Michael Sweet - Ten

Michael Sweet Ten cover
Michael Sweet
RatPak Records / Frontiers Music srl
Michael Sweet is surely a busy man, managing to record and tour with Stryper, doing collab albums with George Lynch and also releasing solo albums, at a rate that almost makes you question if by any chance he’s a vampire, because when does this guy sleep?!
All joking aside, “Ten” is the tenth solo release by the Stryper singer/guitarist and if you’ve been following his solo releases, it follows the trend of the last few into getting things towards the heavier of the spectrum for the most part. It also features a bucket-load of guests, from Gus G, to Todd LaTorre and many more...
“Better Part of Me” is a bizarre and heavy tune, with a busy and biting riff and a pretty interesting guitar solo courtesy of Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore) that antagonizes Sweet’s style, without becoming incompatible. The beautiful thing is that Sweet manages to make this song sound like a modernized version of his own material from previous solos and the big chorus, the song features makes it almost apocalyptic in proportions.
Texan Marzi Montazeri has performed with Phil Anselmo is Superjoint Ritual and the Illegals, but most recently he’s been with Exhorder. His contributions for “Lay It Down” make it a much heavier, thicker affair, than you’d normally expect from a Sweet song.
“Forget, Forgive” features one Howie Simon, who’s known as JSS’s guitar sidekick on most his solo material, and occasional collaborator of others; the song itself feels rhythmically, like a heavier version of “Foxy Lady” with a bunch of shit going on in the fore and the back… I can’t exactly say that I was exactly enamored with it.
Gus G. (Firewind, ex-Ozzy), is guesting on “Now or Never”, a much heavier tune, which is borderline epic, due to its hard hitting riffing. It’s pretty classic metal, that’s got some hard prog rock roots that show through in the bridge/chorus. Quite dramatic and not bad and the solo is a pleasure to listen to.
Rich Ward of Fozzy is the guest on “Ten”, a really heavy and ominous sounding tune, with Sweet even borderline distorting the vocals, into a rather swampy – for Sweet – sounding song. The chorus is not exactly going to earn him an award, but... so be it.
“Shine” features Ethan Brosh, who’s actually collaborated with Sweet before providing the guitars for “One Sided War”. Their synergy is evident and the song is fairly neat, overall, without warning some special accolade... other than maybe a mention of its nice inventive solo.
“Let It Be Love” is a simpler acoustic tune, a ballad that Sweet makes light work of and it allows for a breather after all the relatively heavy material that precede it with a nice solo.
“Never Alone” and “When Love is Hated” both feature Joel Hoekstra currently of Whitesnake, who slots nicely to the overall style and the differently “heavy” tracks the first more in tune with traditional metal, while the latter more flashy and American 80s styled with a pomp AOR sort of chorus that’s delivered a little harsher than those are.
“Ricochet” is one of the better songs on the album, with tons of character and some nice guitar provided by Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns… the chorus might be simple, but it’s hugely effective…
“With You Till The End”, features Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa from Firstbourne, is offered as a bonus track and is more typical of Christian rock/metal, without being a bad example, other than the fact that the vocal styles, at least with the bluesier tone that Sweet currently flaunts don’t match perfectly. Still it’s a fair, if not great example.
Also billed as a bonus track featuring Todd La Torre (Queensrÿche) and Andy James (SMT) is “Son of Man”, which is a crushing tune, with some insanely cool interplay between the two vocalists, who seem to be complementing each other pretty awesomely, making it probably the best song of the album and probably a Stryper worthy tune.
All in all, there are a number of good tunes here… actually hardly a filler, but in many cases the diverse styles of the guests tend to hue the songs too much, making the flow of the album a little problematic; while the songs are good, they don’t exactly flow as an album making this sound more like a compilation of different songs, almost all of them sung exclusively by Sweet. Fans of Stryper and of flashy guitar players will probably enjoy this diverse, if not a little inconsistent, solo outing of Michael Sweet, for all intends and purposes. I know I did.