Sunbomb is a new Frontiers alliance between L.A.Guns Tracii Guns, and Stryper’s Michael Sweet. The project was leaked March 19 by Guns and described the project as “the metal record I would have made when I was 17 years old.” Also when appearing on Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk that ‘the Sunbomb record is really kind of like (L.A. Guns 2019 album) ‘The Devil You Know’ times three”
I follow Mr Sweet on Twitter and he’s a ‘non’ friend on FB. he is always engaging and honest about his work and considered the recent Stryper albums as some of their best work if not the best, and I am somewhat in agreement. Although I think some Stryper fans could lose their shit over a title like ‘Evil and Devine’, when some fans have criticised the recent Stryper album ‘God Damn Evil’. Some people are idiots, but that’s religion (and idiots) in a microcosm. I think that this Sunbomb album is somewhere near to what I think the next Stryper album will be like as Sweet has stated he loves the heavier side of their output
Anyway titles aside, I think Sweet is a perfect foil for Guns. His vocals still kick ass and proves to be a belting choice for ‘EaD’. By ‘eck, it is an inspired choice. Sunbomb have Bill and Tedited it back to the roots of metal and NWOBHM and raided the likes of Iommi’s discarded riff drawer, and Rob Halfords tightest pants as Sweet sings higher on this one album than he has done over his last half a dozen albums
‘Evil and Divine’, is trying to be classic metal, and that in itself is great. Its ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’, homage to 70s and 80s metal from the birth of Metal in the Sabbath doom sounding ‘Take Me Away’, and all the way to 80s Priest/Maiden with the galloping ‘No Tomorrows’. ‘Life’ sets out their stall in the first 30 seconds and the threat level remains at ‘heavy’ for most of the album. There’s some Divine songs on offer here with the likes of the title track, ‘They Fought’ and ‘Better End’, and an Evil one in ‘Been Said And Done’ as it is a bit of a downer compared to the higher energy of the rest. All in all its a decent album, that will be picked up by fans of the two guys, but I doubt it will pick up a bunch of new fans.
Personally I like Sweets heavier vocals, but whoever produced and mixed the album needs a swift kick in the nuts. I’m going with the drummer as the drum mix is quite prominent to the point where I can hear Sweet, but cannot always work out his phrasing and is somewhat subdued when you consider the effort the guy is putting in, the vocals should be crystal clear and are far from it. On a scale of Frontiers speed dial projects, from Resurrection Kings to Revolution Saints, it sits somewhere in the middle. It could have been so much better
At least it gives me some hope for the next Stryper album being a metal nugget
Tracii Guns – Guitars Michael Sweet – Vocals Adam Hamilton – Drums Mitch Davis – Bass Johnny Martin – Bass on ‘We Fought’
Tracklisting- Life Take Me Away Better End No Tomorrows Born To Win Evil And Devine Been Said And DoneStronger Than Before Story Of The Blind World Gone Wrong They Fought
My Top albums of 2020. Considering the year its been, all bands deserve a massive pat on the back for getting their music out there!
Hi there dear reader, how’s it going? It’s been a bit of a shit year, well since March anyway. Covid, lockdown, mutated covid, more lockdown. Thankfully the new vaccinations will be rolled out before the mutated virus takes hold and we will be back to some form of normalcy, whatever the fuck that’s supped to be like? I just hope that gigs are a part of it because a musicians life is pretty fucked, not only because of Covid, but Brexit could put paid to overseas acts wanting to play the UK, especially as it look like no deal has been done for the performing arts, and its likely that any touring artistes to the UK will have to fork out a shit load of money before they set foot in Blighty. They will pay tax on all merch they bring in, even if they don’t sell much, and will no doubt require visas, jumping through hoops and whatever else the UK government throws at them. Only the most dedicated and higher profile bands might prevail. I just hope it doesn’t kill off the industry once and for all. We all need to support bands moving forward, through album and merch sales directly via the bands so that they see the money, and go and support live music like its never been supported before, like our lives depend on it. Even going to support bands we haven’t wanted to before because they and every band need the support. What I missed in gigs in 2020 I made up through album purchases, and I think waiting for albums to arrive at my door kept me from a downward spiral. I haven’t written much because I found it difficult, so I apologise to all the PR people who sent me stuff, I struggled to get my arse into gear and I promise you a lot more in 2021.
If you brought out an album in 2020, well done. In the most trying of circumstances, you still did it. Far be it me to slag off an album, because you fucking rocked this year in getting your music out there. Well done guys.
All the albums below are purchases made in 2020.
Enough of my opinion, let’s get down to what counts the most. Music.
15. Jim Kirkpatrick – Ballad of a Prodigal Son
We all know Jim can sing, because FM have some of the best harmonies in the business, but the man’s got soul and blues in his voice! He even ropes in fellow villager Steve Overland so you know its in a good place. It’s for fans of Bad Company. Talking of BC, check out ‘Ain’t Goin’ Down Alone’, its brilliant.
