There’s been a lot of memes posted lately about how the movie Back to the Future II described things we’d find in 2015 now that we’ve turned that page, but Only to Rise by Sweet & Lynch is almost like taking a trip back in time. First of all, George Lynch (Lynch Mob , Dokken) and Michael Sweet (Stryper) on the same album? What? How? Better yet, why did it take so long?
As I was growing up, George Lynch was one of my favorite guitarists. Back in Christmas of 1986, I received my first Sony Discman cd player but no cd’s and the first one I listened to was Dokken. I still remember that like it was yesterday. In fact, I was only able to borrow that one cd from a buddy, so I listened to is a fair amount that vacation, marveling at the wonders of a cd compared to my cassettes. Unfortunately, for a host of reasons, I never really did appreciate Stryper when they were at their peak and a bit younger (around the same time), but after getting a chance to review …. and seeing them live, I can say that I am now a fan, so with that in mind, Sweet & Lynch, which also includes past members from bands like Whitesnake, White Lion, and Megadeth has on paper a lineup with great potential. Everyone knows about Sweet and Lynch, but for this project they recruited a rhythm section with plenty of experience. James Lomenzo on bass has been with the likes of Megadeth, White Lion, and Black Label Society, and Brian Tichy on drums lists Whitesnake on his resume. Perhaps most importantly, when you look at their past bands, you can see how they’ve both been involved with other legendary names in 80’s style metal/hard rock in terms of vocalists and guitarists, so this project likely seemed like old times.
From the very opening guitar of “The Wish” and into the verse section, there is no escaping the 80’s metal coming out. The song has everything you remember from the era, the soaring vocals even in the verse sections, the ever-present thumping bass driving the song, the harmonies in the backing vocals, the cool opening guitar and one of the more extended and blistering solos on the album. Great song to open the album.
“Dying Rose” has a grittier feel to than other songs on the album and an abundance of guitar fills that give the song the feel of those all-star projects that we all loved so much. You know the ones, combine your favorite guitar players into a band and have them make an ep or something similar where they can take turns showing off. Something like Brian May’s Starfleet Project where he brought on Eddie Van Halen and those two took turns tearing up solos. This song is closer to my overall hopes for the album as it has that feel that all restraints were off and they were trying to showcase the bands talents as much as possible.
“Recover” and “Divine” both feature some dirty, groovy riffs that really drive the songs along, but they manage to stand apart from each other rather significantly with “Recover” being faster and showcasing Michael Sweet’s range, while “Divine” is slower with more of the spotlight on the guitars.
As listeners should expect, there are some metal ballads on the album, with “Love Stays” being the first to show up. Once again the guitar of George Lynch adds a lot to this song in small touches throughout and culminating in a rather bluesy solo that shows a good bit of maturity and restraint like one would expect from a guitarist of his caliber and experience.
Straying a bit from the influences on the other songs, “Strength in Numbers” features keyboard and guitars trading off for the main riff in the song, giving the song an overall feel of Rainbow from the Street of Dreams era in that regard, right down to the solo, which being a Rainbow fan I dearly love. In the end, this song actually veers a bit toward power metal, and as such stands a bit apart from the rest.
The guitar and scream in the beginning of “September” had me fooled initially as I first thought it was going to be a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”, but the song settled into a different groove more in line with the rest of the album. Interestingly, the opening riff that is so Maiden-esque, makes it appearance several other times throughout the song.
Very simply, if you like or liked metal in the 80’s, there is a lot you will like on Only to Rise. Michael Sweet’s vocals are as strong and clear as ever and he still has great range. George Lynch can certainly craft some great solos and fills. When you normally listen to punk, hardcore, and death/black/symphonic metal like I find myself, you forget how cool all the little touches like the fills can be. In general, there are some cool riffs on the album, but from a guitar standpoint, it’s the fills and solos that really catch your attention. First time I was listening to the album, it was mostly playing in the background, while I was taking care of some other things, but seemingly every time a solo came up, my attention was caught. Something about that tone and phrasing and how well they fit the songs really made them stand out for me. One thing I would have liked with this album would have been to have it feel a bit less scripted. The performances are definitely strong, but it almost seems like everyone was using a bit too much restraint; however, in that respect the sound is very much how I remember metal in the 80’s. Regardless, this is one of those albums that will have good crossover appeal – heavy enough to appeal to the metal fans, especially those who lived through the 80’s, but accessible enough for the casual metal/hard rock listener. Michael Sweet was quoted as saying this is “an incredible combination of classic 70’s and 80’s…you will hear some flavors of Journey, Bad Company, Dokken, Van Halen, and Stryper, “and I would completely agree.
Written by John Jackson
01. The Wish
02. Dying Rose
03. Love Stays
04. Time Will Tell
05. Rescue Me
06. Me Without You
10. Strength In Numbers
12. Only To Rise
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals
George Lynch – Guitars
James Lomenzo – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums
Record Label: Frontiers Records, Jan. 2015
Video below ‘The Wish’
Video below ‘September’