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Posted on August 28th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Addison Herron-Wheeler

"Experimental" offerings from bands are by and large polarizing, especially in the metal community. People tend to either cry from the mountain tops that the release in question is stronger and more powerful than any of the group's former offerings, or write it off completely, claiming it is utter crap. I admit as a reviewer I often do the same thing, and I've come out on the "this doesn’t work at all" end of the spectrum more than a few times. With The Sword’s High Country, however, things aren’t quite that simple. This record brings in elements of synth and psych that are positively delightful, but they also do a few things that don’t quite work.

The start of the record is admittedly a little weird – "Unicorn Farm" has a silly title and starts off with synth work almost more reminiscent of musician Tobacco, rather than the type of synth work found on most psych rock tracks. Since that’s the first impression the listener gets, I’ll admit it gives you a wary feeling about the rest of the album. But then The Sword really comes through with the heavy second track, "Empty Temples," the outstanding title track, and the old-school-Sword-sounding "Mist and Shadows." There's another awkward moment right in the middle of the album with the track "Seriously Mysterious." Here we have another goofy name, more awkward synth experimentation that just doesn’t fit in with their style, and silly lyrics. But the rest of the release is completely solid.

This is an experimental album that draws influence from all across the board. It is psychedelic, there are electronic elements, and there are more than a few odd stylings. Even so, it's far from a failed attempt. The way I see it, The Sword are a band like Black Sabbath, and High Country is similar to classic Sabbath album Never Say Die! People hated that record at the time, and some still hate it; Sabbath themselves even have some issues with it. But there are also bands who pretty much strive to just sound like Never Say Die!-era Black Sabbath, and the record was hugely influential for the direction of rock n' roll.

Now, I'm not claiming High Country is going to change the course of history, but I do think this will stand the test of time and provide an interesting bridge in The Sword’s discography. So before you write this one off for its many eccentricities, first give it a listen.

Track List:

  1. Unicorn Farm
  2. Empty Temple
  3. High Country
  4. Tears Like Diamonds
  5. Mist and Shadow
  6. Agartha
  7. Seriously Mysterious
  8. Suffer no Fools
  9. Early Snow
  10. The Dreamthieves
  11. Buzzards
  12. Silver Petals
  13. Ghost Eye
  14. Turned to Dust
  15. The Bees of Spring
The Sword - High Country
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

70 / 100
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