The Sword

REVIEW: The Sword – Greetings From… (2017)

THE SWORD – Greetings From… (2017 Razor & Tie)

This is one clean sounding live album.  Yes it’s live, and you can tell, but there’s not a lot of crowd noise or wasted time.  Opening with a full-on “Buzzards”, The Sword sound made for the stage.  The Sword may not have invented the guitar riff, but they have certainly mastered the art of creating them.

“The Chronomancer I: Hubris” (from Warp Riders) has a slower Sabbathy groove circa Ozzy, but rendered heavier on the metal scale.  They’re tight live, but there’s a certain rock n’ roll loosey-goosey vibe on this album as well.  “Maiden, Mother & Crone” is another hot riff, amplified by the live environment.

New material is rolled out, with “Tears Like Diamonds”, “Mist & Shadow”, and “Agartha” presented in sequence.  “Tears Like Diamonds” combines hook and groove into one steamrolling song.  The heaviest track could be “Tres Brujas” from the third album which flies at Warp speed.  Then they go into a cover of “John the Revelator” which works amazingly well as a heavy metal celebration.

The only track to appear from the debut Sword LP is “The Horned Goddess”.  It ends a pretty steady onslaught of riffs with…even more riffs.  If you’ve endured it, congratulations — you just might be a rocker!

No fluff, no filler.  Greetings From… flies by just as fast as the spaceship on the awesome cover art.

4.5/5 stars

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#756: Japanese Attack!

Anybody who has spent 10 seconds glancing at this site knows one thing:  I love Japanese imports!

Every music collector has his or her own priorities.  Today, many fans prioritise vinyl, be it original pressings, reissues or both.  Some like elaborate packaging; the bigger and bolder the better!  My needs are pretty simple.  I want all the songs, and I’ll buy however many physical editions it takes to get them all.  That means that, over the years, I have purchased hundreds of Japanese CDs.  They almost always have bonus tracks, and some of those bonus tracks never see the light of day again on any other releases.  Those are the best kind!

There are two great sources for Japanese imports.

  1. CD Japan, my main store for new releases.  I have Whitesnake incoming!
  2. Discogs.

It is Discogs that is responsible for today’s content.  If you’re a music collector unfamiliar with Discogs, you need to change that right away.

A few weeks ago, one of my favourite lesser known metal bands called Leatherwolf was celebrating the 30th anniversary of their third album, 1989’s Street Ready.  (Probably their best album, but that’s unimportant.)  Someone on social media was showing off their most prized Leatherwolf collectible:  A Japanese import CD of Street Ready, with a bonus track unreleased anywhere else!  Out of print for almost 30 years, that’s a rarity if I ever saw one.  Plus it has that feature that is like catnip to me:  an unreleased bonus track.  In this case, it was a track called “Alone in the Night”, and I wanted it.  It’s rare that I go 30 years without even knowing about a song.

After a few weeks of researching, I decided to pull the trigger.  A Discogs seller had a copy in excellent condition for about $50, which I realized was about the cheapest it gets in the condition I want.  Its only flaw was a missing obi strip (the little piece of paper along the spine) which you sometimes have to accept you’ll never get.  The main thing was that bonus track.  I was happy with the seller’s 100% rating so I put it in my cart.

That’s when Discogs showed its evil side.

A message popped up, telling me that just in case I wanted to combine shipping, this seller had 81 other items from my wishlist.

81 items.  All Japanese CDs.

Click.

I spent the next few minutes frantically adding items to my cart, deleting them, adding them again, and then finally deciding on dollar amount I was willing to splurge.  I even gave it another few days to clear my head before I clicked “buy”.  This is what I ended up with.


LEATHERWOLF – Street Ready.  Bonus track: “Alone in the Night”.

Now some lucky soul can be gifted my original US compact disc, because this is my new treasure.  I loved this album as a teenager, and I still like it today.  There is some well written metal here, and now I have 11 tracks instead of 10.  I still can’t believe I didn’t know about “Alone in the Night” all this time.  If I knew that back in 1989, this CD would have been on my holy grail list long ago.

EXTREME – “Hip Today” CD single.  Bonus track “Kid Ego” (live).

