Low Country review by The Sword

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  • Released: Sep 23, 2013
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6 Neat
  • Users' score: 6.3 (4 votes)
The Sword: Low Country

Sound — 6
Best known for properly conjuring a Black Sabbath-inspired vibe in their sound, The Sword have recently started to venture beyond that stoner metal base. 2015's "High Country" starting this pivot, showing an increased usage of synthesizers in their songwriting, and more blues-inspired riffs and harmonies drawing comparisons to other '70s rock/metal bands like Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and Thin Lizzy. Generally, it wasn't a change in sound by leaps and bounds, but it was a solid indicator that The Sword could stretch beyond their Sabbath-style metal.

However, the band's next prospect of going unplugged in their acoustic rendition of "High Country" (bearing the complementary name "Low Country") is more daunting, considering how this journey into an acoustic realm is one that moves further away from The Sword's comfort zone of loud, gritty electric guitars and pedalboards. In general, the lighter sonic atmosphere of "Low Country" does bring some refreshing characteristics, such as a more country/folk vibe (heard especially in the fingerpicking of "Ghost Eye") and having the easygoing mixdowns focus more on the vocal harmonies (heard in "High Country"), but beyond that base difference, The Sword prove early on in the album that their heavy-rocking songs can translate well acoustically. With the basic conversions of tricky riffs (heard in "Empty Temples") and multiple guitar layers (heard in "Mist & Shadows") sounding just as nice in acoustic form, other songs show the acoustic versions punching up the original electric version, like the mingling acoustic riffs converted from the analog synthlines in the opening "Unicorn," or the increased richness of "Seriously Mysterious."

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Unfortunately, "Low Country" starts faltering in this goal as the album presses on. Aside from "The Dreamthieves" not translating as well acoustically as the electric version, the biggest issue of the latter half of the album is that it breaks the unplugged streak that it had initially set for no real gain. While the touch of electric guitar used in "The Bees of Spring" isn't anything to get worked up about, the sparse acoustic chords in "Early Snow" get buried by the fuzzy bass hits and full-on electric guitar leads in a jarring takeover of electricity, and the arrangement of a synthetic drumbeat and bluesy guitar renditions of the originally heavier riffs in "Buzzards" doesn't even include any acoustic elements.

Lyrics — 6
[Because the lyrics in "Low Country" are the same as those in "High Country," they will not be reviewed.]

Overall Impression — 6
While the composition of a record is healthier when one leaves leeway for other things, the main issue of "Low Country" and its inability to stay fully acoustic is more of a misstep towards the unplugged goal The Sword were striving for rather than a petty complaint about acoustic versus electric in a Bob Dylan-esque fashion. That goal of acoustically converting "High Country" does well in the early stretch of the album, but while The Sword's collective minds regarding their songwriting may be wanting to reach for more, the extra things they try to put into "Low Country" only obscures the pure acoustic role the album was meant to serve in their catalog.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I thought there first three albums were all equally awesome. Iron swan from age of winters is one of the best head banging songs of this century. Frost Giant's Daughter and Fire Lances from Gods of Earth seem like the definition of heavy metal. The chronomancer 1& 2 from warp riders is a badass jam session. The albums after that just seem a little lacking. Apocryphon was ok, the title track is pretty good but everything else seems like a rehash of songs that didnt make it on the previous albums. High country was already but it is a lot softer, not that soft is bad but none of the songs really stuck
    the vocals sound off..yaa their earlier albums were the best..this was hard to listen
    Loved the first couple of metal albums, then the next two hard rock albums were good too. High Country was mostly garbage though, and this feels almost like a parody - I don't like it, and I doubt it would appeal to country music fans, so it's hard to see who it is for.
    This band is kinda going to shit, and that makes me sad as fuck. Still remember how exciting it was listening to Warp Riders when it came out.
    I love me some Sword, but can't get into the new album. Lord knows I tried. Tres Brujas is still one of my all time favorite jams. Windows come down and stereo goes up when that one comes on.
    This album is stronger in the first half, as review said. Would give it a more Jethro Tull feel than any other comparions. First five tracks are worth a listen.