Michael Sweet – One Sided War
Look at the man on the right. Does he look like a bad ass metal God? Or does he look like some douchey guy who’d play rhythm guitar for the Eagles?
Either way, Michael Sweet’s been a part of my life since I picked up Stryper’s To Hell With The Devil on cassette back in 2002. The first and final word on nonsecular mainstream metal, they were frenetic thrashers at their earlier best and sterile hairspray losers at their absolute worse.
After reuniting the band’s classic line-up for over a decade, Stryper released Fallen last year, their heaviest and probably best album yet. Michael Sweet touted the band’s new sound in countless interviews, talking about his love for classic metal bands and how happy the band was to be recording in a harder style.
But I didn’t expect Sweet’s newest solo album to be ten times more amazing. His previous entries didn’t stray too far from melodic hair. Things remain extremely poppy on acceptable tracks like “Radio” and the one absolute abomination, “One Way Up”, but the rest rips hard. “Bizarre” and “Golden Age” are heavier than anything off Fallen, and the slower rockers like “Comfort Zone” and “I Am” are totally solid.
In all honesty, the album peaks at it’s slowest point, the epic “Who Am I”. Burning slow at eighty beats per minute, the opening verse’s bleeding chords and chorus’s soaring lead are a delicious and sincere aside among all the metal riffage. After finishing the album, I replayed it three times just to really grasp what was going on.
Overall though, I’d say most of One Sided War doesn’t take long to sink in. While some of the robust vocal melodies are recycled from previous Stryper releases, the riffs and performances are powerful and fun. Many metalheads will never embrace the glossy production, but at the end of the day, when all is screamed and thrashed, consistent songwriting and bombastic power are all any true metal fan, and thus Michael Sweet fan, really wants.
Decades and albums later, Hammers of Misfortune still sound like they’re trying to nail a sound down. It sounded like they were on the brink of a stylistic breakthrough with their previous album, 2011’s wacky prog-metal/folk/whatever 17th Street. Every track had a unique sound that still lent itself to a cohesive style, an approach that Dead Revolution drops without any fanfare.
While the organs and crazy harmony antics are still there, they’re buried under a much more traditional classic metal facade. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing at all: “The Velvet Inquisition”, “Dead Revolution”, and “Flying Alone” are all great tracks. Fast, infused almost purely with a NWOBHM focus on tight speed, melody, and rhythm, newcomers to the band will instantly fall in love.
But honestly, old fans SHOULD be disappointed. While partially a return to the more conventional metal styling of some earlier releases, it’s a cheap ploy for metalhead appeal. 17th Street had a lot of bad songs, but they were all over the place: it was a cool and weird combination of Iron Maiden, Queen, Pink Floyd, and everything in between. Even the longer tracks like “The Precipice” and “Here Comes The Sky” stick very close to traditional metal. Now almost purely Maiden style, the band probably uncovered that’s it’s just easier to make straight ahead metal not suck and sacrificed their sprawling sound out of pure laziness.
As if to make up for how awesome and not progressive the first six tracks are, the last track is a ridiculous rendition of the folk song “Days of ’49”. It’s slow, stupid, and Bob Dylan’s version sucked too.
Last track excluded, go listen to Dead Revolution and enjoy the tasty riffs and great harmonies. I’m going to go sit in a corner and whine about how too many bands are defaulting on NWOBHM stylings and not even trying to come up with anything new.
I woke up this morning desiring two things: listening to the Dwarves Blood Guts and Pussy and finally trying out Crystal Pepsi. Unfortunately, I live in a town largely untouched by crass commercial enterprises. There’s more strange foreign export sodas here than you’ll ever know, with Polish strawberry junk and different types of Vimto being my primary sustenance.
Without Crystal Pepsi, I decided to eschew the Dwarves and find some new music to crap about on Blah Blah Music dot com™.A little too rockin’ to be Oi! punk and too hardcore to be filed safely under pop-punk, Chemical X is everything I love about punk: fast, hooky, and occasionally telling me to suck its dick. The opener “Cry Baby” embodies this approach, and they even a throw in a cool meedly-meedly solo just to be more awesome. While I’m not sure why they’re concerned with people banning rock ‘n’ roll in the mid-2010s, the sentiments all there baby.
This heightened energy and songcraft returns later on tracks like “Religious Control” and “Freaks Unite”, yet there’s a lot more generic stuff in between. “Are You Stupid?” has been written and performed eight million times done better by other bands. Playing hardcore back in high school, I already know how it goes: you write the guitar riffs first and the vocal melodies are a total afterthought. An approach as old as Ozzy on “Iron Man”, the vocalist apes the power chord’s pitch the entire time.
But still, who gives a shit? It’s all inconsequential when the actual result is an awesome blur of chords and gang vocals. I’d play a show with them.
After decades of suckitude, the Misfits are finally going to reunite with original singer Danzig. Still, the bastard ’90s Misfits, whose only surviving original member is bassist Jerry Only, capitalized on this announcement by releasing the Friday the 13th EP in June. I didn’t even realize it came out; there seems to have been no promotion for the release. Still, after their mostly garbage track record over the past twenty plus years, it’s more than likely that everyone’s given up on the ’90s Misfits.
So imagine how stupid you feel when it doesn’t suck at all. Or maybe you’ll consider how stupid Jerry Only’s posse is. Couldn’t they have released music like this the entire time? Why bother with all the metal posturing and barely written songs when this betters 99% of today’s punk?
The title track opens with a garbage intro that drags on way too long before it bursts into pitch perfect horror punk. With an infectious chorus that’s as dumb as it is memorable (“BEWAAAAAARE / BEWAAAAARE / FRIDAAAAAAY THE THIRRRRTEEEENTH”), it’s like Jerry Only recently discovered how to write a hook. “Nightmare on Elm Street” is even better, repeating the song’s title over and over while adding in woo-oos to great effect. I’m not sure what film “Laser Eye” is referencing, but it’s easily the best song here based solely on catchy melodies. Things take a nasty turn with “Mad Monster Party”, layering the cheese thick with its ’50s rock schtick. It’s not awful, but it quickly reminds you that this is indeed not the original Misfits.
And you’re left with that idea planted in your head: rather than playing like he’s the one and only Misfits, Jerry Only is happy sounding like a Misfits rip-off band. All things considered, it’s a very, very competent Misfits rip-off band, one that finally understands how to please its audience. Let’s just hope Jerry doesn’t forget this for another twenty-one years and that the metal Misfits sound is finally dead.