SWORD – III (2022 Massacre Records)
Talk about a comeback. 34 years after 1988’s “final” Sword album Sweet Dreams, comes Sword III! With the full original lineup intact! Rick Hughes – lead vocals. Dan Hughes – drums. Mike Larock – bass. Mike Plant – lead guitar. Forget about Saints & Sinners; this is the real deal, heavy as fuck, modern and edgy. At 34 minutes and seven songs (plus an instrumental), it’s not the beefiest album, but the fact that it exists at all is what counts.
III is less thrashy than either Metalized or Sweet Dreams. It is, however, nice and heavy. Perhaps heavier than Sweet Dreams overall. Rick Hughes’ voice has lost its screaming grit but the man still has impressive power and range.
Opener “Bad Blood” is an uptempo metal romp, with a high-pitched chorus that hits the spot. What really satisfies are the guitars by Mike Plant. He’s got a great tone and the riffing here is memorable and hard-hitting. His solo on “Bad Blood” is just as tasty. “Bad Blood” is an excellent example of the sound of “new” Sword. Heavy, modern, determined and unstoppable…but with remnant stylings of the 80s still intact!
“(I Am) In Kommand” was released in 2020 as Sword’s comeback single. This is its first physical release, finally! Fast with ripping guitars, “In Kommand” is indeed in charge of the assault, but what’s with the “K”? I don’t get it. However, you’re not going to think too much about it when you’re banging your head.
Track three “Dirty Pig” is a contender for best track on the album. The riff grinds, but also has some rich Priest-like qualities. It’s not one dimensional. And just listen to Mike Larock’s thumping bass underneath! Sword are a one guitar band and they’ve never really been afraid of that, which lets the bass really breathe. “Dirty Pig” thumps and electrifies while you pound your fists to the groove.
The brief instrumental “Surfacing” is a cool respite, right before the other contender for best track: “Unleashing Hell”! Each verse starts with the line, “1986 in Montreal…” while Hughes weaves a tale of debauchery and a young band on the rise. “1986 in Montreal, smokin’ chicks, a free-for-all. In our 20’s, ready to brawl, not much money but lots of balls…” It really makes you wish you’d been there!
The riffing gets more complex and driving on “Spread the Pain”, a killer track augmented by speed and melody. This has a Dio vibe. Then “Took My Chances” slows things down to a punishing pummelling. Mike Plant doesn’t throw down a lot of fills and solos here, but what he does makes it count. A mid-song tempo shift makes thing fast and Maiden-esque, which is never a bad thing.
Finally, album closer “Not Me No Way” ends things the right way: by blasting through a head-banging stomper! The riff smokes and the chorus is nice ‘n defiant! “Not me! No way! I will not play nice!” Very reminiscent of old Rick Hughes lyrics such as “Life on the Sharp Edge” from Sweet Dreams. “We didn’t talk, we walked!” He’s always been great at writing defiant songs about not conforming and not compromising. It seems appropriate to end Sword III with defiance.
The question I’ve been pondering is, “Does Sword III kill the previous two albums?” That’s a tough call on an uneven field, because this album really only has seven songs. It wouldn’t be controversial to say it is their equal, so that’s what I’m going with.