I screwed up.  I already had a UK single for “Hip Today”; one of those “part one of a two disc set sold separately” deals.  However, for whatever reason, I never ripped it to my computer. I never even played it!  When I did a quick search, I couldn’t find “Kid Ego” in my files so I assumed I needed it.  I do not, but that’s OK.  This CD was only $11 because the seller listed it with no obi strip.  Turns out the obi strip is tucked inside, so that’s a win.

TENACIOUS D – The Pick of Destiny.  Bonus tracks “Kong”, “Training Medley”.

Two extra songs to be found here.  This album had more bonus tracks elsewhere, on non-physical (download only) versions.  Now I have all the physical tracks, at least.  “Training Medley” was already in the collection on a CD single for “P.O.D.”, but “Kong” was completely unknown until now.  Even our resident Tenacious D expert, Uncle Meat, has never heard it before.  (For the record, the other two bonus tracks are “Rock Your Socks” from the iTunes pre-order, and “It’s Late” which you can download if you buy the vinyl.  Vinyl wishlisted.)  Tenacious D collectables are usually very expensive.  Their single “Jazz” (which I am missing) goes for roughly $100.  I paid $26 for The Pick of Destiny.

QUIET RIOT – Alive and Well.  Bonus track:  “The Wait”.

20 years ago, the classic Metal Health lineup of Quiet Riot reunited for a new album.  Alive and Well was a mix of new songs and re-recordings, but they could have just released a 10 song CD instead, had they included “The Wait”.  It’s puzzling how songs are chosen to be obscure bonus tracks on rare editions.  “The Wait” is a ballad, very much like old Quiet Riot, and a frickin’ great one too.  Had it been included, Alive and Well could have been a well balanced 10 song album, and “The Wait” might have been the best one.  At one point Amazon were asking $100 for this CD.  I was delighted to score it for just $22.  Perhaps it was cheap because it was listed as missing the obi strip.  It’s there and looks great!   Now my Quiet Riot collection is one song closer to being complete.

THE SWORD – Apocryphon.  Bonus tracks:  the same five from the deluxe edition, plus “Hammer of Heaven”.

This album has been frustrating for me.  There are two versions, one with 10 tracks and one with 15.  Because there’s no track listing on the back cover, I’ve never taken a chance on it.  I didn’t want to bring it home only to find it’s the 10 track version.  I’ve wanted this album ever since “Cloak of Feathers” made it to number 15 on the 2017 Sausagefest countdown.  The only thing better than a confirmed 15 track edition?  A CD with 16 tracks!  Japan received “Hammer of Heaven”, which was a standalone single in 2012.  It’s a boogie as heavy as plutonium!  This would be its only CD release!  Obi is intact, for just $25.  (I’m still going to want the single for “Hammer of Heaven” since it had a live B-side of “Ebethron” not included here.)


Not a bad little spending spree.  Most of these Japanese imports were pretty affordable.  It seems like I spent a lot of money for just a handful of songs, but such is the quest.

 

#729.7: The Mighty Tom’s Top 16 of 2018

Before we get going on our final list (which is a good one I assure you), I’d like to say a few words about irony.

Every year before we went to a new on-site voting system, Tom would rant and rave about getting our Sausagefest lists in.  “PAY YOUR ROCK AND ROLL TAXES”, went the mantra.  He’d make posts and memes about it.  Hell, I’ve posted some of his memes!

 

So the irony is, Tom the Taxman was last with his 2018 list for me this year.  That’s all.  Tom, the guy always wanting the lists in early…was last with his list.  

In his defence he said, “Whoa…there was no timeline or due date…as far as I’m concerned I have until the 31st at 11:59.”  He then goes on to throw Uncle Meat under the bus!  “Meat stole most of mine, he didn’t even have a list two weeks ago…”  

That almost sounds like “the dog ate my homework!”  More irony?  Tom’s a teacher!

Onto the mighty list!


 

TOP 16 OF 2018

16. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Late comer…just got it yesterday…might be higher on the list after a few more spins…Nothing like this…Devo on coke…and other shenanigans.

15. Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto
Let down? Yes….But if I can hear J.B. belt out , “I’m the Daddy Ding Dong” I’m in!

