for most of their career, initially from the limited budget and studio availability early on in The Sword’s career, but it looked to have been solved on 2010’s Warp Riders.
In fact it’s only on fifth track Mist And Shadow you start to have any idea what shamanic magic Cronise is conjuring, although the time-honoured backing ‘oohs’ on Empty Temples are a neat vocal touch.
The album may see The Sword trading in largely shorter tracks and something of a more melodic edge, but don’t be fooled into thinking The Sword have lost their balls – it’s still music of huge quality and sees them broadening their range slowly.