Michael Sweet – One Sided War
August 26th sees the release of the much-anticipated release from Stryper front-man Michael Sweet. (well, its anticipated in my house!) ‘One Sided War’ is his seventh solo release and it feels like five minutes since his last solo album ‘I’m Not Your Suicide’. I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed the heavier approach that Stryper have taken on their last two albums, and I’m very glad to report that this rich metal vein has transferred to his solo album also. Helping to add the ‘metal’ is none other than guitarist Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake / ex-Night Ranger), Will Hunt (drums, Evanescence), John O’Boyle (bass), and rounding out is East Coast shred-meister Ethan Brosh.
‘’Musically its my heaviest solo album. Its not thrash metal but there are definitely some songs on there that will pop out at you. There are some songs that have a bit of the Iron Maiden/ Dio feel to them, as well as some songs that have a little bit of Van Halen influence to them. It’s a very guitar-oriented, hard rock/metal album with lots of melodies and hooks,’’ explains Michael Sweet.
….and he is not wrong!
One Sided War, sees Sweet’s guitar army going straight for the jugular with an old school ‘twiddly-widdly’ opening, then it turns into a straight up hair metal fest with Sweet’s vocals taking centre place, trading licks with the guitars of Hoekstra and Brosh. It’s a fast and frenetic opening salvo. Title track ‘One Sided War’ is more common fare, but is no less impressive.
I could go for hidden meanings, with the first 2 songs being 3:28 (Galatians – “There is Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, not is there male and female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ”) Pure guesswork on my part I guess, but it’s a strong sentence.
It’s a wise and bold move for Sweet bringing in Hoekstra and Brosh. Hoekstra is bringing 80s head turning, ear melting solos, backed with the ‘apprentice’ Brosh. He (Sweet) doesn’t exactly need to concentrate on his vocals as he still has a great voice.
‘Cant Take This Life’, has the type of modern riff that would fit in with current Thrash or a band like Alter Bridge. One thing with Sweet is his strength of melody, especially with strong choruses that just trip off the tongue and straight into your ears for instant aural gratification. ‘Radio’ shows off Sweet’s lighter and humorous side, ripping into the ‘Rock Guys’ (you know who you are), those bands moving over to Nashville, no doubt going ‘back to their roots’. (Yeah, right. More for the money I think!). I can’t wait for the full video. ‘Golden Age’ is a thunderous tune, and has Hoekstra and Brosh trading licks aplenty. ‘Only You’ sees Sweet singing about God’s love and forgiveness. ‘I Am’ is more dirtier song and slower than its predecessors, and comes straight into Dio territory. Its more chugging than blistering, until we get to the solo of course. Sweet has a strong rasp than the usual soft vocals and is a different sound to normal. He is pushing his Stryper day job well to the side for ‘OSW’.
Michael Sweet wouldn’t be Sweet without a ballad (of sorts). I’m not a huge fan of the Stryper mushy ballads of old, and ‘Who Am I’ is more akin to ‘Whitesnake’s “Is This Love’ than ‘Honestly’. It’s a job well done. ‘Make Me Wanna’ gets straight to speed with yet another hook-laden chorus. ‘One Way Up’ is up far too quickly and sees ‘OSW’ just fly by. Its more straight up rock and roll than anything else on the album, and is a bar room belter that’s for sure.
As a bonus, Michael seems to have unearthed a gem in teenager Moriah Formica. She takes vocals on ‘Cant Take This Like’ and really proves to be a potential star in the making. Just stay away from X-Factor / The Voice type shows and you’ll do great!
The cover is unapologetically ‘Christ-like’. A ‘Crown of Thorns’, with right hand about to display the sign of the cross, it’s a striking image, even for an atheist like me. I won’t let religion get in the way of a good tune and a great singer, that’s for sure
So to sum up, its Stryper (ish), but ‘OSW’ sees Sweet go heavier than he has done before and it’s the right call for him. Its got metal infused songs, with ‘that’ voice, ramped up with pulsating drums/bass, and topped off with 80s ear blistering guitar solos. Dig out your denim vest, original 80s Dio /Maiden T-shirt, drainpipe bleached jeans (leg warmers are optional) buy the best rock wig you can buy, and head-bang away to an 80s inspired metal fest with Sweet’s modern twist and great production. Don’t think ‘Stryper are God lovin’ wimps’ you uneducated pussies; put your prejudice aside, and listen to some mighty fine rock songs. I have been good so far and haven’t sworn at all, so excuse me, as I have to say, its ‘bloody great!’
One Sided War
Can’t Take This Life
Who I Am
You Make Me Wanna
One Way Up
Can’t Take This Like (Bonus – feat. Moriah Formica)
Michael Sweet – Vocals
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar
Ethan Brosh – Guitar
Will Hunt – Drums
John O’Boyle – Bass