14. Mos Generator – Shadowlands
Doomy, stonery, riffy, heavy…revolutionary? Nah…just rawk!

13. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe
A return to form…Wished I liked the Alex Lifeson track more, but it’s a meandering mess…

12. Yes – Fly From Here (Return Flight)
Originally recorded in 2011, this version has Trevor Horn on lead vocals and a couple more bells and whistles. With Horn at the helm it features the lineup that produced 1980’s grossly under-rated Drama album. Any fan of that masterpiece will find much to like here. (But probably not Steve Howe’s vocal debut “Don’t Take No For An Answer” which would work much better as a B-side, or better yet a No-side.)

11. Brant Bjork – Mankind Woman
Is there a cooler dude alive? Probably not. He was a driving force in both Fu Manchu and the mighty Kyuss for fuck sake…This slice of classic heavy rock is direct yet it does have flavours of blues, jazz and even bit of funk that spices it up. Solid rawk!

10. Ghost – Prequelle
Love the sax…hate their homage to Asia, “Dance Macabre”…Overall, Satanic ear honey…which they’ve done better before.

9. Magpie Salute – High Water I
Is it the Black Crowes? Not really…But it comes from the same rock’n’roll, Americana and southern blues spring…And it has Marc fucking Ford on it…looking forward to High Water II this year.

8. Adam’s House Cat – Town Burned Down
One of the odder releases this year…since it was recorded over 20 years ago. The little rock ‘n’ roll acorn that would grow into the mighty oak that is the Drive-By Truckers. Not just a curio however, but great, gritty American rock (with smatterings of early R.E.M.).

7. Necromancers – Blood & Wine
Sophomore slump? Only if you compare it to their phenomenal debut (my #1 last year). A heavy dose of guitar riffage from Satan’s apothecary.

6. John Prine – Tree of Forgiveness
My favourite songwriter. Darkly comic with a heart of pure gold. Writes about the essence of a situation, and sings them in a way that you know it’s the truth. I love this man.

5. The Sword – Used Future
Played the shit outta this…Love how they’re stretching out with their sound and finding ways out of the metal box…but still retaining the noodly rock greatness that keeps them heavy.

4. Voivod – The Wake
I just knew this sucker was going to be good…their last few have been great (Target Earth a gem)…but I didn’t think it was going to be this good. Thrash, punk, prog, jazz…King Crimson at there most pissed off and ragged…You know you’re listening to a Voivod album and that these francophone fucks are still giving a shit! I love the variance of the tempos and textures of the songs that allow the riffs to burrow deep.

3. Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions
God damn! These guys cannot make a shitty album. Heavy groove merchants with wickedly fun and fucked-up lyrics that always put a smile on my face as I belt them out. This album would make this list for the strutting horn-driven “In Walks Barbarella” alone… Making heavy metal fun and in-the-pocket funky…

2. Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back
These guys should be huge. Their diverse influences are expanding their heavy metal pallet, and it is all so fucking cool. Orange Fucking Goblin baby!

1. Crazy Bull – The Past Is Today
Thanks to Classic Rock’s July free CD I was turned on to this album of southern fried heavy riff rock at it’s groovy gritty best. Skynyrd, Hatchet and more than a few nods to Brits Wishbone Ash. Sumptuous riffs, and leads and solos that put a smile on your face….

 

 

 

 


Thanks to Tom for his awesome list.  I’m placing an Amazon order for Tenacious D and Voivod right now!

#729.4: LeBrain’s Unorthodox Top 10 of 2018

Given everything that happened in 2018 (cancer, more cancer, death), I wasn’t as tuned-in to rock and roll as I normally would be.  I missed a lot of new releases, some on purpose, others by accident.  Therefore, this year I’m doing something different from my Top Lists of 2018.  Before we get to the lists, let’s talk about the past 12 months.


2018: RELEASES IN A NUTSHELL

January saw new CDs by Joe Satriani and Corrosion of Conformity, finally reunited with Pepper Keenan on vocals.  There was new Loudness, and a release by Beth Hart & Joe BonamassaDef Leppard had a low-key EP exclusive to iTunes (The Lost Session).  In February we got the return of the mighty Saxon.  March was a big month, featuring Judas Priest, Stone Temple Pilots, Jack White and Myles Kennedy.  The rock kept rolling in April.  The big metal one here was Stryper‘s God Damn Evil, along with new Godsmack and Thirty Seconds to Mars.  During this time I was personally only able to get the Stryper and Priest.

