Heaviness is next to godliness.
Michael Sweet, often referred to as the Dennis DeYoung of heavy metal, and front man of the iconic purveyors of Christian rock/metal Stryper has been quite busy of late. While his flagship project, of which he was also the chief songwriter, was a fairly prolific act during the 80s and has continued to put out albums consistently since their reformation in the mid-2000s, he has also maintained a high degree of output as a solo artist and has even made time in more recent years to form a hard rock project under the Frontiers Records moniker with former Dokken guitarist and shred icon George Lynch and put out 2 albums in about as many years. While the latter aforementioned project’s future may be a bit uncertain due to the constant touring demands of Lynch’s other projects, it’s pretty clear that Sweet is blazing ahead at full speed, chasing an impressive 2018 studio outing with Stryper in “God Damn Evil” with his tenth solo album, simply dubbed “Ten” just before the close of the decade.
In similar fashion to Sweet’s 2016 studio album and this one’s immediate predecessor “One Sided War”, this collection of songs leans towards the heavier side of Michael’s past, drawing about as much inspiration from the likes of Accept, Judas Priest and Dio as it does the usual assortment of 80s rock and LA sleaze that paralleled the old days of Stryper. Part of this owes to a rather auspicious number of guest guitar slots from the likes of Jeff Loomis, Gus G and Rich Ward that bring a bit more of an aggression factor to Sweet’s admittedly already biting riff work, but overall the body of this album is where things are truly established and the songwriting equals the technical wizardry provided by the session players. Indeed, slow-paced fair like “Now Or Never” and “With You Till The End” have sort of an epic, late 80s Black Sabbath character to them that could almost be mistaken for something out of Magnus Karlsson’s catalog if a symphonic keyboard gloss was thrown on top.
There are very few moments to be found on here where Sweet finds himself leaning back into the softer rocking days of yesteryear, and when it does occur, it is handled with a degree of finesse that contrasts massively with the easy-listening fair of the mid-90s. Punchy groove machines like “Lay It Down” and “Ten” have a bit more in common with the handiwork of Tony Iommi and Herman Frank than the sort of Brian May-infused prettiness implied in the earlier works of Sweet’s solo career, while high octane cruisers such as “Better Part Of Me” showcase a simplified version of what Jake E. Lee took to Ozzy’s mid-80s albums and closing crusher “Son Of Man” has all the raging fury of Judas Priest circa “Defenders Of The Faith”. To add further brilliance to an already astounding finishing song, the vocal talents of Queensryche’s current front man Todd La Torre are employed in a duet capacity with Sweet’s, bringing a bit of “The Needle Lies” to go along with the obvious “Freewheel Burning” character of the song.
Though the relationship that both Stryper and its ever-active front man may have occasional bouts of controversy given both the lyrical and, to a lesser extent, the musical proclivities that come along for the ride, the metallic credentials of both are without question and on full display here. While some fans of Stryper and, by extension, the older and more traditionally bound end of the heavy metal spectrum may not have taken to the soft AOR demeanor of Michael Sweet’s earlier solo offerings, this album is something that all of said parties can easily sink their teeth into without fear of any looming cavities. Shred enthusiasts and anyone else looking for music that does a bit more than simply follow the traditional rock radio format will find a fine offering here as well, though naturally one that’s a bit more compact and easy to follow than the likes of Iron Maiden. Whether you’re a God-fearing believer or just in the market for some good, hard-hitting heavy metal with a melody, “Ten” delivers twelve fine additions to everyone’s playlist.
Released by: Rat Pak Records / Frontiers Music SRL
Released Date: October 11th, 2019
Genre: Heavy Metal
1. Better Part Of Me (featuring Jeff Loomis of Arch Enemy)
2. Lay It Down (featuring Marzi Montazeri)
3. Forget, Forgive (featuring Howie Simon)
4. Now Or Never (featuring Gus G of Firewind)
5. Ten (featuring Rich Ward of Fozzy)
6. Shine (featuring Ethan Brosh)
7. Let It Be Love
8. Never Alone (featuring Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake)
9. When Love Is Hated (featuring Joel Hoekstra of Whitesnake)
10. Ricochet (featuring Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns)
11. With You Till The End (featuring Mike Kerr and Ian Raposa from FIRSTBOURNE) – Bonus Track
12. Son Of Man (featuring Todd La Torre of QUEENSRŸCHE and Andy James) – Bonus Track
When away from his duties with the longstanding flagship outfit of Christian heavy metal known as Stryper, metal’s Dennis DeYoung takes time to inject some metallic fury into his solo work with a few auspicious collaborators in tow