14. Room Experience – Another Time And Place
Solid work again from Firmo and the gang. They certainly like a power ballad and mix it up with some heavier numbers. Its this heavier numbers that whetted my appetite. Check out ‘A Thousand Lies’ and ‘Another Place and Time’
13. Perfect Plan – Time For A Miracle
Heavier than the debut, and its a cracking second album. They evoke bands like Foreigner, Giant and Bon Jovi and in Kent Hills they have one of the finest singers in the business. Check out ‘Nobody’s Fool’
12. The Spectre Beneath – The New Identity Of Sidney Stone
Sophomore album from these guys, who’s debut I loved last year. Paz has followed it up with some brutal riffs, and has unearthed a gem in Lockser. The killer track for me is ‘The Premature Burial’.
11. FM – Synchronized
Probably the second best album of FM Part 2 which started back in 2010 with Metropolis. FM are in a golden period, and are one of the finest British rock acts of this or any other generation. It saw a slightly different approach and showed that they are not resting on their Laurels. In ‘Change for the Better’ and ‘Pray’ the future of FM is there for all to see.
10. Pain Of Salvation – Panther
These guys never do anything by halves and live up to the meaning of ‘progressive’. Its not their most accessible, but after a few listens you truly appreciate the magnitude of the songs on offer. Highlights are ‘Wait’ and the epic ‘Icon’ and magnificent ‘Icon’.
9. Deep Purple – Whoosh
Who would have though that two of the best albums of 2020 are by bands that were founded many, many decades ago! First up from the oldies is Purple with probably their best album since Perfect Strangers. Ian Gillan still sounds great, Morse is superb, and when you have Airey, Glover and the master (Paice) making up the band, they can play anything. Now in their SEVENTH decade, long may they continue. Check out ‘No Need To Shout’
8. Stryper – Even The Devil Believes
Since the last decade began Stryper have been on a metal journey, with every one of their albums being ‘more metal’ than the previous one and I for one am loving it. I just wonder what kind of band they would be had they taken this current path some forty odd years ago. They still remain a novelty band to some, but to me they are one of the finest metal bands on the planet. Thats metal, not Christian. Check out ‘For God and Rock ’n’ Roll’ and ‘Make Love Great Again’ and ‘This I Pray’
7. Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Think Queen crossed with Meatloaf, Jethro Tull, Tim Burton and the Brothers Grimm and you might have an idea of their music. Its all the brain child Simon Moskon, but they are one of the best 3 pieces this side of a DFS sale. ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘Bloodmoon’ are fantastic
6. H.E.A.T. – II
Heat have been good with Gronwall, bordering on great. They have tried to grab the audience kicking and screaming by the lapels to listen to their very infectious brand of music. They have had the tunes, the personality and the determination to succeed, but ut hasn’t quite happened. Gronwall recently bailed and original singer Lekremo is back in the fold. The next album needs to be a belter. Check out ‘One by One’ and ‘Rock Your Body’
5. Lionheart – The Reality Of Miracles
Another veteran band to make the list. Their last album was my fave of the year back in 2017. As soon as Lee Smalls sings ‘Rock and roll is gonna save ya!’ You know the stall is well and truly set out. Great harmonies, great songs. Only Vega in the melodic rock genre did it better this year. Check out the title track ‘The Reality of Miracles’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’
4. Larkin Poe – Self Made Man
I was introduced to these two gems by my son. They have been building their reputation in the UK with each album, and ‘SMM’ is no exception. Probably the best Blues outfit you haven’t heard yet! Check out ‘She’s A Self Made Man’ and ‘Back Down South’. Wonderful!
3. Vega – Grit Your Teeth
Vega went big with “GYT’ with a capital B.I.G! And it worked. Easily their best album to date. Huge anthems, harmonies to die for and Workman is in top form. These guys should be big by now and I don’t know why. Im hoping that 2021 will be their year. Check out ‘Blind’ and ‘Grit Your Teeth’
2. Ayreon – Transitus
Mr Lucassen never lets me down. He came back with a cast of old and new and ripped up the rule book for symphonic, bombastic storytelling. He even roped in the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker! Check out ‘Listen To My Story’ and ‘Talk Of The Town’. Deserves to be made into a Broadway show!
1. AC/DC – Power Up
I’ve never been a massive DC fan and have dipped in and out over the years, mainly because amongst all the truly great stuff, there has been some bog standard stuff along the way. I’ve got to the point in my life where a 65 year old in a school uniform just looks fucking freaky! A couple of years back I thought they would slip away gracefully especially after losing lynchpin Malcolm Young, and then seemed to kick Johnson into the Shady Acres Metal Singers Retirement Home. I had no desire to listen to an Axl fronted DC, so when the PR started appearing everywhere across the web, I was intrigued to see if they could still cut it without Malcolm Young, and boy did they deliver. Obviously there is nothing new here, but that’s AC/DC in a nutshell. But when they get it right, they are brilliant. Check out ‘Shot In The Dark’, ‘Demon Fire’ and ‘Realize’.
