Two years after their debut album, 80’s metal icons George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) and Michael Sweet (Stryper) are back together as Sweet & Lynch and releasing Unified, the follow up to Only to Rise.
Sweet & Lynch released their debut album Only to Rise in 2015 to a good response from critics. As if a band with Michael Sweet and George Lynch isn’t enough their band also includes past members from bands like Whitesnake, White Lion, and Megadeth. 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.
Just like they did on Only to Rise, Sweet & Lynch open up the album with a track that has everything one would expect from the band. A lone guitar starts things out with a fast riff, to be joined by the rest of the band and a trademark high scream from Michael Sweet. Pounding drums, a blistering solo, great harmonies in the backing vocals, and some more trademark screams from Michael Sweet fill out the rest of the song. Production is great, as expected and overall the album has a bit more or a raw feeling to it than Only to Rise, but still is exceptionally clean and very well mixed, highlighting Sweet’s voice and George’s guitar.
To my ears though the album does have a few missteps, and the second track and first video “Walk” would be one of those. The song is much brighter in overall tone than most of the rest of the album and just doesn’t seem to work as well with these two particular artists. The song itself sounds like it could be a combination of Aerosmith and Black Crowes, two bands I don’t like, so maybe that’s my issue.
In contrast, the next track, “Afterlife” has a darker tone and feel to it, both of which fit really well with these artists, even if the song itself is a bit different than what one might expect from the artists as it too has a bit of jangly, funky feel to it at times. “Make Your Mark” has more of the power metal feel one would expect given the artists and shows they can still write those types of songs.
This is the point of the album where I started to wonder if I was going to make it through as the ballad “Tried & True” and the mid-tempo, brighter “Unified” both fall into the same grouping as “Walk” in songs I just can’t seem to enjoy. Later on, my enjoyment was disrupted again with “Heart of Fire” that really reminds me of Bon Jovi, another band not high on my list of favorite bands.
Fortunately, the band seems to have found its way back to its strengths after those songs. “Find Your Way” with its chunky riffs reminds me a bit of Ratt’s “Way Cool Junior”. Michael Sweet’s vocals throughout the album are exceptional and there are several points where you can hear the power that is still there as he carries a note much longer than one would expect. “Find Your Way” also has a great, dirty guitar solo to round things out. Just to prove that I’m not completely opposed to ballads, I do like “Bridge of Broken Lies”, likely because it has that darker feel to it, reminding me a bit of some of the Joe Lynn Turner-era ballads from Rainbow.
For my money, “Better Man” is the best track on the album. The dark, clean guitar opening reminds me a bit of “House of the Rising Sun” and after that when the song picks up, George Lynch brings in a great guitar riff that takes the song in a different direction. Sweet’s vocals are a bit lower during the verses and soar for the chorus providing a nice contrast and showcasing his abilities as a frontman. As much of the song is on the quieter side, the contributions of James Lomenzo on bass and Brian Tichy on drums really shine through as well. While the song itself features more clean guitar lines than others on the album, it does feature arguably the best full on guitar solo on the album. “Live to Die” closes out the album on another high note, revisiting the 80’s style metal but bringing it to a more modern sound
One of my issues with Only to Rise was that it felt a bit scripted, a bit too overproduced and perfect. Granted, this is the product of two legendary talents, but there seemed to be a lack of spontaneity and rawness that works so well with this genre of metal. This time around the band certainly too care of those issues, but seem to have gotten a bit too far from their strengths on some of the songs, to the point I wanted to skip ahead. Even with several songs falling into this category, the others on the album are strong enough to compensate for that and carry things forward. Fans of 80’s metal and these artists’ previous bands will find a lot here to like and because Sweet & Lynch took some chances, the album has a modern feel to it that will appeal to newer fans.
Written by John Jackson
“Unified” track listing:
01. Promised Land
04. Make Your Mark
05. Tried & True
07. Find Your Way
08. Heart Of Fire
09. Bridge Of Broken Lies
10. Better Man
11. Live To Die
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals
George Lynch – Guitars
James Lomenzo – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums
“Only To Rise” 2015 (review)
Record Label: Frontier Music, Nov. 2017
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Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
Video for ‘Walk’
Video (audio) for ‘Bridge Of Broken Lies’
Video for ‘Afterlife’
Video (audio) for ‘Promised Land’