As temperatures warmed in May, Bad Wolves came out with their novelty cover of “Zombie” by the Cranberries which became a predictable hit.  Frank Turner and Five Finger Death Punch also released new records in May.  News in June was unfortunately dominated by Kanye West and Drake, but don’t forget Ghost, The Darkness (with their first live) and Nine Inch Nails!  In July, Halestorm came out with the critically acclaimed ViciousAlice in Chains made their long awaited return in August with Rainier Fog, an album I bought but have not yet fully penetrated.

Autumn began with the biggest name in rock and roll, Sir Paul McCartney himself.  SlashPaul Simon, Lenny Kravitz and Suicidal Tendencies had records out on the same day.  VoiVod, Therapy?, Metric and even Rod Stewart returned in September as well.  October featured two big soundtracks:  Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star Is BornAce Frehley, Greta Van Fleet, and The Struts came out with new music the same month.  In November we got Mark Knopfler, the Smashing Pumpkins, Ted Nugent and yet another live Beth Hart.  The month closed with the latest Def Leppard best-of.  December boasted Metal Church but not a lot of rock.  Thank the Metal Gods that Max the Axe swooped in with Status Electric to save the year.


I spent most of 2018 checked out mentally.  I missed most of the new releases and have a lot to catch up on.  The summer was spent on Highway 401, and a flash drive loaded with music helped me survive it.  New releases were not the be-all and end-all for me.  Therefore, my Top Albums of 2018 list includes some oldies that just helped me get through it all.  It seems right to do it this way, since I can’t really do a well-curated list of new releases without absorbing them properly.

TOP 10 ALBUMS THAT GOT ME THROUGH 2018

  1. Blotto – Combo Akimbo (1982)
  2. Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)
  3. Ghost – Prequelle (2018)
  4. The Darkness – Live at Hammersmith  (2018)
  5. Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)
  6. Blotto – Tonight At Toad’s (1982)
  7. Ace Frehley – Spaceman (2018)
  8. Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson & Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert (1997)
  9. The Sword – Used Future (2018)
  10. Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (1978)

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe (2018)
  2. Hello Hopeless – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)
  3. Mike Slayen – Dude: A Guitar CD (2018)

TOP MOVIES OF 2018

Can’t do a movie list this year.  Not possible.  I didn’t see ’em all, but one movie blew away all the rest.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War

A PEEK AT 2019

What’s hot for 2019?

  1. Star Wars:  Episode IX
  2. Motley Crue‘s long awaited movie The Dirt, and new songs too.
  3. Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
  4. Avengers:  Endgame
  5. Queensryche – The Verdict

Stay tuned….

 

 

 

#729.2: Uncle Meat Destroys 2018!

Man of few words, but many lists:  Uncle Meat presents his top movies, albums, and disappointments of 2018!

 


TOP 10 MOVIES

1. Bohemian Rhapsody
2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
3. Mandy
4. A Futile and Stupid Gesture
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. BlacKKKlansman
7. A Star is Born
8. Solo
9. Ant-Man and the Wasp
10. Black Panther

* LeBrain’s comment:  I’m pleased to see the MCU and Coens make strong showings here, but Solo surprises me.


TOP 10 ALBUMS

1. The Wake – Voivod
2. Used Future – The Sword
3. The Tree of Forgiveness – John Prine
4. The Sciences – Sleep
5. Town Burned Down – Adam’s House Cat
6. The Wolf Bites Back – Orange Goblin
7. Mankind Woman – Brant Bjork
8. Our Raw Heart – YOB
9. Spaceman – Ace Frehley
10. Triumphant Hearts – Jason Becker

 


DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2018

1. Tenacious D – Post Apocalyptico (Both the animated show and album)
2. Kiss completely playing to tracks live
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. LeBrain’s Porn Debut

* You can’t please everybody!

