One Sided War
(Rat Pak Records)
The careers of some musicians, it would seem, never truly die; they simply roll with the proverbial changes, re-defining and, in some cases, actually improving themselves as they inevitably age. Although the abuse of such an undeniably clichéd descriptive may indeed seem contrived at best, it remains entirely appropriate when discussing the legendary Stryper vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet. Having already survived a veritable plethora of often tumultuous label turmoil and line-up changes (most notably the dissolution of Enigma Records, the departure and eventual return of bassist Tim Gaines and the curiously-maligned Against The Law era) that would have assuredly destroyed a lesser-dedicated individual, Sweet now finds himself basking amid a well-deserved critical and commercial renaissance. Accordingly, when presented with the forthcoming release of his latest--and quite possibly greatest--solo excursions One Sided War, we were only more than happy to re-indulge.
On the stellar One Sided War (2016), an expertly assembled twelve song collection of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling “Bizarre” and the maddeningly infectious, shred-laden “Can't Take This Life”, instantly commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most jaded and unimaginative of listeners, myself most definitely included. Attempting--or so it would seem--to improve upon the woefully-underrated gem I'm Not Your Suicide (2014), Sweet effortlessly unleashes a genre-(re)-defining amalgam of soaring, multi-octave vocals, razor-sharp fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Wasting little--if any--time driving home each key focal point, the vocalist effectively solidifies an undeniably well-deserved reputation as a bona fide creative and commercial force not to be ignored without resorting to the shameless, payola and chart position-driven tactics employed by the crème de la crème of the 'mainstream' elite.
Continuing with the delightfully over-the-top “Golden Age” and the shimmering, thought-provoking lament “Who Am I”, the steadfast--to say the very least--combination of Stryper vocalist and guitarist Michael Sweet, guitarists Joel Hoekstra (Night Ranger, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Whitesnake) and Ethan Brosh, bassist John O'Boyle and drummer Will Hunt (Black Label Society, Dark New Day, Skrape) steamrolls ahead with what can only be described as a sickening ease. Flexing his more-than-considerable creative muscles, Sweet reminds all parties involved of his well-documented unabashed lyrical and compositional tendencies. Despite being almost entirely entrenched amid the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing insanity that defined much of his Gold and multi-Platinum-encrusted distant past, the initial excursions are intertwined throughout with a refreshingly forthright aura of 'hopefulness' that make them quite obviously worthy of the highest of critical and commercial accolades.
Produced, Recorded and Mixed at the acclaimed Northampton, Massachusetts-based SpiritHouse Recording Studios (Big Box Builder, Lux Deluxe, Warf River Club), other standouts, including the self-explanatory “You Make Me Wanna” and the equally impressive closer “Can't Take This Life”--a duet with sixteen-year-old “Bang Bang” vocal phenom Moriah Formica--further fortify the multi-octave vocalist's heaviest, and as a result, most thoroughly satisfying, solo effort to date. Most definitely not for the faint of heart or, for that matter, anyone without a genuine and sincere appreciation for all things Stryper and/or Stryper-related, One Sided War is the Michael Sweet solo 'album' Stryper fans haven been waiting for. Distancing himself creatively and stylistically from his few would-be contemporaries (as he has on the previously mentioned I'm Not Your Suicide as well as Him and Truth), the end results of Sweet's more-than-considerable 'exercises' are nothing short of extraordinary.
But what can you really expect? Even more of the dulcet tonalities you almost assuredly know and love. With the majority--if not all--of the decidedly ear-pleasing compositions contained herein seemingly guaranteed to appease the improbably long-running vocalist's oft-rabid fan base, the mighty One Sided War serves as a much-welcomed addition to his undeniably impressive lineage. Even if you somehow find yourself unable to separate Sweet from his 'yellow and black', spandex-clad origin, one must, at the very east, sincerely admire his ceaseless dedication to honing his uniquely razor-sharp chops. Love him or loathe him, this is quite possibly as good as it gets. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a thought-provoking alternative to the painfully contrived, Pop and Hip Hop-fueled frivolities that are so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Select Michael Sweet Discography
One Sided War (2016) **
Fallen (2015) *
I'm Not Your Suicide (2014) **
Live At The Whisky (2014) *
No More Hell To Pay (2013) *
Second Coming (2013) *
The Covering (2011) *
Murder By Pride (2009) *
Touched (2007) **
The Roxx Regime Demos (2007) *
Extended Versions (2006) *
Him (2006) **
Reborn (2005) *
7 Weeks In America 2003 (2004) *
7: The Best Of Stryper (2003) *
Truth (2000) **
Real (1995) **
Michael Sweet (1994) **
Unstryped (EP) (1992) **
Can't Stop The Rock (1991) *
Against The Law (1990) *
In God We Trust (1988) *
To Hell With The Devil (1986) *
Soldiers Under Command (1985) *
The Yellow And Black Attack (1984) *
* as a member of Stryper
** as a solo artist
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