Stryper frontman, Michael Sweet, released Ten – his tenth solo studio album, on 11 October.
Do yourself a favour and head over to Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives here and scroll his biography. So many releases, and with such consistency spanning a professional music making career of 35+ years. That is amazing!
I wonder what freedom he sought when he commented in a 2016 interview with The Aquarian Weekly about why he enjoyed making solo records: “it’s an opportunity to free myself up a little bit more… and try some things that Stryper may not be able to try.” In a recent interview with Mark of The Rockpit, Australia, Sweet said that each song on the new album was written with a different guitarist in mind. If you look at the track list, you’ll notice that “Better Part Of Me” features Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy (and technical death metal supergroup, Conquering Dystopia) for instance. The risk then might be that each new guitarist’s unique style would result in divergent contributions to the album. As a songwriter, Sweet was able to unify the differing creative impulses into a cohesive whole. I agree with him when he says that “they all work and flow perfectly well together”. You can read the full interview here.
There is also the song, “Ten” about the Ten Commandments that features Rich Ward of Fozzy, and Stuck Mojo. Sweet comments that Rich’s lead took the track to a new level. While Michael’s excellent tenor voice got him the nod from rockers Boston, it’s thrilling to hear him duet with Tod La Torre (Queensryche) on “Son Of Man”. The two singers truly complement one another and deliver blistering choruses that ring out His praise: “He’s the Son of Man / Coming back again”. Ten was produced at Sweet’s home studio in Plymouth, Massachusetts where he played an assortment of Washburn guitars into his signature Theta Pro DSP pedal using only the Randall “Thrasher” amp. Michael sculpted a classic heavy metal guitar tone that sits well with the other guitars, and evokes the sounds of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Dio. As a tiny treat, watch his guitar shop jam in Michael Sweet (Stryper) The making of “TEN” (Part 3) here.
Two of my favourites on the album are “Now or Never” (featuring Gus G of Firewind) and “Shine” (featuring Ethan Brosh). “Now or Never” starts with a fanfare, and I love how strident the guitar is. The rhythm guitar is supported by emotive pads, and when the chorus breaks, the track really opens up. The choir makes for a nice addition in the breakdown, and the guitar solo is especially tasty. The song is about salvation, Michael making an earnest plea to be shown the light.
I love the atmosphere that opens “Shine”, before it gets to business. It’s one of those songs for the open road with a positive affirmation: “There’s only one of you / Don’t let life run you through… All you have to do is shine”. In a behind-the-scenes video, Sweet comments that he’s been given a great privilege and freedom, to share a positive message with the world through his music. I needed a tonic over the course of the last few weeks, and found it in Michael Sweet’s Ten.
Ten scores 8/10.
Written by Karakul
Better Part Of Me (featuring Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy)
Lay It Down (featuring Marzi Montazeri)
Forget, Forgive (featuring Howie Simon)
Now Or Never (featuring Gus G of Firewind)
Ten (featuring Rich Ward of Fozzy)
Shine (featuring Ethan Brosh)
Let It Be Love
Never Alone (featuring Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake)
When Love Is Hated (featuring Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake)
Ricochet (featuring Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns)
With You Till The End (featuring Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa from Firstbourne
Son Of Man (featuring Todd La Torre of Queensryche and Andy James)
Michael Sweet – guitars and vocals
Danny Bernini – percussion
John O’Boyle – bass guitar
Will Hunt – drums
Paul McNamara – keyboards, organ, Moog, backing vocals
Charles Foley – backing vocals
Robbie Lablanc – backing vocals
*Information courtesy of Heavy Harmonies
“Unstryped” EP (1992)
“Michael Sweet” (1994)
“Truth” demo 1998)
“I’m Not Your Suicide” (2014) [review]
“One Side War” (2016) [review]
Record label: Rat Pak Records
Release Date: Oct. 11th 2019
Lyric video for ‘Son of Man’
Lyric video for ‘Shine’
Video for ‘Better Part of Me’