For only two bucks, you could be the owner of the first new Sword single in 32 years. The Quebec band made up of Rick and Dan Hughes, Mike LaRock, and Mike Plant have not released a new song since 1988’s Sweet Dreams. Yes, that’s all four original members, intact and back for Round Two. Don’t say nothing good came from 2020! New Sword — betcha didn’t see that coming.
Sword reverted straight to their trash roots on “In Kommand”, a blitzkrieg of a tune with all the necessary goods: riffs, chugs, and heavy drum blasts. It would have been among Sword’s heaviest songs if it was on one of their older albums. How have they not aged? Over the course of 32 years, it is usually the singer who has changed the most. Rick Hughes can still get the job done, even throwing in some screams for old times’ sake. Incidentally, Mike Plant has never gotten his due as a lead guitarist either, and it’s like he hasn’t skipped a beat since 1988. If there is only one highlight to “In Kommand”, it is the guitar playing of Mike Plant.
According to Rick Hughes, there is an album coming. They have Dave Ellefson and Combat Records behind them. “In Kommand” will have to tide us over until then, but things are sounding good so far. While Sword albums have always been diverse with an assortment of different kinds of heavy, this track is a good sign. It means they can still do what the fans expect. If “In Kommand” is anything to judge by, we have an excellently heavy Sword album in our futures.
Support the artist! Buy the track, don’t just Spotify!
Tom and Meat both praised the new Voivod, so was a must. The Meat Man happened to be online when I was giving first spin to both. I struck up a conversation about the new Voivod, which went something like this:
Meat : Its The Voivod.
LeBrain :What do you mean?
Meat : Its a thing. Its The Voivod. Nothing before them was The Voivod. The phrase “one of a kind” is thrown around a lot, but is quite accurate about them in the literal sense. They are The Voivod.
LeBrain : I get you.
Meat : Sex Pistols meets Queensryche.
LeBrain : Yeah but more too. Rush. It’s really amazing they were able to carry on after Piggy. He didn’t play “normal” at all.
Meat : It’s still The Voivod. Even with a different writer. It lives within somewhere.
He said it way better than I could. They are The Voivod and even with two “newer” members (guitarist Chewy and bassist Rocky), they still sound exactly like The Voivod. A large part of this is singer/lyricist Snake, who has a voice identified with Voivod. Away (drums) is also a vital component, always supplying the quirky rhythms and sci-fi cover art.
The Wake is a concept album but the story isn’t obvious on one listen. “Scrolling down in paradise, absorbed by your next device.” The setting is certainly familiar. What The Wake does is bring classic progressive melodic elements into The Voivod. This creates a swirly metal landscape, past present and future.
This is going to be an album that requires several spins before a deeper analysis. Voivod’s icy brand of Quebec heavy metal can be cold as a Canadian winter. Voivod will be getting plenty of play before it warms up again.
There are two versions of this CD: a 2006 release on Aquarius, and a 2009 reissue on Unidisc. Don’t waste your time on the 2006 CD, which is made up of previously released material. Go for the 2009 disc, with three unreleased bonus tracks!
Sword (not The Sword) are a Canadian band from Quebec who released an impressive heavy metal debut album in 1986. They gained the attention of Motorhead who took them out on tour. They followed it in ’88 with Sweet Dreams, just as good as the first, but commercial success eluded the band. They toiled away on a third album, but eventually the band dissolved leaving only singer Rick Hughes. He returned in 1992 with Saints & Sinners, and a new hard rock sound, but that was fated to sell poorly too. It was inevitable after grunge hit.
Rick Hughes remained active as a singer in Quebec and in 2016, he released a Sword live album, Live Hammersmith, recorded in ’87 on the Motorhead tour. Then, unexpectedly in 2018, the original lineup reunited! They have already played live gigs and are recording a new Sword album. If you plan on catching up (and you should!) then check out the 2009 Best of Sword disc. Besides the three unreleased demos, you’ll get a dozen rockers and thrashers that will melt skin.
The first salvo of “Stoned Again” and “F.T.W.” are a pair of killers. They were the singles from the first album, well loved by Canadian fans of the Pepsi Power Hour. “F.T.W.” is a smokeshow, with a blistering gallop and brain-burning chorus. On the other hand, groove is all about “Stoned Again”, a surprisingly catchy number that is hard to forget. Strangely, their final single “The Trouble Is” (from Sweet Dreams) isn’t on here. “Life on the Sharp Edge” is also missing.
Omissions aside, The Best of Sword showcases the sound of the band with a lot of their best material. More serious and topical songs like “Land of the Brave” will appeal to the thinking metal head. Meanwhile “State of Shock” will rip skulls right off — be careful you don’t play it too loud!
The first of the bonus tracks, a song called “Get It While You Can”, might be a demo from the third album, before they transitioned into Saints & Sinners. It’s the most “hard rock” Sword song of all of them. It definitely sounds like a stepping stone to what would become the Saints & Sinners album. The other two tracks are demos of “Runaway” and “Stuck in Rock” from the first LP, with different lyrics.
Because the first two albums are out of print, The Best of Sword is an easy way to sample their tunes before that third album comes. Go for it — but only the full 15 track version.
