In this day and age when your favorite bands takes some three, four, five etc. years in between albums, it feels good to be a Michael Sweet fan. More or less every year brings us fans something new from this highly creative singer/guitarist, be it with Stryper, his solo stuff or his latest project Sweet & Lynch that he started with Dokken / Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch. The brilliant rhythm section of bass player James Lomenzo (White Lion, Pride & Glory, Megadeth) and Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, SUN, The Dead Daisies, Pride & Glory, Geoff Tate) must not be forgotten either. With them, Sweet & Lynch feels more like a real band than just another project now, but more of that later so let’s not jump the gun here. He have also spoken of yet another project with guitarist Joel Hoeckstra (Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Trans-Sibrian Orchestra). I guess vacations aren’t Michael Sweet’s bag of crisps.
What’s also very impressive is that Sweet’s projects are always of very high quality. Stryper has never been as good as they are today and his solo records are also great. But the debut Sweet & Lynch album Only To Rise (2015) really took me by storm. It’s an album full of heavy, yet melodic hard rock tunes that in a perfect world should have sold itself silly – and it’s easily the best album Lynch has been involved in since the first Lynch Mob album. Ever since I heard that album for the first time I have wished for a sequel – and that this would be a real band. Well, the sequel is here – and my expectations reaches up beyond the clouds. Let’s see if the new record lives up to my expectations – and if this will turn into a proper band.
The guys open the album with a real jawbreaker called “Promised Land”, a fast and aggressive heavy metal hard rocker which comes across as the perfect mix between the heavier side of Dokken and Stryper. The song do has all the brilliant melodies in the world but you can rest assured it will kick your ass big time. It’s bang on target and a perfect album opener – and an awesome tune! Next up is “Walk” and no, this one has nada to do with the Pantera song of the same name. This one is a big, blues-rock based melodic hard rock track where Lynch’s riffs are markable for miles – and very much pivotal to the tune. It’s easy to recognize Sweet’s brilliant melodies as well and there’s also a Queen influence that rests over the tune. A phenomenal tune that, without being radio friendly at all, will be stuck in the brain for ages. The dark, heavy and slower paced “Afterlife” opens like the lost brother of Dokken’s “Unchain The Night” but soon breaks out of that. However, the spirit of Dokken / Lynch Mob lies all over this tune and with Sweet singing the living daylight out of the tune, it’s a clear winner – brilliant.
The three first songs really took my breath away which bodes very well for the rest of the album and “Make Your Mark” continues that route. It’s a straight-forward hard rock tune – kicking, punchy and rough – and to be honest, it’s a regular hard rocker, but with Lynch’s very personal style and Sweet’s fabulous voice and an absolutely striking melody, the song takes no prisoners. Another killer! “Tried And True” is the album’s first ballad and it is a powerful one. A classic hard rock ballad with a slight gospel-ish vibe and a feel of old 60’s balladry with shitloads of atmosphere, the tune hits me exactly where it should. The chorus is also very catchy and even though it’s not the archetype of a hit song, I’d release this as a single if I was a record company guy. Fantastic! The title track is more laid-back rock tune with a huge pop vibe and it actually borders to a ballad. The whole song just oozes of catchiness and it sounds very much Michael Sweet. It actually sounds like an unused tune for the duo’s debut album – very, very good!
“Find Your Way” comes in a mid tempo but also holds a stellar groove that swings and turns the right way. Lynch’s guitar sound is spot on and again, when his guitar style meets Sweet’s brilliant melodies makes this yet another Dokken meets Stryper tune, very riff happy and catchy with a melody that refuses to leave the brain and I have to surrender again. There’s a huge pop vein all throughout “Heart Of Fire” that brings this melodic rocker into AOR territory. Again, Sweet has (I reckon it’s him anyway) brought in a small gospel arr which marries fine with the AOR laden chorus and the hard rock base the song is built upon. A great song and a clear contender for a future single. The second – and last – ballad here is called “Bridge Of Broken Lies” and I can’t decide whether I’d call it a ballad or a slow, softer rock tune. No matter what, it comes with a sweeping groove, not a far cry from how Great White did it in the 80’s – or Dokken, for that matter. The basic rhythm is pretty heavy and steady and the very memorable chorus has a melody that is Michael Sweet all the way. Great stuff.
The somewhat darker and bluesier “Better Man” is a mid paced rocker that brings out some stellar Lynch riffs and a groovy vibe that lies somewhere between plain hard rock and melodic arena rock. The refrain catches on immediately but the tune feels more like an album track – a very good one – than a single. Closing track “Live To Die” is another highlight here. It sports a sound similar to Lynch Mob around Wicked Sensation where Lynch’s fabulous playing is all over the place and the groove is so infectious. The style here is heavy rock with a darker twist but with a very distinct and catchy chorus and a punchy beat – a brilliant closer that makes you wanna listen to the record all over again. And again. And…
The second album from these gentlemen is everything I had hoped for – and more even. Even though the songs on the last album were Sweet / Lynch writings, I think that it had more Michael Sweet than George Lynch over the sound but on this album, Lynch’s very personal guitar style that made us all love Dokken and Lynch Mob is more prominent and pivotal the sound of the album. But that doesn’t mean that Michael Sweet is held back by any means. Nope, Sweet’s brilliant melodies and vocal melodies are just as prominent and the song writing between the two brings this album home after first listen. The rhythm section of Lomenzo and Tichy is also top-notch which is no surprise at all. With this album in store, the feeling of this project as a proper band gets stronger and stronger and hopefully this album will do well enough for the guys to take this thing on the road. To see a gig with Sweet, Lynch, Lomenzo and Tichy next year would surely rock my world. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that, peeps!
More Sweet & Lynch reviews:
1. Promised Land
4. Make Your Mark
5. Tried And True
7. Find Your Way
8. Heart Of Fire
9. Bridge Of Broken Lies
10. Better Man
11. Live To Die