It has been a whirlwind six months for Michael Sweet. First, STRYPER put out one of the best records of their career in No More Hell to Pay which has been widely praised by fans and critics alike. While basking in the afterglow of such an achievement, singer/guitarist Michael Sweet has decided to give us a double shot, with his autobiography Honestly and new solo album I’m Not Your Suicide (Big3 Records). Both are available now, so let’s focus on the record here, with a book review to follow shortly. Featuring a bevy of hard-rockin’ guests, you can tell Sweet put a lot of time and effort into this one.
The album kicks off with “Taking On the World Tonight” and a guest appearance by TNT’S Tony Harnell. It’s a solid, up-tempo opener, and I’d like to say it sets the tone but that’s simply not true because this is not a record made solely of rockers, no sir. Sweet takes some chances here, which I really enjoyed. Case in point, “This Time” featuring dc Talk’s Kevin Max, which blends pop sensibilities and a sing-along hook. Another example is “Coming Home” which isn’t afraid to go for a swim in the country rock waters, something Sweet and I talked about in our interview last Thanksgiving. And I would gladly put this tune up against most of the pop-country dreck littering the airwaves right now.
One of my favorites from the outset was “Strong” with its mix of acoustic and electric guitars and positive message. The most STRYPER-sounding song has to be “Unsuspecting” a pedal-to-the-metal heavy son-of-a-gun that would be at home on any of the group’s previous work. Hey, the guy’s a rocker at heart, so naturally there’d be some badass guitar-driven stuff, right? Another one that jumped out at me was “All That’s Left (For Me to Prove)” with its big, big sound. Actually, Sweet’s production on the album is once-again top-notch, with the same crispness found on No More Hell to Pay. The guy’s really got an ear, most notably when it comes to the rhythm section’s mix. As soon as you put this in the car, the thump thump will come bouncing out of your speakers, trust me.
There’s a real emotional feel to both “The Cause” and “I’m Not Your Suicide”, and I pray that through his partnership with Childhelp (the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect) the message in the latter reaches children, teens, and their families everywhere. I was also very proud to see teen singing phenom and friend Gabbie Rae take part in the video. She’s an amazing kid, really. Sweet’s bandmates Tim Gaines, and his brother Robert help out on the album’s lone ballad “How to Live”, starting simple with just piano and then slowly building little by little, the vocals floating effortlessly over the music. Dave Mustaine’s daughter Electra duets with Michael on a cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”, and Chris Jericho and six-string God Doug Aldrich get the joint jumpin’ with “Anybody Else”.
“Miles Away” isn’t exactly experimental, but it’s somewhat out of the ordinary while still managing to pack a punch. All told I’m Not Your Suicide is nothing if not musically diverse; there’s something for all types of fans here. And Michael Sweet shows once again that he has a voice that fits any type of music. Well done!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Strong”, “Unsuspecting”, “I’m Not Your Suicide”, “All That’s Left (For Me to Prove”), “Coming Home”