Back in the mid 80s a good friend of mine used to go to a good friend of his (who back then had a stellar record collection, and still does) to make me some mix tapes. It was his attempt to get me into what was basically hair metal. Ratt, Tesla, Loudness, TT Quick, Fifth Angel, Cinderella, Joshua, etc., etc., Its a long list of bands! It took me years to track down the albums of these bands for myself. I loved all the bands, and I particularly liked Stryper. The cassette tape introduced me to ‘Make Me Wanna Sing’, ‘Battle Hymn Of The Republic’, and ‘Loud And Clear’. I have been a fan ever since. Few bands to this day from that 80s period are making new music, even less are turning out good stuff. In fact I think Stryper are on a (rock that makes me) roll as their last 3 albums have been some of their heaviest, most consistent and dare I say it, some of their best. They would even make the hardiest of fans give up lent in favour of these three (now make the four!)
Its always been a hard sell to your peers that you like Stryper. I don’t know why. I’m not religious, though I would like to have faith. Is it because of the religion? The wardrobe? Or some of the ballads that graced MTV back in the day? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I’ve never been one to be taken in my a lyric. I do have a few, but this is where I probably sell myself short as I go for melody, riffs and how a song makes me feel rather than delving into the meaning. Whilst I don’t go for the faith aspect, I have however absorbed their music almost religiously. I’ve bought every album, I read Michael’s book (we both have a best way of having toilet roll presented), and that was a honest and open story. I saw them in Italy, something I never thought I would ever do, and sang the first three songs in a harmony with Rob Evans and Sweets wife (!) and have interviewed Michael and his dog a few years back.
Anyway, I am in the camp of Stryper maintaining the heaviness of the past few albums. I’m not against the ballads, but they were always on the sugar sweet side for me, too sugary. The recent 3 albums have kicked some serious balls, so I’m hoping for the trend to continue here with ‘Even The Devil Believes’. What can I say? Well, my hope and wish is well and truly granted. Like the four horsemen of the apocalypse Stryper come galloping over the horizon ready to conquer with a gut wrenching riff and banshee wail courtesy of Michael Sweet. As you would expect, harmonies are a thankful given, and there’s added welly from the prince of pound and the new bass groove in Perry Richardson. Its a sterling opening track and is 80s metal personified. ‘Make Love Great Again’ should be subliminally played across the US to combat the hate and division that seems rife, without getting too political. We all need some love in our lives, right? Sweet (M) has his feet firmly planted in the 80s as the guitar work is worthy of this period when bands like Stryper ruled the waves – both FM and UHF!
‘Let Him In’ is short and snappy and gets to the point, sharply with its simple but effective chorus. ‘Do Unto Others’ is the lightest song so far in, but even this rocks, and I particularly like the guitar solo. If you’re going to go big, then it should be on the track that the album bares its name, and ‘Even The Devil Believes’ almost gets there. The guitar tone ifrom Sweet and Fox s great and has some fab harmonies as you would expect, but I just wanted more, going for the jugular in length and scale. It’s still a good song, but I want them to deliver a ‘Heaven And Hell’ moment for me. ‘How To Fly’ dips its toes into the 70s for a section that is very ELO/The Beatles inspired and delivers in both its modern and past sound. ‘Divider’ is a cool song, and brings all the best parts of Stryper into one song. I know that’s every song, numbnuts, but very much so here. ‘This I Pray’ goes very Bon Jovi/Poison, with the stirring cowboy ballad. As Stryper ballads go, this one goes to eleven. Give me a song like this over the syrupy ones every day of the week. In fact, for ‘This I Pray’ Michael Sweet out-Jovi’s Bon Jovi!!
‘Invitation Only’ is bright, and ‘pop-py’ and its the chorus and harmonies that bring this up to what could have been a bit standard affair. ‘For God – Rock ’n’ Roll’ makes me want to dig out my spandex, foil covered cucumber, leg warmers and guy-liner as this would be welcome on any of their 80s output. It’s a little belter. In fact, I think it’s my favourite, and it should be an immediate addition to their live set. ‘Middle Finger Messiah’ is fast and frenetic and is I great title and a great song to finish off the album with.
With ‘Even The Devil Believes’ if this were the last album, then it would be some way to finish off as I/we can’t really expect our 80s heroes to be producing music some 35-40 years later. The fact that Stryper are, and are doing so at such a level, and absolutely kicking arse is a (new) testament to their being. If they do continue then I look forward to being in the front seat and preaching from the hilltop as to how great they are.
Michael Sweet cant hit the high notes as regular as he did in the 80s and that suits me. The voice has mellowed, it’s still one of the best in metal and he can pick his battle (hymn of the republic) when he goes high. When he does, it still makes me go all goosebumpy. He still remains one of my favourites. I’m a firm believer that a lot of the output from 80s bands hasn’t been as good as it was back in the day (thats nostalgia for you), but even the blind, and deaf can see/hear that Stryper are in the best period of their career.
After listening to this, I get it. Even The Devil Believes.
Review by Paul Chesworth.
SCORE – 8.5/10
Blood From Above
Make Love Great Again
Let Him In
Do Unto Others
Even The Devil Believes
How To Fly
This I Pray
For God – Rock ’n’ Roll
Middle Finger Messiah
Stryper are –
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals / Lead & Rhythm Guitar