Is there a harder working musician than Michael Sweet these days? Maybe there is, but I am hard-pressed to think of anybody that is. After all in a little less than three years he has recorded, or produced, or played on no less than seven albums. Being what I consider a quadruple threat, he is a great singer, guitar player, songwriter, and producer. His ability to put out dependable, great quality music is inspiring. He is responsible for writing about 98% of all the Stryper material, plus six additional solo albums besides this one. Where does his inspiration come from besides the Man upstairs, his fans. One of the more admirable things that Michael Sweet does is he is very active on social media and uses it to interact with his fans. Such an interaction was the antithesis of the return to the “classic” Stryper sound on No More Hell to Pay and the heavier sounding Fallen. That said the songs never feel forced or sound contrived. It is astonishing how much quality material this man has put out! He also surrounds himself with world class musicians. On this album, he has Evanescence drummer Will Hunt, bassist John O’Boyle, and guest appearances by guitarists Joel Hoekstra and Ethan Brosh. Seems odd to have guest guitarists on a guitarist’s solo album, but Michael did this to try to separate this album from sounding like another Stryper album.
His latest release from Rat Pak Records is a solo album entitled One Sided War, which is nothing short of awesome! It is metal, it is melodic, and it is consistent. Where One Sided War feels like a complete album, Michael Sweet‘s last solo offering, I’m Not Your Suicide, was a hodgepodge of styles ranging from rock to country to pop which made it hard to listen to. One Side War is quite the opposite, the opening track, “Bizarre”, sets the tone with an all out metal assault! This is one of those songs you only need to hear once to know it was great. It actually set me on a Stryper listening spree that lasted about three weeks. The title track is next, and more of a hard rock song with great melody. “Can’t Take This Life” is a great driving number with a Sabbath feel to it. “Radio” is a tongue and cheek look at the trend of rock artists who switch to country music in search of a hit. It is a hilarious look a the stereotypical “country boy”, however, for the record as a Nashvillian myself I do not own boots or a cowboy hat and have no scars on my knuckles. Next is the hard driving, pure metal song “Golden Age”. With its almost thrash style, Michael just blows me away with the power this song has. Ripping guitar solo as well. “Only You” is the next song and is, in my opinion, the catchiest song on the album. I constantly catch myself singing this song in my head long after I have stopped listening to the album. “I Am” just has a great riff and a great groove to it. You can’t help yourself from bobbing your head while listening to this song. “Who I Am” is the ballad on the album, and while the sentiment seems genuine and sincere it is not Michael‘s best ballad. The pace picks back up with what I call the sleeper song on the album, “You Make Me Wanna”. For a song so far back in the track listing, this song rocks! The album closes with the solid hard rock of “Comfort Zone” and the swagger of “One Way Up”. The last track is an additional recording of “Can’t Take This Life” with14-year-oldd Moriah Formica on vocals. I am not normally a big fan of re-recordings but I have to say that her voice adds an eeire quality to the song that Michael‘s voice does not.
There are no bad songs on this album, and if each song were worth a point I would give this album a 91/2 out of 10-its that good! Clearly one of my favorite albums of the year, and in my opinion, one of the very best of Michael Sweet‘s career. Put your money down for this one you will not be disappointed!