ALBUM REVIEW: Low Country – The Sword

Following nine  months of extensive touring in support of the critically acclaimed album, High Country, THE SWORD returned to the studio to experiment with a stripped down acoustic presentation of the High Country songs. The result, produced by bassist Bryan Richie and mixed by J. Robbins, is Low Country will see a worldwide release on September 23rd.

The album opens with a introduction Unicorn Farm, which flows into Empty Temples an atmospheric dark delta blues number with occult lyrics. Comparisons could be drawn to CLUTCH or even BLACK SABBATHJohn D. Cronise delivers a low & calmly vocal performance with harmonic backing vocals blend perfectly that give an end result of an exalting chorus that is mesmerising and poetic in equal measure. Empty Temples is a sterling track to kick off Low Country, one that could be argued could track of the album.

High Country opens up with dual flamenco guitars, and percussion is featured for the first time in the album and they work in excellent unison. Female backing vocals add a depth of soul to to this Blue Grass inspired number, there’s a feel of New Orleans about this track that makes it irresistibly catchy. High Country ends with distorted synths, that mimic a broken radar or radio signal creates an intentional sense of unease for the listener. THE SWORD then break into Mist and Shadows, the track  starts off at a slow pace again with a delta blues feel opens up for dark, spiritual even pagan-esque lyrics about the transition from life to death. Mist and Shadows has a repetitive melody that breaks into moderate chord progression allowing percussion to be introduced with a crash and clap styling.

Seriously Mysterious has been released as as a teaser for Low Country and for good reason.  With lyrics telling a tale of folk lore and gypsies curses it has a hauntingly superstitious vibe to it. With a knee slapping, foot stomping’ tempo, a real southern feel to Seriously Mysterious, low key guitars work in concert with demanding vocals to create an excellent pairing that flows seamlessly. This track makes you  feel like you’re sitting on a porch overlooking the Louisiana Bayou, sipping moonshine; Fans of early BLACK STONE CHERRY will undoubtedly adore this track.

From a high point in the album, to a low, Early Snow employs four to the floor percussion with a remarkably uncouth and frankly irritating bass seems so out of place. John D. Cronise comes across exhausted both in terms of lyrical imagination and audible performance throughout the track. Early Snow seems overproduced, there is far too much going on, it doesn’t allow the listener to gather themselves, nor does it allow them to grasp the message THE SWORD are trying to convey. Towards the end, trumpets make their way into the track perhaps to add a southern soul,  New Orleans blues style, but  any artist merit is drowned out by layer upon layer of unfitting noise.

The Dreamthieves continues the theme of deep spirituality and it is delivered with such would send a shiver up your spine, the synths are used to great effect and work in union with guitars and backing vocals to devise a supernatural ambience to an enchanting melody. Buzzards applies broken beat percussion with organ synths alongside a electric guitar, which is introduced for the first and only time in the album is used to great effect, if only momentarily, trippy reverb on the vocals adds to the controlled and assimilated madness that develops in this track and broken beat drumming returns to finish the song only for it to clamber into unnerving and unsettling synths which create an air of anxiety, it wouldn’t sound out of place in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

The penultimate song of Low Country is Ghost Eye with rising guitar and dual vocals throughout, repetition of the chorus is used to chilling effect, a catchy, simple song that will live long in the memory of listeners. The album finishes off with The Bees of Spring which is an alluring number that drifts and sways beautifully, that ends the album on a blissful and fitting note.

To say that Low Country is just a stripped down acoustic version of high country would not do it justice, this is a standalone piece of art that deserves to be held in high regard. Low Country stirs the listener to the core, transports them to many landscapes and perfectly showcases THE SWORD‘s great diversity and true musical mastery.

Rating: 8/10

Low Country - The Sword

Low Country is set for release on September 23rd via Razor & Tie.

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