One of my favorite people in all of Heavy Metal is the one and only Michael Sweet, singer and guitarist for STRYPER, SWEET & LYNCH, as well as his solo stuff. The guy’s been making music for headbangers as long as I can remember, over 30 years now. And the results are usually pretty spectacular. Well, his latest solo disc is no exception. Ten (out now, Rat Pak Records) is the follow up to 2016’s One Sided War, an album that showed Sweet really flexing his muscles and bringing on the heavy. And guess what? This one picks up the mantle and runs with it. With different guest stars on every track the results are incredible, to be honest.
Right away we get “Better Part of Me” featuring Jeff Loomis of ARCH ENEMY. This tune takes off like a rocket headed for space and never lets up for an instant. This is followed by Marzi Montazeri’s guitar work on the nasty “Lay It Down,” a song that’s got a stick-in-your-head hook to go with its fearsome riffage. Gus G of FIREWIND lends his considerable talents to “Now or Never” while FOZZY’S Rich Ward shows up with some dirty licks that complement Sweet’s hard-edged vocals on title track “Ten.” Meanwhile “Shine” is easily one of the album’s best numbers, and that’s largely because of Sweet’s phenomenal vocals and Ethan Brosh’s off-the-charts-playing. They’re both so friggin’ good it’s ridiculous!!
We get a little change of pace with “Let it Be Love,” a gorgeous ballad that reminds us just how multi-faceted a songwriter Sweet is. And I’ll bet it would also sound great on an acoustic guitar. Now let’s talk about the double shot of songs with none other than Joel Hoekstra, another shredder and Modern Day Guitar God, shall we? “Never Alone” is the stuff that could be used for a boxer or MMA fighter’s entrance music, as well as a motivational tune on your gym playlist. The hook is a total throwback to the good old days in the best way possible. Next up is “When Love Is Hated”, a masterclass in how to write a big, anthemic chorus. By the way the solos on both tracks absolutely rip!
“Ricochet” has L.A. GUNS’ own Tracii Guns wreaking havoc with some killer riffage and a Big As Life chorus that will definitely stick with you long after the record is done. Howie Simon comes to rock with “Forget Forgive” and Sweet sings like a man possessed. For “With You Till the End” he teams up with Mike Kerr and Ian Reposa from Canadian band FIRSTBOURNE, a group I knew nothing about before this recording, but you best believe I’ll be investigating further. Closing us out is “Son of man” featuring vocal GOD Todd La Torre from metal masters QUEENSRŸCHE!! He and Sweet trade lines vocally over a heavy as balls, fast-paced track that is fantastic!!
All in all, Michael Sweet has given us an album that not only meets expectations, it smashes them out of the park like a home run into the San Francisco Giants’ McCovey Cove. Usual suspects Will Hunt (drums) and Michael O’Boyle (bass) take care of business all day long, as expected. Ten is excellent from start to finish, there is not one single bad tune to be found, and if you’re not hitting REPEAT when it’s over then you should seek help, and fast! By the way, I interviewed Michael again recently, so stay tuned for that one. But seriously guys, go buy Ten. It’s out now on Rat Pak Records, and you owe it to yourselves to plug in and rock out to it. Make no mistake, this record was put into Maestro’s Top Albums of 2019 list with a quickness!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM