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High Country (album)

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High Country (album)

High Country
Studio album by The Sword
Released August 21, 2015 (2015-08-21)
Recorded March 16–April 12, 2015
Genre Hard rock
Length 50:10
Label Razor & Tie
Producer Adrian Quesada
The Sword chronology
High Country
Singles from High Country
  1. "High Country"
    Released: July 20, 2015 (2015-07-20)

High Country is the fifth studio album by American heavy metal band The Sword. Recorded at studios in Austin, Texas and Asheville, North Carolina with producer Adrian Quesada, it was released on August 21, 2015 by Razor & Tie. The album was mixed by J. Robbins, who had previously produced The Sword's 2012 fourth studio album Apocryphon. "High Country" was released as a single on July 20, 2015.

The album was largely a critical success. Commentators praised the change in musical style and levels of experimentation on High Country, with most noting a clear shift toward classic hard rock. Some reviewers, however, proposed that this change might alienate fans of the band, and some noted the presence of weaker tracks.


  • Recording and production 1
  • Promotion and release 2
  • Composition and style 3
  • Packaging 4
  • Reception 5
    • Commercial 5.1
    • Critical 5.2
  • Track listing 6
  • Personnel 7
  • Charts 8
  • References 9

Recording and production

The Sword first hinted that work on their fifth album had begun in November 2014.[1] It was later announced in February 2015 that recording for the follow-up to 2012's Apocryphon would begin on March 16, with the eventual release scheduled for the summer.[2] Former Grupo Fantasma guitarist Adrian Quesada led production of the record, with J. Robbins (who produced Apocryphon) mixing the album.[3] Most of the recording took place at Church House Studios in Austin, Texas, with additional recording at Austin's Level One Sound and High Country Atelier in Asheville, North Carolina; Robbins mixed the album at his own studio, Magpie Cage in Baltimore, Maryland, and it was mastered by Dan Coutant at Sun Room Audio in Cornwall, New York.[4]

Promotion and release

Prior to beginning the recording of the album, The Sword completed a four-show warm-up tour between March 11 and 14, 2015, with performances in New Orleans, Louisiana; Monroe, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[5] Upon the album's release, the group began the promotional High Country Tour, which started with a European leg running until September 19.[3] The tour will move to North America in October, where the band is set to complete two legs of shows ending on December 19; support acts include Kadavar, All Them Witches and Royal Thunder.[6]

Leading up to the release of the album, The Sword periodically released tracks from High Country through a number of news websites and outlets: first was the title track "High Country", which was unveiled on the band's official website on July 1, 2015, the same day on which the album's track listing and cover artwork were announced,[7] which was followed by "Empty Temples" by Rolling Stone on July 16,[8] "Mist and Shadow" by High Times on July 29,[9] "The Dreamthieves" by Vice magazine's Noisey website on August 6,[10] and "Early Snow" by Kerrang! on August 10.[11]

High Country was released on CD, vinyl and digital download, and was available in a number of pre-order bundles including items such as clothing, lithographs and other merchandise.[12] One of the bundles made available for the album was described by Exclaim! magazine as a "weed-themed deluxe edition", featuring a "wooden 'stash box,' wood grain dugout, grinder card and rolling papers", all of which are known to be commonly used when smoking cannabis.[13] Multiple retailer- and territory-exclusive coloured vinyls of the album will also be released.[14]

Composition and style

Numerous music critics have suggested that High Country is much more of a hard rock than a heavy metal album, as opposed to some of the band's earlier releases which were often classified as doom metal. Axl Rosenberg of MetalSucks suggested that the album's title track marked a departure from the band's stylistic similarity with Black Sabbath,[15] while Exclaim! writer Alex Hudson suggested it had a "melodic southern rock vibe".[13] Rolling Stone magazine likened the sound of "Empty Temples" to that of seminal hard rock bands Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top.[8] Upon debuting the track "The Dreamthieves" in August 2015, Vice site Noisey proposed that "above all else [The Sword] is a rock band", offering further comparisons to Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin.[10] Kyle Shutt summarised the release by suggesting that High Country features "everything from folk to pop to boogie to straight-up rock".[8]

Frontman John D. Cronise has commented on the stylistic change the band made on High Country. Noting that it was a conscious decision on the part of the group, he recognised that some fans may not approve of the change but proposed that if they had produced an album like their old material it "really wouldn't have been very genuine for us as musicians".[16]


The album cover artwork for High Country was produced by Jetter Green.[4] Speaking to Classic Rock magazine, Cronise revealed that he first saw Green's artwork by chance in a store, at which point he recalls thinking "that would look great on an album cover".[17]



High Country was The Sword's first album to chart outside of the US and the UK, reaching number 74 on the Australian Albums Chart.[18] In the UK, it reached number 11 on the Rock Albums Chart.[19]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 75/100[20]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic [21]
Alternative Press [22]
The Austin Chronicle [23] 10/10[24]
Classic Rock 7/10[25]
Consequence of Sound C+[26]
Kerrang! [27]
Magnet 9/10[28]
Ultimate Guitar Archive 8/10[29]

Media response to High Country was mostly positive. Aggregating website Metacritic reports a normalized rating of 75 out of 100 based on seven critical reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20]'s Ray Van Horn, Jr. awarded the album a perfect score of ten out of ten, praising various elements of the instrumentation and concluding that "There's depth, there's verve and there's veritably no predictability to it".[24] AllMusic's James Christopher Monger described High Country as the band's "most compelling [album] to date", noting that the style of the release marked an obvious progression from the group's previous releases.[21] Other reviewers also made similar observations, including Michael Toland of The Austin Chronicle, who applauded The Sword for "trying on new ... sounds" rather than continuing to emulate the style of Black Sabbath, as he claimed they did on their previous four albums.[23] Music magazines Kerrang! and Magnet both published positive reviews, praising the musical experimentation and exploration of new styles on the album.[27][28] Brandon East of the Ultimate Guitar Archive praised the performances of all band members on High Country, which he described as "immaculate", highlighting in particular drummer Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III.[29]

