The Sword’s previous album, 2015’s High Country, was met with mixed from critics and fans alike, who were understandably upset over the band’s transition away from metal in favour of hard rock. Somewhat less understandably, the band has reacted to this backlash by releasing Low Country, a collection of acoustic, country-influenced versions of ten of High Country’s fifteen tracks.
While other reviews have described the effort as “stripped back,” this is most certainly not the case; the songs presented here are just as lush and complex as anything from High Country. Indeed, some of them even manage to outdo their electric counterparts.
Rather interestingly, the weaker tracks on High Country appear to be the strongest on this release, and vice versa. For instance, High Country’s eponymous lead single quite quickly becomes stale and forgettable in its new acoustic form. On the other side of this coin, lesser-known tracks such as ‘Mist & Shadow’ and ‘Seriously Mysterious’ are transformed into beautiful collages of twangy excellence, with the latter in particular being assuredly better than its cheese-filled title would suggest.
Speaking of twang, have I mentioned how wonderful the guitar tone is on this album? Because it truly is something to behold. Of course, excellent production has always been The Sword’s primary badge of honour, to the dismay of their metal-oriented fan base, so perhaps the guitar tone should not be surprising. What is surprising, however, is how marvellously dynamic the album’s mix is. Every instrument finds its own place. Even the guitars, which should have every right to be muddled together, find their individual voices quite nicely.
Overall, I actually find myself listening to this album more than its older brother, which, perhaps, speaks volumes about the quality of that album.