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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.