4 out of 5
Label: Razor & Tie
Produced by: Adrian Quesada
On their first switchover to the more accessible, 3-minute southern-rock version of their doom metal – a trend which has continued for several releases after this, as of this writing – The Sword’s High
Country arrives fully formed, ready to harmonize and boogie with the radio-ready countrified rockers of the 70s, amazingly slick production and the tightest, most concise riffs of their career. While this
might turn-off some long time listeners, as the group is leaning into this hard, with a groovy synth intro and, why not, some horns, Bryan Richie’s somewhat generic fantasy-dusted lyrics transport to fairly generic desert-scapes pretty easily, and while some of the simplified soloing and pop chops are new, the focus on catchy, tight, memorable dueling guitars and pummeling drumwork are certainly familiar.
Yeah, so the boys have wanted to try their hand at a breezier form of their sound; they do it incredibly well – you’d believe Sword had been playing this way for years; it’s not just a kitschy put-on – so I say go for it. Now, alongside some sweet headbanging riffs, you get the kind of singalong choruses that conjure up summer nights and buzzing radios, and whatever other nostalgic imagery works for you. And where the group perhaps goes too far down this road – Seriously Mysterious is, uh, funky; The Dreamthieves is as crisp and clean as psych can likely get – the tracks are saved by being committed, with every other song a perfectly distilled single of we-can-still-play-like-madmen showmanship.
High Country’s an amazing amount of fun, and you can bet The Sword would’ve made an equal splash had they started their career in this style, and with songs this good.