#672: “The”

GETTING MORE TALE #672: “The”

In the spring of 1996, the Record Store chain expanded to its third location. This was a life-changer for me, as it was my store — the store that I had been assigned to manage.  I spent eight years at that location, and that’s where most of Record Store Tales came from.  Myself and a young employee who was obsessed with Pink Floyd stocked the place.  It took weeks to manually clean, input and price thousands of used CDs.  We had fun working in a closed store away from the public, but the used CD stock we opened with was very monotonous.  It was just overflow crap from the other stores; a lot of the same-old-same-old.

When training the new young Floyd fanboy, the Boss told him, “When you enter a band’s name that starts with ‘The’, skip the word ‘The’.”  This makes sense for three reasons:

  1. Speed of data entry.
  2. Saving on the cost of expensive Dymo tape for the labeling gun (for the header cards).
  3. Alphabetical listings becoming much more tedious and cumbersome when scrolling through hundreds of “The” bands.

It’s pretty logical.

  • BLACK CROWES = The Black Crowes
  • FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS = The Fabulous Thunderbirds
  • FUGEES = The Fugees
  • KINKS = The Kinks
  • SEX PISTOLS = The Sex Pistols

This worked especially well with Fugees and the young guy’s favourite band, Pink Floyd.  Both artists had a “The” in their name in the past.  You don’t call them “The Pink Floyd” but it was certainly possible you’d see something when they still had the “The”.  Dropping the “The” on our header cards kept things simple.

The young fella got it, but followed it a little too closely.

One of his header cards said simply:

  • THE

“What is this one?” I asked and he showed me a CD by The The.

I told him to change it to The The, but he didn’t get it.  The Boss told him to drop the “The” on every header card.  But the header card didn’t make sense without it.  He wouldn’t change it, so I did it myself.

It seemed pretty clear to me then, and still does now.  The name “The The” just doesn’t make sense on a header card when it’s just “The”.  Tell me I’m wrong.

I was at Sunrise Records the other day, where I found The Best of Sword on CD. I eagerly put it under my arm, since I was missing the three previously unreleased bonus tracks.  (In case you didn’t know, Sword recently reunited and are recording a brand new studio album.)  But guess where I found the CD?  Or, rather, guess what two bands were filed together under the same name?

  • SWORD

Sword is from near Montreal, Quebec.  The Sword is another band altogether, from Austin Texas.  They both play heavy metal but are nothing alike.  In this case, there need to be two header cards, and one needs the word “The”.  It’s another rare exception.  The Sunrise store should have made these two header cards:

  • SWORD
  • THE SWORD

Even better:

  • SWORD (Montreal band)
  • THE SWORD (Texas band)

But clearly nobody who worked there knows enough about either band to see this.

A customer who enjoys The Sword could be very disappointed by picking up The Best of Sword.  Likewise, a fan of Sword might have thought the live Greetings From… CD was a reunion CD by the French Canadian metalers.

This is why it is critical to have staff who know music.  It’s the kind of proficiency that in our insta-knowledge internet era, most people don’t maintain anymore.  Proper header cards were a problem when I was managing the old Record Store too, and it was the same root cause:  It’s hard to find staff who know and care about this stuff.  And it’s not impossible to learn it.  The truth is, if I were a young The Sword fan today I would already know there was another band called Sword, because I would have stumbled upon their albums and looked them up on Wikipedia.

You could take this header card business too far, of course.  Just as you don’t need both “Pink Floyd” and “The Pink Floyd”, a record store doesn’t need two Queensryches or two L.A. Guns.  But you do need two Swords…with “The” and without.

* Here I am nitpicking about proper filing of header cards, when I should be complaining about the mistakes on this Sword CD.  Right there, on the back and inside covers, is a massive typo:  “Get It Whole You Can”.  Inside, the liner notes make the classic “there/their” screw-up.  Can’t believe nobody caught these before they went to print, but there it is.

 

 

#621: Bad Axes

GETTING MORE TALE #621: Bad Axes

Ever have extracurricular activities at work?  Do you enjoy them?

We had very, very little at the Record Store.  In 1995, the mall had a bowling tournament.  Different stores faced off against each other.  The Record Store had to take on the ladies from A Buck Or Two, a bargain shop.  We had a lot of fun, and I cannot recall who won, which means we probably lost.

