SWORD, Sweet Dreams (1988, GWR)
A rubber snake on a plastic skull. Well, maybe the snake is alive, but that skull never was. The massive logo steals some of the skull’s thunder, but certainly not much: this is as classic as it gets. Plunk down a skull, set up some spooky green lights, take the picture. Done.
Like the cover, this album simply gets shit done. No frills, mid-paced heavy metal with deep songs and a killer singer. Whenever I listen to this album (which is often), I remember the review that turned me onto it, which compared singer Rick Hughes to Dee Snider (but with a much better range) and imagined the music as what NWOBHM might have become had Metallica not intervened. Many people prefer the band’s debut, Metalized (which also sports a skull cover, but it’s far too stylized, metaphoric even, to be considered for the skullection), and while I can definitely understand the appeal of that album’s speedier US power metal (even if the band is Canadian), there’s a depth and a maturity to Sweet Dreams that puts this album over the top for me. Sword are even back together, but unlike most of the nostalgia acts working the oldies circuit, Sword is working with the entire original lineup, sounds amazing, and the singer still has it.
— Friar Johnsen