"High Country is the sound of a band that's been around for 10 years and seen a thing or two."
"I've heard that there's been a little dissatisfaction from metal types," John D. Cronise says of the response to the band's 2015 good-time rock 'n' roll opus, High Country, "but frankly those are the type of fans that I'm ready to lose. I'd rather have fans that are more open-minded about music and would like to hear different sounding records from the same band, rather than the same thing, over and over again. Because those types of people are weird, man. Having met a lot of them over the last 10 years, those are the kind of people that talk to you and talk to you at the show about the strangest minutiae and don't ever take the hint they should maybe move on. Frankly, I've been trapped in enough conversations with dudes like that to want more fans who are a bit more open to some different stuff."
"I'd rather have fans that are more open-minded about music and would like to hear different sounding records from the same band, rather than the same thing."
For a band once known exclusively for their thundering doom riffs and an oh-so-metal lyrical bent obsessed with Norse mythology, Cronise's views could amount to heresy. In fact they would, if High Country wasn't such a damn good record. Where the band's 2010 concept record, and first attempt to step outside of the metal world, Warp Riders was too confused to be viewed as much more than a promising misstep, now The Sword have found their voice outside of the metal world. They've tapped into the bombastic boogie of acts like Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top to create a record that's groovy and cool — which is exactly what Cronise and the boys wanted to do when they started writing High Country.
"Each record is just another step along the way, and after Apocryphon and touring that, we decided we wanted to take a bit more of a laid-back approach. We didn't just want a collection of ripping guitar solos and pummelling riffs. We kind of did away with the more classically influenced heavy metal stuff… There's still a little bit of that stuff still there, but really it's a straight-ahead rock album… Our songwriting is coming from a different place now from when we were young, hungry 20-somethings. If we were trying to still write songs like our first album, it would be really forced. High Country is the sound of a band that's been around for 10 years and seen a thing or two."
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As for how the band approaches their older, more metal, material live, Cronise has a concise answer. They just don't.
"The old material we play is the stuff that's more in line with the new material. There's some stuff that we don't really play anymore, because it would make for an awkward show if we did. We want to show where we're at as musicians these days. Not that we don't love our back catalogue and those songs, but at some point — especially in the genre we came from and the arena we started in — it just kind of became limiting. And there's a lot of stuff that are songs that are fan favourites, but for us to play them live, it doesn't feel natural. It feels like we'd just be doing it to please the fans, and that's not the statement we want to make as musicians."