We did have annual Christmas parties at the Record Store, and for a while we even had summer parties.  There was nothing else though that would have qualified as an extracurricular activity, unless you count endless staff meetings.  I know some places have team building events, like going to an “escape room”.  That sounds like fun, unless you don’t like your co-workers.

The best work event I had the pleasure to attend was Jan 31 2009, right after Jen and I married.  I received four passes to go see the Toronto Maple Leafs from a private box.  My boss and I went, and of course I had to bring Jen.  It was fantastic!  So much food:  nachos, chips, prime rib, chicken, sushi, ribs, wings, everything!  On top of this, it was Dougie Gilmour night, and they raised his number 93 to the rafters.  I didn’t even know who Doug Gilmour was.  But the Leafs beat the Penguins and Sidney Crosby.  Good thing; the rest of the season sucked!

Our work is doing a team building event this Friday, which unfortunately conflicts with Star Wars, but that’s life right?  We all voted, and for our event we are going axe throwing!  How metal is that?  Fortunately I do like all my co-workers, so I’m not worried about any errant axes headed my way.  The establishment is called Bad Axe Throwing.  By that I hope they mean I’ll be like a bad ass, not that I will be throwing axes badly.

Knowing my teammates, we’ll be laughing as much as throwing.  I’m looking forward to it, though the timing is shitty.  This will be the first Star Wars Saga* opening that I’ve missed since Return of the Jedi.  No big deal; it’s only a movie and I’ll see it soon enough.

Axe throwing is just so metal!  With that in mind, here are five awesome tracks involving axes.

1. KISS – “I Love it Loud”, because of Gene’s axe bass.

2. KICK AXE – “On the Road to Rock”, because they have axe in their name.

3. PINK FLOYD – “Careful With that Axe, Eugene”.  Not metal, but good advice.

4. HELIX – “Axe to Grind”, from my home town!

5. THE SWORD – “How Heavy this Axe”. Really fuckin’ heavy!

Gallery: First New Arrivals at LeBrain HQ for the of Summer 2017

We have had a solid rain in Kitchener, Ontario. Not only are the banks of the Grand swollen to the limit, but there has also been a steady rainfall of new arrivals at LeBrain HQ! Summer has officially arrived, and what is summer without new rock?

First we have some gratuity for Mr. Geoff “1001” Stephen. Some surprise mail arrived from him this week: two 7″ singles and some Leafs memorabilia. As Mrs. LeBrain said, “Thank you Geoff Stephen for the wonderful surprise this morning. The calendar brought back so many memories of my favourite hockey year. Go Leafs Go!”

For myself, a Kiss “Christine Sixteen”/”Shock Me” single, which alas is too late to fit into my Love Gun re-review!  Those two songs make it virtually a double A-side.  The other single he sent has a similar standing:  Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town”/”Jailbreak”.  Two singles, four amazing cuts of rock history.

On the same day, I received this from a Discogs seller in Japan:  a CD that has been on my wishlist a long time.  Despite the long wait, I managed to hold off from buying the domestic edition of Ghost’s debut Opus Eponymous all this time.  A sealed copy finally came up on Discogs within my buying threshold, so I jumped at it.  For my rewards, I got “Here Comes the Sun”, Ghost’s Beatles cover…and a very different one it is.

We will jump briefly to new arrivals in the toy department.  Thanks to J. at Resurrection Songs we recently covered the ins and outs of Third Party products.  Behold!  Badcube has released their take on Masterpiece Transformer Insecticons.  These are heavy, heavy toys with lots of diecast and G1 accurate insect modes, with robot modes an homage to the cartoon.  Check them out with their leader Megatron (third party Apollyon) and their original 1985 toys below.  These, by the way, are deluxe collector’s editions with clear plastic and chromed parts for added value.  I’d love to compare them to an official Hasbro Masterpiece Insecticon, but such a thing does not exist.  That’s why third party companies have a niche.  Labels by Toyhax.

Apollyon by X-Transbots with Evil Bug Corps by Badcube

Badcube Claymore and Transformers G1 Shrapnel

Badcube Hypno and Transformers G1 Bombshell

Badcube Kickbutt and Transformers G1 Kickback

Last new entry in the toy Department: I found some new Star Wars Black Series 6″ releases kicking around at the local Toys R Us on Sunday.  I should have grabbed more of the Imperial AT-ACT driver, that one being a Target/TRU exclusive, but sometimes you find those to still be warming the pegs a few weeks later.  The Imperial Death Squad commander will look great with my Stormtroopers, but I feel to ask $30 for one little tiny Jawa figure is a bit much.  They should have included two Jawas or a droid in there for that price.

