Song Spotlight: I Am, By Michael Sweet

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I can not say enough about the very talented Michael Sweet. The man can seemingly do it all. Over the last few years he has successfully lead Stryper while simultaneously working on his solo career. At 53 years old he seems to have found a new gear. He is a singer extraordinaire, a criminally underrated guitarist, a gifted songwriter and a solid record producer.

Michael Sweet has been a very vocal Christian for a long time. He would be the first to tell you that he is far from perfect and is no saint. But his beliefs have helped him to avoid many of pitfalls of the rock and roll lifestyle that have tripped up and even killed some in the metal scene. His lifestyle choices have helped to not just maintain his vocal abilities , but to refine them. In his early fifties he possesses a voice that would make singers half of age envious.

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The song I Am, from his most recent solo album One Sided War (2016), is a vocal tour de force. I have been a Stryper fan for over twenty years. What he has done vocally over the last several years with Stryper and as a solo artist continues to surprise and amaze me. The man is singing with so much passion and power. Currently far too many veteran hard rock and metal singers are struggling vocally. Michael Sweet is laying down some of the best vocals of his career. And he is still delivering the goods live.

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I Am features a stellar vocal from Michael Sweet. The song begins instrumentally with an 80’s metal style guitar riff. At the 0:29 mark when Sweet bellows “Oooohhhhhhhh!!!!!!”, as a listener you know that you are in for a treat. Musically the song shifts to a heavy, mid tempo guitar riff. Michael Sweet begins to deliver an absolute powerhouse vocal. As the chorus begins he triumphantly sings “I Ammmmmm!!!!!!! The beginning and the end!!!!!!” What an absolutely amazing vocal performance .

The backing band is phenomenal on this track. Playing along with Michael Sweet are Ethan Brosh on guitar, Will Hunt on drums and John O’Bolye on bass. During the guitar solo the tempo picks up and Ethan Brosh lays down a blistering guitar solo. He burns up the fretboard playing a melodic and bluesy shred filled solo. Prior to hearing this album I was unfamiliar with Ethan Brosh. He sure got my attention after hearing his fantastic playing on several songs on One Sided War.

As a big fan of Stryper it is exciting to see Michael Sweet explore heavy metal outside of the band. On his early solo albums he explored guitar driven pop, rock and hard rock. This may have disappointed some Stryper fans, but I feel that all of his solo albums are worth seeking out. Each album showcases different aspects of Michael Sweet’s abilities as a singer, songwriter and guitar player. My personal favorite is his album Truth, released in 2000. This diverse collection includes classic rock, hard rock, heavy metal and one of the best ballads of his career. It’s an album that I highly recommend.

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With One Sided War Michael Sweet, the solo artist, fully embraces heavy metal. I love the music that he has created with Stryper. As the band’s singer, co-guitarist and main songwriter his imprint is all over the band. Hearing him write metal in a different vein and record with different musicians is refreshing. Overall there is a distinction between these songs and his work with Stryper. Of the twelve songs on One Sided War, I Am is definitely my favorite and arguably the best song on the album.

Troy T.

Song Spotlight: Stryper’s Pride

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For the last month the song Pride, by Stryper, has been at the forefront of my mind. I can not get enough of this song. The song is featured on Stryper’s most recent album Fallen, which was released in late 2015. One could strongly argue that Fallen  is Stryper’s best album. It is by far the band’s heaviest album.

Pride showcases Stryper’s brand of melodic riff based metal. The track has a bit of an 80’s vibe, but the sound is throughly modern. On display is the nimble dual guitar work of Michael Sweet and Ox Fox, solid drumming from Robert Sweet and bassist Tim Gaines holding down the bottom end. Michael Sweet really shines here singing with so much passion and power.

Michael Sweet will turn 54 this year. He may not be able to hit all of the extreme high notes with ease anymore, but he can still sing his head off. His vocals on the song Pride, especially the chorus, are out of this world.

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Currently there are quite a few singers from the 1980’s metal scene struggling vocally, especially in concert settings. This is far from the case with Michael Sweet, as a song like Pride can attest. Somewhere in his mid forties Sweet found a new gear vocally. Over the last twelve years, starting with the Reborn album in 2005, he has recorded some of his absolute best vocals. It is amazing how powerful and aggressive his vocals have been, especially on the last two Stryper albums.

Pride is a song that features a band that is locked in. All four band members are playing for the song, leaving room for little licks, tricks and drum fills throughout. That solid foundation creates a launching pad for Michael Sweet to reach the stratosphere during the chorus when he screams “Priiiiiiiiiiiide!!!!”  Just when you think it can’t get any better he takes it to the next level vocally after the guitar solos. He really delivers some soaring vocals as he sustains the screams even longer during the final choruses.

As I said I really can not get enough of the song Pride at this time. I have had the Fallen album in constant rotation. But for now Pride is the track that I am really locked on to. Crank it up and play it loud!

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Troy T.

Merry Christmas 2016

Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve we cram so much celebration and goodwill into such a short period of time. When it’s all over it almost feels as if there is no more cheer  left, until the next holiday.   With all of the craziness of buying turkeys, eggnog and noise makers we sometimes lose sight of what’s really important.  I hope that we all can take some time and reflect on the things in life that are truly important.  Merry Christmas!  Just a reminder that He is the reason for the season.

