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With Ten Michael Sweet has delivered his strongest solo record to date. Any fan of the heavier guitar sounds of both early and more recent Stryper, will find much to embrace, both musically and lyrically. Musically, this is scorching melodic metal/rock bliss with hook-infested rhythm leads and blistering solos (courtesy of the great guest list!) balanced with engaging vocal melodies and catchy chorus anthems. Will Hunt once again handles all the drumming and John O’Boyle the bass guitar. Once again Michael has selected a guest list of melodic metal stars to deliver the solos on just about every song. Jeff Loomis, Gus G, Joel Hoekstra and Tracii Guns top the list but there are great performances by Ethan Brosh, Rich Ward and Marzi Montazari. There is a nice mix of slow and fast rockers, but the emphasis on heavy grooves remains constant on most of the songs. Of course, a Michael Sweet solo record wouldn’t be complete without a ballad track, and “Let It Be Love” is unabashed in this regard. Michael deftly handles the solo on this light-hearted and uplifting song.

Lyrically, Michael balances honest introspection (“Better Part Of Me,” “Lay It Down,” and “Forget, Forgive”) with encouragement (“Never Alone”), exhortation (“Shine”) biting truth (“When Love Is Hated”) and even outright praise (“Ten”). The overall vibe is positive, great words of maturity and truth, without the negative cynicism that has showed up from time to time on records Sweet/Stryper past. [The lyric videos here a nice representation of the boldness of the content]

With the exception of “The Better Part of Me” and “Shine,” which sound (in a good way) as if they could have easily been lifted from Stryper’s Soldiers Under Command recording sessions, I like that Ten “feels” more like a solo effort. The somewhat retro 80’s guitar tones provide a nice alternative to the somewhat more contemporary, although equally brilliant, efforts of the past 3 Stryper releases. There are some stand-out tracks from my perspective. “Lay It Down” has a killer riff – love the guitars and groove on this one. “Shine” really shines. Great lyrics and I love that “buzz-saw” retro 1985 guitar. In contrast, “When Love Is Hated” represents everything great, both musically and lyrically, about where this artist is at in 2019. That Hoekstra solo shreds! Finally, the album closer “Son of Man” is a up-tempo, almost power metal-ish tune with plenty of grit. The duet/dueling vocals between Sweet and LaTorre are primo, so cool to hear the chorus chant “He’s the son of man/coming back again.” Great metal anthem and great way to close out an exceptionally great collection of songs.

Release Date: 10/11/2019

Track List:

1. The Better Part of Me (3:35)

2. Lay It Down (3:30)

3. Forget, Forgive (4:50)

4. Now Or Never (4:30)

5. Ten (4:25)

6. Shine (4:24)

7. Let It Be Love (4:58)

8. Never Alone (3:56)

9. When Love Is Hated (3:34)

10. Ricochet (3:42)

11. With You To The End (4:38)

12. Son Of Man (3:38)

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