Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Sweet & Lynch - Unified
   
Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock Produced By: Michael Sweet
Record Label: Frontiers Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website:
Tracks: 11 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 50:22

Sweet & Lynch - Unified

Unified, the fall of 2017 Frontiers Music sophomore release of Sweet & Lynch, is the same basic idea as the supergroups January of 2015 debut Only To Rise (also Frontiers) it supplants but with marked differences.  Whereas Only To Rise draws mostly upon a basis of arena rock, AOR and melodic hard rock, Unified is all of that but so much more in also reflecting nuances as diverse as classic rock, blues-rock, straightforward hard rock and even progressive rock.  In other words, Only To Rise leaves impression as an eighties rock album (by no means a bad thing noting our 90% review), but Unified, in contrast, leaves you thinking of both the eighties AND seventies (and presents as the more diverse work in the process).  Further separating the two albums is the rawer and more bare bones and in your face feel to production, which contrasts with the wider doses of polish and sleek refinement intrinsic to Only To Rise.  Accept this, of course, as a neutral observation as opposed to critique either way in light of how production works for the unique qualities inherent of both albums.    

Those already familiar with Only To Rise know that the Sweet & Lynch namesake refers to vocalist and guitarist Michael SWEET (Stryper) and guitarist George LYNCH (ex Dokken, Lynch Mob), whom came together when Serafino Perugino at Frontiers developed a vision to create a ‘supergroup’.  Not unlike Only To Rise, Unified finds the two again sharing songwriting duties - Lynch composing the base song ideas and Sweet coming up with melodies and lyrics - while Sweet handles production.  Further rounding out the project and lending to said ‘supergroup’ theme in the process is the return of bassist James Lomenzo (Megadeth, White Lion) and drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake).    

Initial temptation, obviously, is to compare Sweet & Lynch to Stryper and Dokken, but that might not be entirely accurate in that Unified, in similar fashion as Only To Rise, is not a metal album.  The point being that it would be a misnomer to suggest that Sweet & Lynch is Stryper meets Dokken.  Rather, Unified, again mirroring Only To Rise, boils down to a collaboration between Michael Sweet and George Lynch in reflecting the singular skills and abilities the two bring to the table.  That said, my experience with repeat listen (to both albums) has been despite any dissimilarities to the bands in which Michael Sweet and George Lynch are better known, fans of either group should find a lot to like in Sweet & Lynch all the same. 

Those exclusive skills and abilities manifest on opening Unified cut “Promised Land”, which represents by far the fastest and most assertive piece to grace either Sweet & Lynch album.  Starting to a signature falsetto from Sweet, the song maintains an emphatic tempo its length as Tichy provides the low-end backbone and Lynch the absolute riff basis not to mention soloing of an assured nature.  No, this one is not metal but it rocks hard all the same.

“Walk”, of which the group recorded a video, represents albums showcase track.  The song reveals the newfound Sweet & Lynch 70’s influences, as found in prodigious touches of bottom heavy groove (Lomenzo is at the top of his game here) and harmony vocals that lend an operatic Queen like feel.  Tempo slows for the meaningful ‘walk with the wise and be wise’ refrain which points towards classic arena rock.  Prime Queen or Styx could not have done it any better.

I hesitate to use the term ‘progressive’ to describe Sweet & Lynch, but “Afterlife” touches upon the genre with its unexpected variances.  The song opens its first minute instrumentally in reflecting a dark resonance but picks up impetus at once to a groove like rhythm in which funk flavored bass makes a definitive statement.  Chorus, on the other hand, provides another tempo change in decelerating to symphonic (and very catchy) choir vocals.  Yes, quite a few twists and turns for a five-minute, but it works as one of my albums favorite tracks.

I respect “Make Your Mark” as another top of the line piece.  The song starts to a drum solo soon joined by organ, with some of the albums heavier rhythm guitars lending to the fray as things reach the forward as it gets verses.  Organ returns for the aggressively driven anthem like chorus that ensues.  Instrumentally, another fiery guitar solo attributes to Lynch. 

Album slows to a near crawl for “Tried & True”, a relaxed and laid-back seventies rocker in which distant guitars (for the verses) and harmony vocals (adorning the refrain) play unmistakable roles.  Keyboards during the instrumental moments lend a flattering bluesy touch.  What I appreciate about the song is how it reflects the lighter side to Sweet & Lynch in providing further distance from any Stryper or Dokken comparisons.