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.
30 years ago, there was a heavy metal band from Quebec named Sword. They only released two albums (Metalized and the more ambitious Sweet Dreams) before disbanding at the end of the 1980s. Lead singer Rick Hughes is one talented guy though, and he gave it another shot with a hard rock band called Saints & Sinners in 1992, who were produced by Aldo Nova.
Hughes has remained active in Canada, though Sword are now long gone. Fortunately the internet has given old metal bands like Sword a way to get back in touch with their fans. Thanks to the web, you can now buy a live CD recorded in 1987 on Sword’s opening tour with Motorhead. Lemmy took the band under his wing early on and fortunately this live tape survived. They played two nights at Hammersmith Odeon and recorded them to 4-track tape. The liner notes do not state which gig the CD is from, or if it is a mixture of both. Considering the age of the tapes, Sword’s Live Hammersmith CD stands up remarkably well. There is a real sense of “being there” at Hammersmith, in spite of (or because of) the sonics.
Ripping through all 10 tracks from their debut album, Sword made the most of their opening slot. Even so, they still had time for a brand new song too, “Prepare to Die” (later released on Sweet Dreams). With 11 songs and only 36 minutes, Sword’s already thrashy material seemed faster live. Sword’s songs had the goods, too. These blazing aggressive tunes weren’t simple or easy. Most importantly, Rick Hughes’ incredible metal shrieks were 100% intact in the live setting. Hughes’ voice was critical to the Sword sound, being their most unique characteristic. It is always disappointing when you hear a band live, and the singer can’t scream like the album. Not a problem with Sword.
The singles “F.T.W.” (“Follow the Wheels”) and “Stoned Again” are the immediate highlights. The gallop of “F.T.W.” sounds like a heavier Iron Maiden, while “Stoned Again” goes for the groove. If anything, the songs have more impact in the live CD setting. It is quite possible that Sword were one of those bands who were better live than on album. They were, at the very least, flawless live. Rick Hughes didn’t miss a note, word or scream. Dan Hughes (drums) was also bang-on. You can’t get a live album like this without the rhythm section doing it right. Dan Hughes and bassist Mike Larock were right there, locked in, and driving the machine forward. Larock had the groove, and also a knack for throwing in catchy bass runs. As for the lead work, Sword were a one-guitar band, so Mike Plant had to switch from rhythm to lead seamlessly, and he made it all sound easy.
Inhabiting the fine line between metal and straight-up thrash, perhaps Sword were not unique out there in the 80s trying to make it. This CD proves that they did have the talent. As Henry Rollins says, live is “the only way to know for sure”. A soundboard recording like this is as close as you will get.
As an added bonus (always appreciated in these frugal days), the Sword CD is signed by all four members and comes in a jewel case. A very nice reward for the devoted fan. You can buy Live Hammersmith from the Sword Facebook page.
Who would have thought that little band from Quebec, VoiVod, could have survived so much adversity. The death of Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (guitar) in 2005 should have been the end, but yet the band has soldiered on with two albums utilizing his guitar parts recorded just before his death. In addition, unbelievably, the band has even continued on with returned original bassist Blacky (Jean-Yves Thériault) and new guy Chewy (Dan Mongrain) on guitar!
For those who don’t know, shortly before Piggy died of cancer, he had been working hard at recording every idea he had onto a hard drive. He explained to the band, that if they went into his PC they would find hours of meticulously recorded music and detailed instructions on how to use it. From there, Away (drummer Michel Langevin), Snake (singer Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (bassist Jason Newstead, ex-Metallica) buckled down and created the surprisingly awesome Katorz. Incredibly there was still enough music left to create one more album, 2009’s Infini. The fact that both albums are excellent, coherant pieces that add to the already rich VoiVod body of work is nothing short of astounding. It is a tribute to Piggy as an artist and as a person.
What VoiVod have created here is yet another astounding progressive metal headbanging experience. Loads of droning Piggy chords, odd Piggy solos, insane time changes, and cool lyrics abound. Snake’s lyrics are both thought provoking and cool sounding through a Francophone lens. Even the song titles alone evoke multiple images.
I’m pleased that the band has continued on with Blackie and Chewy. Their last album, Target Earth was also challenging and excellent. But that’s another review. For now I am blown away and grateful that the band have created two monstrously great albums in a row after the death of the man who seemingly defined their sound. As a metal fan, and as a fellow Canadian, I am proud of our metal heritage. I feel Piggy is a huge part of that heritage (the CD itself has Maple Leafs and Fleurs-de-lis emblazoned upon it), and I hope his music continues to live on in the new VoiVod.
“God Phones,” “Destroy After Reading,” “In Orbit,” and “Earthache”. I love the thunderous chorus in “Earthache”: “Blah, blah blah, is that all you say?”
Infini is not quite the album that Katorz was, it’s more challenging and abrasive, but it’s definitely one to be proud of. Very few bands could produce an album of this complexity and intensity.