Jon Hadusek of Consequence of Sound, however, balanced his praise of High Country as "a more engaging album than 2012's Apocryphon" with the proposition that the album still contains "some duds" – he criticised "Seriously Mysterious", "Tears Like Diamonds" and "Early Snow", claiming that on these songs "[frontman John D. Cronise's] voice lacks presence when it should be dominant in the sonic palette".[26] He concluded by noting that "High Country is a decade-old band trying out different material. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't".[26] Monger made similar observations, labelling the album "clearly a transitional LP" and noting that "variety pulls its sense of melody to the forefront, though die-hards may find the subsequent loss of energy an uneven trade".[23] Travis Marmon of Alternative Press proposed that "The songs don’t have the immediate impact of the band’s heavier work, but it’s nice to see The Sword break from their mold".[22]

Track listing

All lyrics written by John D. Cronise, all music composed by The Sword.

No. Title Length
1. "Unicorn Farm" (Instrumental) 0:50
2. "Empty Temples"   3:55
3. "High Country"   2:37
4. "Tears Like Diamonds"   3:46
5. "Mist and Shadow"   5:26
6. "Agartha" (Instrumental) 2:23
7. "Seriously Mysterious"   2:45
8. "Suffer No Fools" (Instrumental) 2:43
9. "Early Snow"   4:15
10. "The Dreamthieves"   3:57
11. "Buzzards"   4:13
12. "Silver Petals" (Instrumental) 2:37
13. "Ghost Eye"   3:15
14. "Turned to Dust"   3:31
15. "The Bees of Spring"   3:57



Chart (2015) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[18] 74
German Albums Chart (Official Top 100)[30] 91
UK Rock Albums Chart (OCC)[19] 11
UK Albums Chart (OCC)[19] 128
US Billboard 200[31] 30
US Top Hard Rock Albums (Billboard)[32] 4
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[33] 7


  1. ^ "The Sword Preparing New Album". November 17, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Sword To Enter Studio In March".  
  3. ^ a b "The Sword To Release 'High Country' Album In August".  
  4. ^ a b High Country (Media notes).  
  5. ^ Bowar, Chad (February 2, 2015). "The Sword Book Mini-Tour + Upcoming Studio Time for New Album".  
  6. ^ Bowar, Chad (August 19, 2015). "The Sword Unveil Late 2015 North American Tour, 'The Dreamthieves' Lyric Video".  
  7. ^ Pasbani, Robert (July 1, 2015). "The Sword Take You To "High Country" With Killer New Track". Metal Injection. Retrieved July 1, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c "'"Hear the Sword Channel Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top on New Song 'Empty Temples.  
  9. ^ Reynolds, Dabbie (July 29, 2015). """Song Premiere: The Sword's "Mist and Shadow.  
  10. ^ a b Hill, John (August 6, 2015). """Listen to The Sword's New Inter-Dimensional Rock Track "The Dreamthieves. Noisey ( 
  11. ^ "The Sword Debut Exclusive Track, Early Snow".  
  12. ^ "The Sword: 'High Country' Album Cover Unveiled, Title Track Streaming".  
  13. ^ a b Hudson, Alex (July 1, 2015). "The Sword Detail 'High Country,' Unveil Weed-Themed Deluxe Edition".  
  14. ^ Childers, Chad (July 24, 2015). "The Sword Plot Multiple Colored 'High Country' Vinyl Releases".  
  15. ^ Rosenberg, Axl (July 1, 2015). High Country": The Sword Don’t Really Sound Like Black Sabbath Anymore""".  
  16. ^ "'"The Sword's John D. CroniseChange Is 'An Inevitable Part Of Evolving As A Band.  
  17. ^ Munro, Scott (August 25, 2015). "The Sword praise High Country artwork".  
  18. ^ a b Ryan, Gavin (August 29, 2015). "ARIA Albums: Disturbed Debuts At No 1 In Australia". Noise11. Retrieved August 29, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b c "2015-08-28 Top 40 Rock & Metal Albums Archive".  
  20. ^ a b "Reviews for High Country by The Sword".  
  21. ^ a b Monger, James Christopher. "High Country - The Sword".  
  22. ^ a b Marmon, Travis (August 25, 2015). "'"The Sword mix doom with psychedelia on 'High Country.  
  23. ^ a b c Toland, Michael (August 14, 2015). "Review: The Sword".  
  24. ^ a b Van Horn, Jr., Ray (July 27, 2015). "High Country The Sword".  
  25. ^ Johnston, Emma (August 12, 2015). "The Sword: High Country".  
  26. ^ a b c Hadusek, Jon (August 12, 2015). "The Sword - High Country".  
  27. ^ a b "The Sword - High Country".  
  28. ^ a b "The Sword - High Country".  
  29. ^ a b East, Brandon (August 24, 2015). "High Country Review - The Sword".  
  30. ^ "28 August, 2015". Top 100 Albums Charts ( 
  31. ^ "The Sword – Chart history" Billboard 200 for The Sword. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  32. ^ "The Sword – Chart history" Billboard Top Hard Rock Albums for The Sword. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  33. ^ "The Sword – Chart history" Billboard Top Rock Albums for The Sword. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
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