Essential New Music: The Sword’s “High Country”


The Sword delivers the gawd-damn goods every single time. We’re simple folk and we just want some heady, heavy, nerdy grooves to get us through our stupidgoddamnmotherfuckin’ day, and the Sword delivers. We just need a record that gets the blood pumping our beleaguered brains out of our skull and away from this desk and these invoices and those emails and that damn thing that should have been done two days ago, but fuck it because it’s Tuesday. And the Sword delivers. Every. Single. Time.

High Country, the Austin band’s fifth album, is no different, and may just be its most cogent, crushing work to date. It lacks the “concept album” PR line of the band’s previous works, but the LP certainly falls within its narrative and sonic oeuvre. The Sword is still stonery as hell, crafting a guitarmony-laden trip into the metal abyss, only this time it’s in a mystical Cormac McCarthy/Joe Walsh/James Gang sense. And frankly, we could all use some Joe Walsh vibes in our lives.

Songwriter/guitarist J.D. Cronise creates a fresh new universe in which to explore his recurring occult fascinations and storytelling arcs. There is a noirish grit to the narrative that shines brightest when juxtaposed against the horns of “Early Snow” that recall the ghosts of Muscle Shoals. Whether it’s the weird ’80s gated guitars of “Seriously Mysterious” or way-moremenacing-than-it-should-be blooze jam “The Bees Of Spring,” the Sword continually updates ridiculous classic-rock tropes in the most wonderful of ways.

—Sean L. Maloney