Audio Mixer: J. Robbins.
Recording information: Church House Studios, Austin, TX (06/2015-08/2015); The Bend, Austin, TX (06/2015-08/2015); The Berry, Taylor, TX (06/2015-08/2015).
2015's High Country saw the Austin, Texas-based doom metallers switching gears and toning down the distortion for a spooky, backwoods rendering of their Sabbathy goodness that hewed closer to classic rock, invoking names like Blue Öyster Cult, Cream, and Thin Lizzy. Instead of moving on to the next album, the band decided to tinker with the formula even further, and headed back into the studio to render 10 of the 15 tracks from High Country into campfire-ready singalongs -- of the darkest kind -- without the aid of too much electricity. Unsurprisingly, the swampy, low-key, psych-rock nature of High Country lends itself well to a more stripped-down format, allowing for some added nuance in the musicality, and helping to crystallize the band's occult-heavy lyrics into more profound, though no less sinister exercises in Lone Star State-kissed, moonlit desert macabre. High Country standouts -- "Empty Temples," "Mist & Shadow," and the road trip-ready title track -- remain high-water marks, retaining all of their cryptic, retro-pop mystery while allowing the songs to breathe at a more measured pace. Others, like "Seriously Mysterious" and "Ghost Eye," feel a bit weightless bereft of their sonic heft -- set closer "Bees of Spring" transcends that predicament via a spooky combination of spaced-out vocals and hypnotic ukulele -- but for the most part, Low Country delivers on its promise of "The Sword: Unplugged," emitting its own curious current of intimacy, leaving the listener both transfixed and uneasy. ~ James Christopher Monger