“Unified” represents a joining of AOR and classy melodic hard rock.  Albums title track moves its catchy, mid-paced distance to crisp guitars (that really kick in places) and flattering keyboards (which touch upon a pop basis) while making an enticing commercial statement.  Once again, things could not be more different from Stryper or Dokken.

After opening to six near equal good cuts, albums takes a slight misstep on “Find Your Way”.  Now, by a ‘misstep’, I am not inferring the song to be filler, but rather I rate it a notch below the better Unified cuts.  Musically, “Find Your Way” trends straightforward and no frills hard rock territory in joining aspects of bottom heavy groove and gritty blues based touches.  Overall, a good but not necessarily great deep cut in my opinion. 

“Heart Of Fire”, on the other hand, stands alongside the albums best.  The song fades in to wave like guitars - do I detect a faint hint of U2? – only to maintain the tempered guitar flavorings for its warmly tinctured verses.  Impetus increases exponentially for the uplifted refrain that has inspiring written all over it.  Equally laudable is the ample bass underpinning the instrumental interlude.

“Bridge Of Broken Lies” revisits classic rock territory, particularly for its verses with their relaxed and even-tempered feel.  Where the song sets itself part, is from the manner in which guitars snarl into the mix for the refrain (quite catchy I might add) to make a heavier rocking statement.  Sweet, otherwise, remains at the top of his game in lending some heartfelt soul to his delivery, while Lynch matches with his bluesy soloing.

“Better Man” builds upon the melody to “Bridge Of Broken Lies” but revealed in the overall more somber flavorings.  Haunting emotion prevails as a result, as the song walks a fine line between classic rock and all out hard rock with its trending towards mid-paced low end and stark rhythm guitar driven.  One cannot help but appreciate the full on power at hand.

Unified closes in good fashion to straight on hard rocker “Live To Die”.  Similar to “Find Your Way”, this might not be the albums strongest, but it is by no means a throwaway either.  I acknowledge the crunch to the rhythm guitars and polished built-in to the harmony vocals, although keeping in mind the decisive hooks are not in place to challenge the best cuts here (in my opinion).

Unified is by no means a Christian album but any project to feature Michael Sweet is going to lyrically reflect his faith.  “Promised Land” makes this best known:

Don’t let the devil rob your soul
(You’ve got to know)
He’ll always try to take his toll
(on you)

Take my hand, the promised land
Is just where you want it to be
It’s all around, only to be found
Open your eyes and you’ll see
The promised land

“Walk” draws upon the Book of Proverbs (chapter 13 & verse 20 to be exact):

You’ve done everything
You took the blows, felt the sings
Time you spread your wings
And fly high above to be free

Walk with the wise and be wise
Run with a fool, never rise
Do what is right
Lead the race, take the prize
Walk with the wise to be wise

“Afterlife” points to where you build your foundation:

I can walk on the water
When its’ turned to solid ice
But when it gets hotter
I’m gonna sink like a heavy vice

You don’t’ owe me a thing
I owe You my own life
You gave me everything
On this earth & in the afterlife

“Live To Die” focuses on living life to the fullest:

We’re here to be defenders
Of the faith forevermore
Explorers who surrender
To the dreams of every shore

There are no limitations
If we conquer and believe
We’re beautiful creations
Who are crafted and conceived

When listened to side by side, I find Only To Rise the more consistent work (even if slightly), while Unified features many of the better songs to have come out of the two album Michael Sweet and George Lynch partnership.  Overall, the quality to the stronger Unified material is such that it is only a song or two away from album of the year territory.  I wish the two had stretched a little bit more and instead of “Live To Die” and “Find Your Way” (a pair of songs that while technically sound otherwise play it a bit too safe for my taste) had stepped outside the box and composed a seven to eight minute classic rock meets the progressive epic to close the album.  That said, if a fan of Only To Rise (or either artist in which the project draws its name) then I can see Unified being of strong interest, but (once again) do not expect Stryper meets Dokken in that Sweet & Lynch exudes its own personality and character all the same.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Promised Land” (4:14), “Walk” (5:38), “Afterlife” (5:06), “Make Your Mark” (4:07), “Tried & True” (4:15), “Unified” (4:28), “Find Your Way” (4:23), “Heart Of Fire” (4:16), “Bridge Of Broken Lies” (4:39), “Better Man” (5:03), “Live To Die” (4:16)

Musicians
Michael Sweet - Lead Vocals & Additional Guitars
George Lynch - Guitars
James Lomenzo - Bass
Brian Tichy - Drums

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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