Stryper lead vocalist, guitarist and main song-writer Michael Sweet seems to be everywhere nowadays. If it’s not with Stryper, it’s him going solo or the Sweet & Lynch project. If that wasn’t enough here’s another one – vacation doesn’t seem to be his thing, really, always creative and going head first into something new. Gotta love that. If you thought that Sweet and George Lynch seemed like an odd couple, then brace yourself for this one. Michael Sweet and Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns). Never in a million years would I have thought that these guys would find each other but here they are. I mean, do they even come from the same planet?
That said, we all know that opposites attract and the dynamic between two dudes like Sweet and Guns just might make sparks fly. That I’m a huge fan of everything Michael Sweet isn’t a surprise for anyone who knows me or for followers of my site but when it comes to L.A. Guns, that’s another matter. I’m not gonna slag them off but let’s just say that except for the odd song here and there, L.A. Guns has never resonated with me at all – and that’s another reason why I find this project really exciting. How would an album between these two gentlemen turn out?
Judging by the opening track ”Life”, heaviness seems to the template for this record. Released as the album’s second single, it’s a hard, edgy and rough belter, very much a classic Heavy Metal number, riff-happy with a ballsy punch. It’s uptempo with a bit of a NWOBHM-vibe to it and as aggressive it might be, it still has some catchiness to it albeit not in a hit-friendly way. Great stuff. ”Take Me Away” is slower and gloomy, heavy as a rock, it sports some Black Sabbath influences with a doom kind of outlook. It bursts away in a faster tempo after a while without losing any of its Sabbath-y touches. Do I hear a slice Of Candlemass in here as well? Well, it’s a really strong song where Sweet gets to let out his inner metal-head for real.
The latest single released from the album, ”Better End” brings on some edgy metal-riffing but also comes across as a bit more modern in its structure in both sound and arrangements. It’s heavy, aggressive with a stone-hard rhythm – very headbang-friendly indeed. Even though it’s a fast-tracked number it still contains some doomy elements. It’s a bit too monotone in structure and it never really takes off. It’s an ok song but it fades pretty fast from my memory. Also a single, ”No Tomorrows” is a fast metal-belter, very much in-your-face which holds several influences. I hear modern day Stryper here, as well as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest with some Iron Maiden like guitar lines added. The held-back and soft-ish mid-break is much needed which isn’t something I can say of the eerie noises in the chorus which are quite distracting, to be honest. Still, it’s a damn good tune and Guns’ guitar-playing here is just terrific.
Still ballsy enough, ”Born To Win” takes a more Led Zeppelin-esque Classic Rock path which teams up with some classic 80’s Metal touches and there’s even snippets of Thrash Metal and Punk thrown into the mix. The tune is furious, short and concise and goes right for the throat right from go but unfortunately, it’s also quite forgettable even though it’s not bad per se. The title-track hits the ground running with a bunch of razor-sharp guitar-riffing, it’s edgy and raw with a kicking rhythm and a darker twist. It’s a hard and tough Heavy Metal cruncher, very upfront in your face while the chorus takes a slower and more direct outlook. Yeah, I dig this one.
The ballad ”Been Said And Done” is a breather that gives us some well-needed fresh air after the Metal meltdown of the last six tracks. It’s a darkening slow-burner, down-beat and pretty laid-back based on acoustic guitar but still carried by a solid beat. The song sports a brilliant, melancholic vocal-melody and a emotional guitar solo full of gorgeous melodies and the grand chorus brings on a hook which makes the whole thing simply irresistible. Great tune. The mid-paced ”Stronger Than Before” is both dark and heavy but also groovy and the mix of classic 80’s Metal, a sleazy nod towards Guns’ day job in L.A. Guns and 70’s Classic Rock riffage and rhythms makes for a big dynamic. There’s a not so little Sabbath influence here but the striking chorus really could be a modern day Stryper one. This is some good shit.
On a juicy groove, the straight forward and heavy ”Story Of The Blind” again tattles of Guns’ love for Sabbath. It holds a 70’s touch and a Hard Rock meets Metal outlook. There’s a pretty good refrain here which more or less saves this bagatelle of a song while the slow, heavy and gloomy doom-metal piece ”World Gone Wrong” even brings on a sinister and ominous Black Metal smelling riff. I wonder if Guns has been listening to Candlemass and Pentagram because it would explain a lot when it comes to this song. I’m not a huge Doom Metal fan but this tune really is the shit. The ending with the gritty and fast-tempo kicking ”They Fought” is a killer where early Maiden and Priest meets up in a splendid symbiosis. The vocal-melody could have been used for a Stryper record, very intense and direct and the sharp chorus brings this bouncy and stompy go-for-the-throat belter home. Very good.
This is a Heavy Metal record – aggressive, heavy, hard and menacing with shitloads of shit-hot riffing and rhythms here to hurt you. It’s actually quite surprising that Tracii Guns, who wrote the music here, would come up with such a mean and angry album – this record was intended as Guns solo record at first – and even though both Stryper and Michael Sweet’s solo stuff are heavy and aggressive Metal today, I have never heard him sing with this much aggression and fury ever. It does fit him, I must say and Guns is a great player who knows how come up with some stellar riffs. That being said, there are a few songs that don’t cut it all the way here and at times it feels like they have put more effort into making the album heavy as Hell and not enough effort in making all the songs memorable. It’s a good album but it’s a step or two from being a great one.