Released: 2006, Aquarius Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
On a global scale, Canadian-bred metal in the eighties was limited to a select few. Remove Sacrifice, Exciter, Razor, Anvil, Voivod, Infernal Majesty and the international presence of Canuck metallers was pretty slim. One band that never got its due credit, though, was St-Bruno, Quebec’s Sword. Combining the classic U.S. power/traditional sounds of Metal Church and Meliah Rage with hints of thrash and NWOBHM, Sword’s two album career began with 1986’s METALIZED and ended with 1988’s SWEET DREAMS whereupon the band members virtually disappeared into obscurity. At the time, though, Sword was one of those bands that boasted a limited, but die-hard following. In Quebec and central Canada, Sword was a top-draw local act that was hand-picked by Metallica to open their MASTER OF PUPPETS tour, as well as shared the stage with Motorhead and Alice Cooper. That fanbase will surely revel in the release of THE BEST OF SWORD, a twelve-track compilation drawn from Sword’s two albums. Some may question the necessity of a “best of” collection from two albums but given the fact that METALIZED and SWEET DREAMS are out-of-print, THE BEST OF SWORD will rekindle the interest of many in this criminally underrated band.
Rick Hughes’ rough, mid-range vocals could be compared to those of Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Kevin Dubrow (Quiet Riot) and Jon Oliva (Savatage). He was aggressive but melodic and never resorted to cheap gimmicky or cheesy lyrics, while his brother, Dan, was a thunderous powerhouse behind the drumkit. Likewise, Mike Plant’s NWOBHM-inspired leads and riffs weren’t flashy or overdone, catering perfectly to the accessible but firmly “metal” sound of Sword. “Sweet Dreams” is a guitar lover’s dream with Plant’s blistering solo and Zeppelin-like riff propelling the song. “Stoned Again” is a groovy romp that became a minor hit for the band but with strong hooks, tracks like “F.T.W.” and “Sweet Dreams” become ingrained in your memory immediately. On the other hand, the band could deliver on speedier, more aggressive material like the thrashy “State of Shock” and personal favorite, “Evil Spell.” The rhythm section of Mike Larock and Dan Hughes make their presence known as they lock into the crunchy finale of “Until Death Do Us Part” and the driving groove of “Outta Control.”
It’s a pity that Sword bowed out so early in the game and never received greater interest because the dozen songs featured here are as good as any released at the time. METALIZED showcased a young band with attitude, still rough around the edges and just starting out. SWEET DREAMS was a bit more polished but no less aggressive and featured songs that stepped up to the plate in terms of maturity and musicianship. Being Canadian and on a small label certainly didn’t do Sword any favors but for those who missed out on the band the first time around, THE BEST OF SWORD is an excellent piece to get curious fans up to speed.
KILLER KUTS: “Stoned Again,” “F.T.W.,” “Outta Control,” “Children of Heaven,” “Prepare To Die,” “State of Shock,” “Evil Spell,” “Sweet Dreams”