Former Stryper frontman gone solo! When Michael Sweet first left Stryper to start his solo career, I was still very much a big Stryper fan (well actually I still am). In any case I bought his first solo album the day it was released and to my dismay, at the time I thought the album was pure cheese. I didn't hold onto the album for very long at all. Micheal seemed to be going for a Bryan Adams pop sound and totally abandoned the heavy metal that I had loved so much with Stryper. Well, in 2001 I had the opportunity to see Micheal Sweet and his band live at the Stryper Expo. I must say, my wife and I were both very impressed, not only with the show but with the quality of his new material. This is when I regained an interest in Mr. Sweet and filled in the holes in my collection.
Michael Sweet (Benson) 1994
I bought this album the day it came out as I was a huge Stryper fan. Unfortunately at the time, I was very disappointed. Micheal said in interviews that he was pursuing a new, more Bryan Adams-pop style, yet I suppose I was hoping for something a bit heavier. Well, now that some years have past I have grown to appreciate some of the material on this disc. Still of all Micheal Sweet's solo disc, this is my least favorite.
Michael Sweet - Real (Benson) 1995
1. "Color Blind"
When this album was released I didn't even give it the time of day, due to the fact that I was initially so disappointed with the first album. Fortunately, I was intrigued by the fact that Michael recorded a new version of Stryper's "Always There for You" and decide to check it out. To my surprise this is actually a fine, albeit a bit mellow, AOR disc. Much of the disc is flowing with acoustic guitars and Micheal's excellent, hook-laden vocal melodies. Even the cover of his own song, "Always There for You" was nicely done. The guitar solo being replaced by violins was a nice touch. Still I did not actually purchase a cd copy until after I saw Micheal perform with his band at the Stryper Expo in May 2001. He put on such a great show, I decided it was time to replace my crappy cassette copy with a cd copy.
Michael Sweet - Truth Demo (indie) 1998
1. "Truth" (4:48)
This is the first version of Truth that was released in 1998 by Michael before he had a label. Apparently the album sold over 10,000 units just through his web site and labels began to want a piece of the action. In any case this version of "Truth" is a bit more raw than the newer version, although I must admit that I like the new version a bit better. Still this disc is good listen as well and contains a few songs not on the 2001 cd ("One," and "Rain.") My favorite song on both versions is "Blue Bleeds Through" which is an odd choice because of the strange chorus. The chorus line is about as close to a yodel as you can get. Seriously. But one thing that Mr. Sweet can do is create strong musical and lyrical hooks. After hearing Mike in concert and hearing over 90 minutes worth of material, which included several Stryper cuts, I walked away humming this song. Next thing I know it, I'm humming the chorus...blueeeeee, bleeeeds, through. It's a very emotional tune with lots of dynamics and somewhat abstract lyrics that uses colors to describe emotions. Much of this album comes off as "alternative," a style of music I HATE! Strangely, however, it does not bother me much on this disc since there are so many hooks that it keeps the album from getting boring, as many alternative bands are to me. One other note about this disc is that for the first time Michael allows others to write some of the lyrics. I also want to add that despite the fact that I am a huge Stryper fan, I am not writing these things because of this. Anyone who reads my page knows I can be brutally honest. I am serious when I say that I think the two "TRUTH" cds are the best thing to come from Micheal since Stryper.
Michael Sweet-Unstryper (MSP) 1999
1. "Love You Crazy"
According to Michael Sweet's website this disc is dated 1992 and while the recordings may date back to then, this EP wasn't released until 1999. The five songs contained herein sound very much like Stryper material, something that MS has avoided since leaving the band. "Love You Crazy" is the heaviest song of the bunch sounding much like the material on "Against the Law." The rest of the material is on the lighter side sounding more like the pop stuff on "In God We Trust." There is little in the way of liner notes, although I had read somewhere that these songs were all demos Micheal was recording for the next Stryper record. Guest guitarist on tracks 1 and 2 is Tony Palacios (Guardian). I assume, since this CD was released independently by Micheal, that it will be out of print in the near future, if not already.
