There's an unspoken edict handed down through the ages when it comes to rock bands: there are no rules.
Nobody picks up a guitar to be constricted or oppressed. It's all about feeling free artistically. Now, The Sword—John Cronise [vocals, guitar], Kyle Shutt [guitar], Bryan Richie [bass], and Santiago Vela III [drums]—cut out boundaries since day one. Their style never stood predicated on a trend or a template. They always create what feels right and let the results speak for themselves.
When it came time to record the group's fifth full-length album, High Country [Razor & Tie], Cronise landed at something of a spiritual crossroads. Following the final tour for their critically acclaimed Apocryphon, he holed up in his North Carolina home and eventually began writing new songs. The material began to veer into a different space that at the time Cronise felt was somewhat outside of The Sword's sphere.
"I didn't even intend for the demos to be Sword songs," he explains. "But then I realized that I had taken on a sort of limiting view of what The Sword was, and that wasn't actually what I wanted it to be. I think the new album is more reflective of the music I listen to and where our heads are at collectively. With each of our albums, it's become less about fury and bombast and more about trying to write good songs. We realized that our music can go wherever we want it to go. There's no pre-determined course here now, and there never was."
High Country became new territory for The Sword, and they began doing things differently. That approach included more attention to backing vocals and harmonies, implementing more synthesizers and percussion elements, and tuning to E-flat instead of all the way down to C. As a result, the guitars stand out as more vital and vibrant than ever.
"I felt like the low tuning had become more of a crutch than a tool," he says. "It was all a matter of trying to keep things fresh, and not fall prey to habits or expectations. We wanted to break out of any classifications and just put out a good rock record."
Inspired, the boys headed to Church House Recording Studio in Austin, TX to cut High Country with Adrian Quesada of Brownout and Grupo Fantasma producing, Stuart Sykes [The White Stripes] engineering, and J. Robbins mixing. Over the course of four weeks, they hammered out the album's 15 tracks in the old converted church. Thematically though, Cronise's head was still in North Carolina.
"There are a lot of lyrical themes that run throughout the album," he explains. "I live out in the mountains, so nature really inspired the whole record. That's a large part of the lyrics."
The title track and first single "High Country" springs from a transfixing guitar melody into a sweeping refrain, illuminating the group's inherent dynamics. Over those rolling riffs, the singer paints a thought-provoking topography.
"That was actually the first song I wrote that ended up going on the record," he says. "The title can have quite a few meanings. Physically, it might mean mountains and literal high country, but it can also refer to a plane of being; a place of wisdom and enlightenment."
"Empty Temples" opens with a psychedelic buzz that quickly ramps up into towering guitars and another robust vocal display evocative of rock's golden age.
"It's loose and swinging, but it has these epic moments," says Cronise. "Lyrically, it's about letting go of the past and moving on. You just have faith if you embrace change and be unafraid, and you'll find where you need to go."
The gathering storm of "Early Snow" eventually gives way to a rapturous horn section, another first for the band, while "Mist and Shadow" stirs up a haze of blues that's instantly thunderous. "That song is based around riffs written by Bryan, which is a new thing for us. He contributed quite a bit of music to this album, and in many ways it's our most collaborative work to date."
Both "The Dreamthieves" and "Tears Like Diamonds" have titles inspired by the work of science fiction author Michael Moorcock, though Cronise insists the lyrics have lives of their own. "I'd prefer to let people interpret the songs how they want," he says, "which is one reason the lyrics aren't printed in the album sleeve this time. I think they're pretty intelligible and accessible, and I didn't want them to distract from the music."
The Sword's impact continues to expand. 2012's Apocryphon debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200, marking their highest entry on the chart. Since first emerging with 2006's Age of Winters, the group has been extolled by everyone from Rolling Stone and The Washington Post to Revolver and Decibel. Metallica personally chose them as support for a global tour, and they've earned high-profile syncs in movies including Jennifer's Body and Jonas Åkerlund's Horsemen. However, High Country is the band's biggest, boldest, and brightest frontier.
"I want to make positive, uplifting music," Cronise leaves off. "High Country has moments of darkness and thoughtfulness, as anything I write probably will. But at the end of the day I want to put smiles on people's faces."