 

The same day as the Toys R Us trip, I also dropped in at the newly re-opened Sunrise Records at Fairview Mall, which is really starting to come along with great customer service and an improving selection.  I couldn’t browse long, so I leaped immediately to the metal section and grabbed two CDs that I was missing by The Sword:  Low Country (2016) and the new live album Greetings From… (2017).   I am slowly getting caught up on that band — loving everything I have heard so far.

A wonderful week to be sure, but it’s time to stop buying music and toys for a short while, and get ready for Sausagefest 2017.  I finished recording my parts yesterday, and I have inside information that suggests that this Sausagefest countdown will be pretty awesome.

Stay tuned.

 

 

#555.5: A Short Visit to Sonic Boom

GETTING MORE TALE #555.5: A Short Visit to Sonic Boom

Yesterday I took Mrs. LeBrain to Toronto to see a neurosurgeon.  It was a great meeting; very positive, but we will get more into that in a future tale.   (Look for an upcoming Getting More Tale story called “Seize the Day” if you want to know more.)   After the meeting with the doctor, she had some tests.  I didn’t need to be around for the those, so with a couple hours to kill, I went down to Sonic Boom on Spadina.  I was accompanied by Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom, who insisted we cab to the store.  It was a rainy miserable day outside.  Wet, cold, windy and unpleasant.  The cab ride wasn’t unwelcome.

I’m glad I shaved my beard down to a goatee the other day, because almost every dude in that store looked the same.  Bearded hipsters buying vinyl, left right and center, lookalikes all!  I tuned out the background noise and focused on the cool.  Upstairs they had two colouring books I almost considered getting.  Do you know anyone who is a huge fan of either James Franco or Benedict Cumberbatch?  If so, I am happy to report that Sonic Boom had colouring books of both.  (They also had Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.)  I spied the new Mastodon among the new releases, but headed downstairs where the real treasures usually lay.

Although I put in a Herculean effort, there was little to be found.  Maybe I have too many CDs, because everywhere I flipped it seemed to be “got it, got it, got it, got it…”  Aaron asked me to look for Danny Michel and a few other titles.  Nothing to be found.  I was struck by how just about everything seems to be reissued on vinyl today.  The Spice Girls’ first album, Spice.  I fail to comprehend.  It doesn’t compute.  I considered buying some Kiss reissues, but I didn’t really want to come home with something I already owned.

With some persistence I did liberate three titles:

  1. The Sword – High Country (CD, used, $9.99)
  2. Queen – The Game (2 CD remaster, used, $9.99)
  3. Rush – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland Ohio, May 1975 (vinyl, new, $32.99)

The Queen set was in the recent arrivals, and that is a nice score.  I’m nowhere near complete with my Queen remasters, but when I can pick them off one by one, used?  That’s the best way.  The Rush on the other hand is something of a chance I’m taking.  This is a radio broadcast vinyl, and I’ve never bought one of those before.  They had several available.  I don’t have anything live from Rush in 1975, so that was the key factor.  Also a non-album track:  “Bad Boy”, a Larry Williams cover.  180 gram coloured vinyl to boot.  Should be good times.

Not a knockout shopping excursion, but not a waste of time either.  We walked back to the hospital (although Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom would have preferred a cab) and got soaked, but it’s good to stretch the legs when it’s a long day of driving and sitting.  Besides, we enjoyed looking at the Toronto scenery.  The fruit and vegetable markets smelled great.  They even had bonsai trees.

Back in the hospital waiting room, I was able to do a little research for my Kiss Re-Review series in progress.  Guess which album I have to write up next.

I don’t want to use the word “disappointing” for this Sonic Boom trip, because I am very pleased with my new albums.  I told Uncle Meat I wanted some more The Sword, and Sonic Boom delivered.  I’m more surprised than disappointed that I was only able to scrounge up three finds this time.  Every visit is different, and I’m sure that next time I return (either in the fall with Aaron, or sooner for more tests) it will be another story.  Sonic Boom is still an absolute must for any music fan visiting Toronto.  Don’t miss out, and be sure to check out the new arrival bins.  They are often the key to many great finds.

