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The Sword: High Country

Texas’s stoner kings seek out sparser terrain

For the past decade, The Sword have sounded a clarion call to old-school headbangers struggling to find something both new and familiar in metal’s inexorable evolution towards the extreme.

But the bludgeoning, bong-sparking riffage that landed the Texas retro-metallers on the map fades to the background on High Country, the band’s sprawling new 15-track opus (that’s a proper double album for you vinyl fiends).

High Country feels like somebody held the band’s old sound in front of a fan that blew away the resinous plumage, leaving only lean, crunchy slabs of 70s proto-metal remaining, such as Early Snow, Tears Like Diamonds and the title track. Suffer No Fools throws a blistering nod at their previous albums, while the fingerstyle noodling of Silver Petals and the druggy voyaging of Mist And Shadow showcase a gratifying sense of depth. Ultimately, however, this collection of muscular, mid-tempo retro-metal lacks the consistency or the emotive catharsis so critical to works of such an ambitious scale. Nonetheless, High Country boasts enough tasty hooks and genre-spanning diversity to earn a spot on any summer roadtrip.

Joe Daly

Camped out in Southern California, Joe pens features, reviews albums and covers live shows for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock. When he’s not bothering his neighbours with Rammstein, Joe’s typically off playing ice hockey, fumbling around on a bass or letting his dogs guilt him into a nice long walk.