Despite peaking in the Decade of Decadence, nearly three decades ago, George Lynch and Michael Sweet remain two of the busiest men the music business. The twosome has united for a new collaboration, Sweet and Lynch, which has definitely been on this rock and roll fan’s most awaited albums list of 2015.
George Lynch was a guitar god in the 1980s who immediately took the spotlight in one of the biggest bands of the decade – Dokken. His solos and playing were completely and totally unrivaled in the era, and following the disbandment of Dokken, he would pursue his own musical interests in his own band, Lynch Mob, and with many solo albums. In recent years he has been a part of the T&N project, as well as the supergroup KXM. Lynch released a new Lynch Mob record, Sun Red Sun, in late 2014.
Michael Sweet will forever be known as the frontman of Stryper, the legendary Christian heavy metal band that took the rock world by storm in the 1980s (the group also included his brother Robert). With their yellow and black attire and powerful messages in their music, they made a major impact on MTV back in the day. Sweet’s talents extend to the production end of things; he actually produced this album! In addition to his Stryper work, he has released a number of solo albums, and even performed live with Boston following the death of singer Brad Delp. Sweet recently released new albums with Stryper and as a solo artist.
The band is rounded out with Brian Tichy, a multi-talented drummer from bands like Whitesnake and SUN, and James LoMenzo, who played bass in groups like White Lion and Megadeth.
One thing I will be quick to say is, and this is something I never thought I would see in the world of rock and roll – the market has become oversaturated with so-called “supergroups” that put out inferior products. Almost needless to say, I was hoping this would not fall under that needlessly growing banner. Michael Sweet has been on a roll musically, with a new solo album, new studio and live releases from Stryper, and of course, his short stint singing live in concert with Boston. George Lynch, on the other hand, has had his share of ups and downs; with some of the more recent Lynch Mob records and KXM being modern-flavored disasters. This is an unusual pairing of the musical minds, to say the least, but one many fans have been optimistic for, this one included.
After having given the record a listen, how does it measure up? To put it in the simplest terms possible, Lynch and Sweet have come together and managed to craft their share of tunes that are commercially appealing and with a more modern sound about them, but at the same time do not betray their own sounds. The album feels more like a Michael Sweet solo album than a collaboration, but given Sweet’s more recent solo output that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Right from the opening track, this album pulls you in immediately. From heavy to melodic and everywhere in between, Sweet, Lynch, and their musical companions hold your attention, serving up quality rock and roll that is better than nearly everything on the radio today, yet would not be out of place on any of those stations, either. There is not a weak track in the batch; it will be curious to see how well this release stands the test of time, or if this pair will be collaborating again. The enormous talent on deck shines through throughout the record’s 48 minute duration.
The minor complaint I have with an otherwise solid record is that, once again, this feels more like a Michael Sweet solo album than a collaboration. The guitar work on this album is solid throughout, but, put in the simplest terms possible, George Lynch does not really get a chance to “be himself.” This fan hopes that if the collaboration puts out a second release, Lynch gets more of a chance to make himself known and leave his signature Mr. Scary sound on the finished product. That said, this is a very minor complaint in the grand scheme of things.
Only to Rise is a great record from Michael Sweet and George Lynch, and their backing musicians are amongst the best of their breed as well. New releases from old artists and supergroups/collaborations have been hit and miss lately, with so many of them opting for a generic, boring sound mimicking every modern/alternative flavored band out there, but Sweet and Lynch give fans a breath of fresh air in a sea of copycats and unoriginality. The vocal style on this record in unmistakable, and the album never feels boring or overlong. Very highly recommended.