SWORD “A Taste of Northern Steel”
By Dr. Abner Mality
Although Canada is enormous in size, its population density is quite low. At last count, 38.5 million people called the Great White North home. But there is a disproportionate amount of great heavy metal coming out of Canada. Always has been. Right here at Wormwood, we’ve hobnobbed with legendary Canadian metal bands like ANVIL, EXCITER and ANNIHILATOR.
Montreal’s SWORD has to be added to that list. They were first pulled from the scabbard in 1981...the year I graduated from high school...and in 2023, they are still slicing apart posers and delivering true metal of the most authentic vintage. Their 1986 debut “Metalized” remains a blueprint on how to dish up classic metal and in 2022, their latest album “III” shows they’ve kept their edge sharp.
A key part of the SWORD sound is the lusty vocal approach of singer Rick Hughes. This man was born to sing in a heavy metal band...no real blade could cut any deeper than his voice. With the advent of “III”, the time was ripe to hear from Mr. Hughes. Here, now, is the voice of the SWORD…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to you, Rick! It is an honor to speak to you. The history of SWORD goes all the way back to 1980, which is 42 years! Has that time flown by or does it seem like a different age of the world?
RICK HUGHES: Time flew by real fast, We had very good lives. My kids are parents, which makes me a grandfather !A title I hold proudly. Plus I’ve been singing for the last 40 years in many different projects, but SWORD has always remained my number one love.
WC: The band has had peaks and valleys of activity during that period. Were the “down times” beneficial to the band and bringing it to where it is in 2022?
RH: The four of us have been friends since high school. My brother Dan has been my drummer in many of my other projects.Same goes with the two Mikes (Plant and Larock), we’ve been living close by and jamming together forever.
WC: Do the same passions and ideas motivate you now as they did in the early days or have the motivations evolved over the years?
RH: The passion is still the same, the motivation is a little bit different, but the delivery is totally something new and exciting.
WC: What made 2022 the right time for the new album “III” and was it an easy process to bring this album to life?
RH: The time became right once the record company Massacre Records aligned with us.
As far as the recording and writing process is concerned, it all came in time, and once we were ready to hit the studio, we had to be quick and precise. Time is money, you know...
WC. On “III”, you very much keep to the classic metal sound with no giving in to any sort of subgenre like thrash metal, grunge or newer sounds. Was the main idea always to write and perform pretty much in the style of “Metalized” or did the songwriting just evolve that way naturally, without effort?
RH: It all came naturally to our lead guitarist and main songwriter for the band Mike Plant. Oh yes, he did put in the effort, putting the album together, but he was quite a Maestro doing it.
WC: Going back to “III”, the song “Dirty Pig” sure doesn’t hold anything back and is one of the standouts. Is this a pretty personal track for you?
RH: Heavy metal has the capacity to give you the energy to come out of your shell. This song is directed to all the dirty pigs out there who have used power badly and are ready to step on others to achieve their personal goals. It’s a clear warnings to those who won’t come out clean. So pick your own dirty pig, and chant it out to him. It will liberate you.
WC: Is there one particular track on the new album that stands out more than the others for you?
RH: We have been rehearsing the new show for quite a while, and the totality of the album appears in the show, and each and everyone of them is a delight to sing..so if I had to choose one, I just couldn’t.
WC: Many feel your home town of Montreal is the metal capital of North America. What has the scene there been like for you over the years? How would you gauge it now compared to the 80’s?
RH: Yes, music is very strong here in Quebec. The scene has often changed, and it will keep changing as long as artists keep pulling out new material. Montreal is always renewing itself with new blood.
WC: I know you’ve been quite involved with other musical projects over the years. Tell us about some of these.
RH: My solo career has kept me in check with my art and the stage. I’ve been singing for TV shows, productions and live rock n’ roll acts, and I feel grateful to have been able to stay relevant for four decades.
WC: What’s the live situation look like for SWORD? Any chance of shows in the U.S.?
RH: Yes, we are looking forward to bringing the show wherever fans and promoters are eager to hear us play live.
WC: Any newer bands or acts you are impressed by or could recommend?
RH: I mainly love vintage classic rock music. And I love all kinds of different genres.
No one band in particular...anything that sounds good, I turn up the volume.
WC: In the long history of SWORD, is there any kind of “Spinal Tap” moment where things went haywire that you could share with us?
RH: Many Spinal Tap moments,I can think of...one in particular is when we were looking for our lodge and we ended up in a Hell’s Angels meeting.
WC: Any last words for the fans?
RH: Yeah, thanks for your patience, your loyalty and your kind words, we read you, we hear you, and we hope to play for you some day, sooner rather than later.