When Piggy (Denis D’Amour) passed away of colon cancer in 2005, I thought it spelled the end of VoiVod. It was such a sudden, unforeseen tragedy. He was only diagnosed that year; the cancer had spread so rapidly that any operation was deemed impossible. However, Piggy loved VoiVod and he loved music. Knowing his end was near, he recorded hours of new music with his guitar onto a computer. Before passing he instructed the band on how to access the music he’d left them, and they realized the VoiVod dream was not dead. Away (Michel Langevin), Snake (Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted) painstakingly went through his final recordings and realized there was an album there. (In fact there were two albums there, but that’s another story.)
Katorz (“fourteen”, their 14th release) was assembled from these parts. It is a loving tribute to the man who defined the VoiVod sound, and it is a gift to us, the fans. As Canadians, we should be very proud of VoiVod. They never made it big like Rush, although Rush certainly took them under their collective wings on the Presto tour. Their sound is anything but commercial — it’s a stunning, disorienting array of unusual droning chords, complex themes and precision drumming. The band have also inserted some of Piggy’s beautiful final acoustic passages in between songs as transistions, all of which are haunting statements about his impending death. Piggy was not known for his acoustic work, until now, which makes it that much more powerful. (The band has suggested in the past that there may be an entire Piggy acoustic album to come.)
Through all the hardship, VoiVod have only perfected their art of songwriting. The songs on Katorz are among the best of the VoiVod back catalogue. They have come far from their thrash metal n’ studs roots. From the band that once did a thrash version of the “Batman” theme, their music is still heavy. The complexity that they gradually began integrating in the mid-80’s is tied together with more melody and groove. Certainly, you can find few drummers as talented as Away, and his drumming here is astounding. Away jumps from time change to time change effortlessly.
The always nasal whine of Snake will not appeal to all, but it is part of the VoiVod sound and identity, and his lyrics are as jittery and potent as ever. To me it’s like Megadeth. I can’t handle a lot of Mustaine’s singing in a day, but in small doses it’s quite palatable.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Katorz is that you cannot tell that anything is wrong with Piggy or the band. His playing is as unique as ever, pushing the boundaries as he always has. Check out the noise solo on “Mr. Clean” and you’ll see that Piggy was stretching out to the very end. Song-wise, Katorz is seamless. It sounds as if the band wrote and recorded it together, as they always have. There is a certain coldness to Katorz, but that’s VoiVod.
Katorz is thinking-man’s metal. It is over-caffeinated, constantly pushing the extremes (X-Streams?) and restless. More importantly, it is a tribute to one of the great guitarists that made Canada proud. Piggy was great not because of his speed or dexterity, but because of his sonic uniqueness. Piggy’s sound was like no other, droning and headache-inducing, just like VoiVod’s music. Our country is a sadder place without him.
The whole album, but especially “The Getaway”, “Odds & Frauds” and “The X-Stream”.
I was watching the Pepsi Power Hour one afternoon in the 10th grade when they debuted the first video from Quebec metallers Sword — a song called “F.T.W.” My best friend Bob and I were both watching that day, and we got into the song big time. I was recording and we went back and played the video two or three more times. Later on, lead throat Rick Hughes was in the MuchMusic studio live, and explained that some people thought that “F.T.W.” stood for something else; the chorus of of the song goes “Follow the Wheels”. The song is about bikers, but some assumed the song “F.T.W.” stood for “Fuck the World”. I discovered this first hand when I scrawled the Sword logo on my Math notebook, along with the initials F.T.W. The kid behind me didn’t believe me when I told him I meant it as “Follow the Wheels”.
We were blown away by “F.T.W.”, a galloping metal song with gritty vocals. Bob and I agreed that Rick Hughes had the power and grit of a guy like Dee Snider, but the music was borderline thrash metal. A couple years later, when I signed up for Columbia House music club, I ordered the album Metalized on cassette. It was every bit as heavy as “F.T.W.” and then some. It seemed to lie somewhere between W.A.S.P. or Anvil and Megadeth. It was on the heavier side of music that appealed to me but I gave the album a shot. (That is, until the cassette got eaten. Capitol Records were issuing some of the worst quality cassette tapes in Canada in the 1980’s and Metalized was one more victim.)
The second single was a track called “Stoned Again”. Hughes clarified on Much that the lyrics are not meant to promote drug use, which I was relieved to learn. Either way it takes the tempo back from breakneck for a bit, instead throwing in a heavy groove. “Stoned Again” was every bit as great as “F.T.W.,” and perhaps a bit forward thinking. A few years later, Pantera would be eating up and chewing out songs like “Stoned Again” at a furious pace.
The rest of the album stands up. It’s a bit singular in direction, the songs suffering from a certain sameness. The production is echo-y and typical of many albums of this period. The rest of the music is virtually all up-tempo, with vicious vocals and biting riffs. Each song is executed expertly, the guys were not slouches on their instruments, and Hughes could let loose some chandelier-shattering screams. On “Outta Control” he’s Ian Gillan during the Sabbath phase! Another highlight is “Runaway” which features a cool Maiden-esque intro riff and a decent chorus.
“Pee away, buddy!” – Dave Mustaine
Metalized is an enjoyable but non-essential romp through the tundra of heavy Canadian metal. Our winters may be cold but this Sword was clearly forged in fire.