Canada’s mighty Sword took another swing on their second and final album Sweet Dreams. They recorded a fine debut in Metalized (1986), but as with any band, growth is expected on album #2. No problem for Sword.
Metalized was relentless, thrashy, fast, and punishing. Sweet Dreams is heavy but diverse. This is immediately obvious on the opening title track. The tempo is condensed to a slow metal Zeppelin stomp. The melodies are more focused. The sound (thanks to Gggarth and Jack Richardson) has more oomph and depth. What the band sacrificed in speed was paid back in other qualities.
Capitol records released “The Trouble Is” as the first single/video. Rick Hughes’ enviable voice makes it sound like Sword, otherwise it could have been one of Dokken’s heaviest tracks. The lyrics are surprisingly still valid in 2017: “People are lying, they keep on trying, to live where they can be free. They jam into boats with a knife at their throats…” It hasn’t changed much in 30 years. “Land of the Brave” tackles war, a popular metal topic ever since Black Sabbath wrote “War Pigs” back in 1970. The screams of Rick Hughes mimic the horrors of the battlefield. An apt comparison would be Iron Maiden, with a little bit of Metallica. For some rebellious attitude, check out “Back Off”, which hits the gas pedal during the chorus. Another popular metal topic: “Back off preacher, stay away!” Ozzy would have been proud. Guitarist Mike Plant blasts through his solos effortlessly, showing off a variety of rock styles. “Prepare to Die” (also heard on the recent Live Hammersmith CD) is the thrashiest of the bunch on side one, sounding like vintage Sword.
Cool thrashy shreddery kicks “Caught in the Act” right in the nuts to commence side two. It switches up on “Until Death Do Us Part”, focused by the stomp of the beat. If Sweet Dreams has any weakness it is that there are two Swords. The speedy metal of “Caught in the Act” and “Until Death Do Us Part” are a contrast to the more accessible rock of “The Trouble Is”. One of the most stunning tracks on the album is “The Threat”, on which all the ingredients mix perfectly. (They get bonus points for naming themselves in the lyrics: “Ride with the sword in your hand, and some day with the sword you will die.”) For a real surprise check out the slide guitar grease of the incredible “Life on the Sharp Edge”. It’s all over with “State of Shock” which will knock you senseless for all the headbangin’ going on. Seems Motorhead must have rubbed off on them a bit. “State of Shock” goes out like a champ leaving you punched out drooling on the mat.
Sword stopped after two albums and Rick Hughes moved on to the mainstream rock band Saints & Sinners. (Check out a review of that album by Deke.) Sweet Dreams succeeded as a second album should. It pushed the sound outwards. Hughes and company should be proud of both of their records.