Troy T.

Michael Sweet’s One Sided War

Stryper’s lead singer Michael Sweet will soon have a new solo album out called One Sided War.  A music video featuring a new song called Bizarre was released today.

Stryper is one of my favorite bands and I am a huge fan of Michael Sweet’s solo career.  Anyone following Michael Sweet’s musical activity over the last few years know how incredibly prolific he has been. Utilizing all of his God given talent he has recently appeared on several albums with Stryper, released a solo record and recorded an album with guitarist George Lynch.   It is a great time to be a Stryper and Michael Sweet fan!

Unlike many of his contemporaries from the 80’s metal scene Michael Sweet still looks incredibly healthy and he sounds great.  The man continues to be an incredibly gifted singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer.  Stryper’s last two records, No More Hell To Pay and Fallen, are arguably their best to date.   Michael Sweet’s One Sided War is slated for release on August 26 and I am greatly looking forward to it.

My Top Ten Favorite Metal Albums

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I’ve been a metalhead since 1984, so over the years I have heard quite a bit of metal.  Picking ten was hard, putting them in order would be near impossible.  So after much thought here are my top ten favorite heavy metal albums, in no particular order.

Candlemass – Nightfall:  Heavy riffs, amazing leads, great production and the vocals of the one of a kind Messiah Marcolin add up to an amazingly diverse doom metal masterpiece.

Metallica -Master Of Puppets:   Hands down the greatest thrash metal album of all time, one of the greatest metal albums of all time and perhaps THE metal album of the 80’s. 55 minutes of near perfection in metal.

KISS – Music From “The Elder”:   A concept album??? KISS?!?!?! Yep and it’s a good one. Deemed a failure by many, including the band, but one could argue that the band never sounded better.

Megadeth – Rust In Peace:  Megadeth’s best album and the second best thrash album of all time. The riffs and leads played by Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman are insane.  Mustaine never sounded better vocally. The perfect mix of aggression and melody.

Zero Hour – The Towers Of Avarice:  Four equal parts creating the ultimate prog/technical metal album. Erik Rosvold sounding like the offspring of Ronnie James Dio, Geoff Tate and Freddie Mercury. The Tipton twins, Jason and Troy, locked in on guitar and bass taking the listener on a roller coaster ride of riffs. Mike Guy laying down the rhythm to this insane musical journey. As if that were not enough, it’s also a concept album.

Shadow Gallery – Tyranny:  A concept album on par with the greats. Mixing the influences of Queensryche, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Kansas, Queen, Dream Theater and Yngwie Malmsteen into a unique blend of prog metal that unlike other bands in the genre is the perfect mix of prog and metal. There is plenty of space for keyboard and guitar solos. Like the great concept albums the story is quite an emotional journey.

Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime: Queensryche’s finest moment and one of the best concept albums in any genre.

Epica – Design Your Universe: My introduction to symphonic metal and the heavenly voice Of Simone Simons. A perfect mix of metal, thrash, death metal, progressive rock and classical music.

Sepultura – Beneath The Remains                                                                                  – Arise:

Two from the once mighty Sepultura. Sepultura did not invent thrash, but they sure perfected it.  With back to back albums they produced two classics of the genre. Led by one of the best voices and riffmeisters in thrash, Max Cavalera. The band also features two of the most overlooked musicians in metal, Igor Caverlera on drums and Andreas Kisser on lead guitar. Kissesr lays down some of the most melodic leads in thrash.

Honorable Mention: Albums that were close to making the top 10:
Extol – Burial
Stryper -In God We Trust
– Reborn
Overkill – The Years Of Decay
Extreme – III Sides To Every Story
Tourniquet – Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance

Rock And Roll Rebels

Stone-Wall-smallThe essense of rock and roll is rooted in rebellion and nonconformity.  Heavy metal takes this to even higher heights. In a genre that many believe to be filled with suicidal mother killing satanists one would think that nonconformity would in fact be the norm.  However, so many bands fall in line with the sterotypical conventions of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

But if there is one band that stands apart from so many of the others it has to be Stryper.   Stryper has primary spent their career singing about God, His love for mankind and salvation through His son Jesus Christ.  During their concerts it is not uncommon for the band to toss Bibles out into the audience.

The band’s lead singer, Michael Sweet, recently gave an interview and made the following statement, “I feel like we’re bigger rebels than most bands out there because of what we stand for.”   That comment was met with lots of dismissive replies on the internet.  Stryper’s a Christian band, how rebellious can they be?

Far to many bands are content to regurgitate the same old dark cliches in order to fit into the metal scene.  Stryper on the other hand, by their lyrical content, set themselves so far from the norms of the genre. A great example of a typical Styper lyric can be heard in the band’s song More Than A Man.  The song contains the following chorus, “God I will follow you because you died for me. Gave to me your life to set me free. Anyone who asks shall receive, Jesus in your heart, It’s time for you to start giving God all the glory.”  Not at all what one would expect from a heavy metal song.  I have to agree with Michael Sweet, Stryper are indeed rock and roll rebels.