One of my (and I’m sure everyone reading this as well) biggest problems when it comes to ‘super groups’ or musical pairings is the expectations for this particular project to sound like the individual components more familiar work. This can be completely unfair to the performers who may be looking to stretch out or create music as far away from their comfort zone as possible. This thought process really obstructed my enjoyment and acceptance of the first Sweet & Lynch album, ONLY TO RISE. What I wanted was Michael Sweet sings Dokken… and I didn’t get that, because that isn’t what they were trying to do.
When I received a preview copy for the duo’s latest effort, UNIFIED I decided right away that I would judge it on the music and overall presentation, not the members pedigree. In case you didn’t knows Michael Sweet (vocals and guitar) is from Stryper and George Lynch (guitar) is from Dokken, Lynch Mob and the progressive KXM. Supporting the guys is an incredible rhythm section made up of bassist James LoMenzo (Megadeth and White Lion) and drummer Brian Tichy who has spent a little time with everyone cool… Billy Idol, Glenn Hughes and Vinnie Moore just to name a few.
Now for the music! UNIFIED kicks off with serious fury called Promised Land and gives the listener the signal that anything goes here. From style to style and song to song, UNIFIED has the things we love about the performers from Lynch’s explosive leads and heavy riffing to Sweet’s amazing vocals that color everything with emotion and heart. If you want traditional melodic rockers there is Heart On Fire and Find Your Way, two songs that deliver a sonic punch. But this album isn't just about the rock... there are some great moments in here where everyone gets a chance to shine. Walk is a song that at times sounds like classic Stryper, then shifts into almost a Queen like texture, especially in the chorus. The title track, Unified is another completely satisfying song that has a psychedelic feel to it with a sing along chorus and more perfect playing. My file contained an acoustic version of the song that I like slightly better than the regular one that will be part of the Japanese release.
As far as favorite moments I have been able to narrow it down to two of them. Tried & True is a track that really seems to be a bit out of everyone's comfort zone with its bluesy feel and the lower register that Sweet sings in, but this song really works. My favorite on the album is the in your face Better Man. Here we get macho posing, thumping bass and one of the best Lynch solo's ever. The song just oozes cool!
As a production, Michael Sweet does a fantastic job giving that extra jump to the songs, especially the drums. You don’t just hear Tichy’s kit… you feel it, every snare drum and every crash cymbal. Sweet may not be as known for his production skills but he should be.
For me, an album's cover is as important as the music inside and UNIFIED has a very timely message; the world being put together piece by piece. In a time when division and unrest are the order of the day, this cover gives me hope. it also has a bit of a nod (at least I think so) to Stryper's THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK.
Overall, UNIFIED is a complete listen that has something to offer everyone, young or old. The songs are well crafted, the performances are near perfect and the vibe created is pleasant and full of life. If you follow Sweet and Lynch's most recent releases; Stryper's FALLEN, Lynch Mob's THE BROTHERHOOD, Sweet's ONE SIDED WAR and KMX's SCATTERBRAIN... UNIFIED is another brilliant piece of their musical puzzle.
UNIFIED will be released by Frontiers Music Srl on November 10th on CD, digital downloads and special limited edition vinyl.
Listen for a FULL review on the next episode of 53:5 - The Official Stryper Podcast... coming soon at www.stryper.com
Make Your Mark
Tried & True
Find Your Way
Heart Of Fire
Bridge Of Broken Lies
Live To Die
The Power Chords Podcast is a twice-monthly podcast celebrating rock and metal music of the '70s, '80s, '90s and beyond. The show is co-hosted by Matt Herring and Brian LeTendre.