The creatures known as Mondo Drag hailed from deep along the banks of the wild Mississippi River where they created ominous, spiritual, savage psychedelic revival sounds. Summoned to the edge of the Earth, they journeyed west, collecting new sounds reminiscent of desert scapes, acid dreams, all-night prog vinyl spinning and a dark galaxy of protometal swirls, exalting the band unto new, wickedly brilliant horizons. Now settled in the deep realms of Oakland, the ensemble continues to create cosmically proportioned, churning jams evocative of a rainbow of obvious inspirations but also numinous new sounds emerging from the organ - heavy riffs. If you love Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Can, Atomic Rooster, Hawkwind, Budgie, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple ,Italian prog, Krautrock in general, and heavy space-outs....get into Mondo Drag. They'll knock your socks off, let your hair down and take you on a mind's eye exploration you won't soon forget. Though they exude love for the spiraling tapestry of heavy psychedelia of the past, they are on a rock and roll mission all their own: an unearthed prog band, futuristic in their time capsule, rocketing forward through the depths, gathering the sounds of space itself.
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IF IN THE YEAR 1969, road-weary, garage-monotony-escaping Texas psych wizards picked up some electronic trinkets and united with heavy, proto-metal gods in a frenzy of aural worship on a transcendental journey through the middle of ancient ruins in a vast and endless metaphysical desert where every sound reverberates at cosmic proportions and they came upon a freaky Hammond haloed in heat waves and there, liberated of the confines of time and place , slammed out blissful, melancholy chords that shook from the shadows a tribe of Euro prog lords wielding silver flutes, took peyote and listened to tape recordings of kraut and Bach simultaneously, only long enough to get naked to a synth freak beat, creating rhythmic head bangers, seething guitar riffs, ominous organ howls and vocals stolen from wind storms, etching out sounds equally as catchy and intense as they are dark and mystic, and 9 months after this very sweaty, unforgettable orgy, had a futuristic, long-haired space baby, it would be called MONDO DRAG.
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Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, Mondo Drag has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not resounded through the atmosphere for decades. The band's unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stem from the fact that core members John Gamino, Nolan Girard, and Jake Sheley actually grew up together and have been playing music with each other for 15 years.

New Rituals was released by Alive Records in 2010 and for the next fourteen months the band hit the road hard, headlining a half a dozen tours in the US and appearing at numerous psych fests along the way. The band's stellar live performances soon became a thing of wonder and saw the band share stages with contemporary artists such as Sleepy Sun, Dead Meadow, Witchcraft, Pentagram, Black Mountain, Wooden Shjips, and Naam to name a few.

After a tumultuous tour in early 2011, Johnnie Cluney (drums, vocals) and Dennis Hockaday (bass) left the band. After what seemed like an endless search for a new rhythm section, the band caught a break when Cory Berry and Zack Anderson moved back to Iowa after leaving Radio Moscow. The two came to live with the band intermittently, while rehearsing and preparing material for the new album. This transitional period also saw John step into the role of lead vocalist for the band.

In the Winter of 2011-2012, the band returned to Future Appletree Studios Too (New Rituals was recorded here also) to record their follow-up album with friend and gear guru, Patrick Stolley. Utilizing Stolley's extensive vintage gear library and his expansive knowledge of analog recording, they were able to capture full-band live performances recorded to analog tape. Most of the live tracking was recorded with 1940's and 50's RCA ribbon mics and everything recorded on the album ran through tube pre-amps and transformers of the same era.

Shortly after the album was recorded, Zack moved to Sweden and Cory soon followed to pursue their new group, Blues Pills, which was really taking off in Europe. This left the band with still no rhythm section. After much deliberation, the band decided it was time to move and reform the group so in 2013 they caravanned to Oakland, CA with a moving truck full of records and gear.

Since relocating, the group has picked up a new rhythm section consisting of Ventura Garcia (drums) and Andrew O'Neil (bass). The group has quickly become a staple of the bay area's psych/prog scene.

The band released their debut album 'New Rituals' on Alive Records in early 2010 and have been touring heavily since. This year has seen Mondo Drag touring from coast to coast supporting acts like: Sleepy Sun, Black Mountain, The Black Keys, Wooden Shjips, The Growlers, High On Fire, Pentagram, Radio Moscow, Sweet Apple, and many others.

$22.00 - $25.00

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