Michael Sweet -Truth (Restless) 2001
I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Micheal Sweet and his band live at the 2001 Stryper Expo. I was very impressed by both the show and the quality of Michael's new material. I decided to give his third solo disc a shot. To my surprise I really like this disc. The music is heavier and has more of an edge to it, although it still is nothing like Stryper. Rather what he did was to create an album of quality rock n roll with a late 90's edge and a ton of personality. The songs all have some serious hooks that keep me listening. I'm not sure that I would place this disc on the same level as "Soldiers" or "To Hell With the Devil" but certainly this solo disc is a good listen. Besides this, my wife who is not much of a metal fan also likes this disc, so it's a good compromise listen as we both enjoy it.
One a side note, this album was previously released by Michael in 1998 under the same title "Truth." This independent disc sold so well through Micheal's web site (10,000 units), that Restless Records decided to pick it up. Before doing so however, the label wanted all of the songs to be re-recorded. The label arranged for this new version to be co-produced by Bob Marlette, who has also worked with Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper and Sheryl Crow, among others. Alice Cooper even uses the same drummer on "DragonTown" that Micheal Sweet uses on "Truth." If you put the two CDs on after each other, and you can actually hear some similarities in the production. Most of the music was recorded in Boston, MA. The vocals and a guitar solo by Oz Fox (on "The Ever After") were recorded in Los Angeles, CA. So, the original "Truth" has completely different versions of some of these songs and also includes a few songs not on the "Restless" version. The first version is now commonly called the "Truth Demo" cd and is now (supposedly) out of print and out of circulation. (www.MichealSweet.com still seems to have copies for sale.)
It had actually been several years since Michael had released a solo disc. So what has he been doing? Well, he and his wife moved from L.A. to Massachusettes where Mike works as "Ranger Mike" at his father-in-law's campground. Apparently it took some coercing by some friends to convince Michael to record again. Also, with much Stryper hoopla over the last few years, rumors are once again spreading of a possible reunion. Apparently Mike is the only member who is holding out, although recent posts on Oz Fox's web site state he may be changing his mind. Time will tell.
1. Bizarre (3:29)
2. One Sided War (3:28)
3. Can't Take This Life (3:37)
4. Radio (4:02)
5. Golden Age (3:58)
6. Only You (4:09)
7. I Am (4:16)
8. Who Am I (4:55)
9. You Make Me Wanna (3:51)
10. Comfort Zone (3:10)
11. One Way Up (4:16)
12. Can’t Take This Life (3:37)
*bonus track* featuring Moriah Formica)
Micheal Sweet has been one busy bee over the past few years. Since 2013 he has released three studio albums with his band Stryper, each one as heavy as the next, as well as a live album. On top of this, he's released a solo record titled "I'm Not Your Suicide", (2013) a book titled "Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed" (2014) and a collaboration with George Lynch titled "Only to Rise" (2015). Incredibly he has also released this new solo album which is unlike any solo album he has released in the past. Whereas his other solo records were definite departures from Stryper, "One Sided War" is a heavy metal/hard rock record very much in the tradition of Stryper. In fact, some of this might even be heavier than Stryper. Sweet’s solo band for the album includes guitarists Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) and Ethan Brosh (Angels Of Babylon), bassist John O’Boyle and drummer Will Hunt (Evanescence). In an online interview Sweet likens some of the material to bands like Maiden, Dio and Van Halen. Certainly there is some seriously furious guitar licks present here. However, just like any Stryper album, this album is packed full of melody and hooks as well.
The album opens with an up-beat, powerhouse track titled "Bizarre". The song includes some fast and furious guitar solos and Sweet's instantly recognizable voice sounds as strong as ever. This song most certainly brings in the 70's Van Halen influences. The follow-up track takes down the intensity and speed in favor of more melody. One again, Sweet's voice is commanding, especially during the big, modern sounding chorus. "Radio" begins and ends with a bit of country twang, though the song itself seem to be mocking rock stars who suddenly feel the need to go country to gain a paycheck. "Who Am I" is a heartfelt ballad, something that Micheal has always excelled at. Perhaps one of the catchiest songs on the album is "Only You" with it's slow, heavy riff and big chorus. This song could very well be the Dio-influence that Sweet talked about.
"One-Sided War" is chock full of great songs, killer guitar work, Sweet's incredible vocal talents and even a production that is crisp but isn't overly slick. Micheal Sweet's seventh solo album is most certainly my favorite of the batch.