As always Sonic Boom gets 5/5 stars.  And so does Mrs. LeBrain for being a tough-as-nails trooper.

 

REVIEW: The Sword – Age of Winters (2006)

Purchased at BMV in Toronto 2016 for $6.99.

scan_20161126THE SWORD – Age of Winters (2006 Kemado Records)

The scene:  Earth, post-Rapture.  A seedy bar somewhere in America, haunted by the few remaining survivors.  In walks a cloaked figure, here to recruit the only man who can help him defeat the Antichrist:  former CIA agent Stan Smith.  On the jukebox in the futuristic post-apocalyptic watering hole:  “Barael’s Blade” by The Sword.  (American Dad season 5 episode 9 – “Rapture’s Delight”)

Sounds bizarre, right?  Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad has always used modern rock music in interesting ways, and this wasn’t the only use of music by The Sword on that show.  “Iron Swan” appeared in an episode called “Minstrel Krampus” (also featuring soul crooner Charles Bradley).  Interestingly, not only are both these appearances in rather twisted Christmas episodes, but both songs were drawn from The Sword’s debut long-player, Age of Winters.

The doomy riffs of opening track “Celestial Crown” immediately recall early Black Sabbath circa 1970-72, but drawn out, slowed down, grinding heavy like a glacier carving its path through a mountain.  J.D. Cronise’s howling vocals break the ice on “Barael’s Blade”, but the assault continues right on to “Freya”.  This track, the ogre stomping “Freya”, wields multiple guitar riffs as heavy as the thunder of an avalanche.  The Norse goddess of fertility is also the goddess of war and death.  “Freya” brings the sonic conflict to your speakers.

When the “Winter’s Wolves” arrive, your senses are already overloaded by the riff-heavy metal.  “Wolves” centers on a heavy drum section, like Bill Ward on ephedrine.  Almost as if part of the same song, “The Horned Goddess” reverberates like a coda to “Winter’s Wolves”, different yet solidly in the same icy field.  “The Horned Goddess” soon transforms into a stampede of mammoths making their last stand.  Hypnotizing lead vocals welcome you into this hazy landscape of sound.

Acoustic instrumentation brings “Iron Swan” a different aura, like the Beatles via The Sword.  Then it immediately launches in a thrash metal “War Pigs”, as if all the speedy chops the band had in storage were being used up right now at this very moment.  Epic only touches on what “Iron Swan” is, as there is so much riffery that it becomes overwhelming.  Scientific studies* have shown that the human memory can only retain so many riffs at one time, and so “Iron Swan” becomes like a wave of them hitting your senses one after the other.

Painting of an Aurochs from Wikipedia

Painting of an Aurochs (Wikipedia)

The Aurochs, a part of European megafauna until their extinction in the early 1600s, were the direct ancestor of the modern domestic bovine whose products millions of people consume every day.  It is the Aurochs you see in cave paintings today.  The Sword have given us a seven-minute-plus “Lament for the Aurochs”, and we do not forget the impact that mankind has had on the ancient land we inhabit.  Although back-breeding has produced Auroch-like “Heck cattle”, we shall never feel the ground shake with a herd of Aurochs again.

“And none may see again the shimmering of Avalon,
Or know the fates of all the races man has cursed,
Long gone are the ages of the alchemists,
Now there are none who know the secrets of the earth.

“Lament the passing of the Aurochs,
And the slaying of the ancient wyrm,
Would you dare meet the gaze of the basilisk,
Or face the flames as the phoenix burns?”

The Aurochs give way to an epic instrumental “March of the Lor”, another exercise in maximizing potential riffage.  When “Ebethron” arrives to end the album with a hammering blow, it is a mercy killing.  Age of Winters is almost non-stop, all-in, nothing but riffs and pounding through its entire length.  That in mind, it only takes a short while to recover, and hit play one more time….

I look forward to exploring more of The Sword’s discography.

4.5/5 stars

Look for a review of album #2, Gods of the Earth, soon.

*Not really.