Michael Sweet was born on July 4, 1963. He is best known as the frontman for Stryper. That group has sold over ten million albums worldwide and are known for hits such as ‘To Hell With the Devil’, ‘In God We Trust’, and ‘Soldiers Under Command’. Their most recent studio album is 2013’s NO MORE HELL TO PAY. Michael Sweet is now back with a new solo album entitled I’M NOT YOUR SUICIDE (2014, Big3 Records). Of it, he says: “The title is about multiple subjects tied together, basically going out to anyone who’s been bullied or abused in any sense and serving as a rallying point for not letting someone or a group of people beat you down or take away your value...Musically and lyrically, this project is a soundtrack to rise above your circumstances”. Michael wrote ten of the thirteen tracks alone, and produced the album. Bill Edwards is executive producer.
The first song, ‘Taking on the World Tonight’, features Tony Harnell, the lead singer for the Norwegian hard rock band TNT. This heavy metal treat is a song of great determination: “I can’t sit back and watch my life go by/I’m just not that type, I won’t back down/Why would I walk when I was born to fly?/If I stop I’ll lose the winning round/I am a fighter, a survivor/I’ve beat the odds and I want more/I’m taking on the world tonight/I know it’s dark but there’s a light/It might be war, a bloody fight/I’m taking on the world tonight”. ‘All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)’is a melodic rock song that finds Michael strongly committed to a relationship: “The words we say are weapons of a mass destruction/I don’t want to join the war/Or see you hurting anymore/So apologetically, I am offering my plea.../I know you’ve heard it all before/I see you closing every door/So I’ll lay it on the line/I ain’t losing you this time/No I won’t give up on me and you/And I won’t let go over time/If it takes me till my dying breath/And that’s all that’s left for me to prove/No I won’t give up on me and you”.
‘The Cause’ is a pop/rock song with Stryper-like backing vocals. It reminds us there is more to life than what we see: “Oh, we have a soul, we have a heart/That we can show/We’re here for The Cause/Bigger than life/This one we know”. ‘This Time’ features the vocal stylings of Audio Adrenaline singer Kevin Max. It deals with the spiritual side of life as well: “This time/I won’t let it slip away, no/This time, oh my faith will lead the way.../When I rise up in the morning/Faith will lead the way”.
The title track and lead single ‘I’m Not Your Suicide’ is up next. It is a pop/rock song written by Blair Daly and Michael Sweet. Almost half of abused children consider suicide. This song is delivered from the perspective of one who has been bullied and/or abused, and is decidedly pro-life: “I was sanctified, I used to feel justified/Only to be crucified by you, by you/My life has just begun/I’m standing in the shining sun/I’m not gonna run and hide, lay down and die/No, I’m not your suicide/The stones you throw might bruise my bones, my skin/Reap what you sow, the truth will show in the end/I won’t break under pressure/I wouldn’t give you that pleasure”. ‘Coming Home’ is an adult contemporary song with strong country music influence. It reflects on life as a travelling musician: “I want to tell you sweet girl/I count the minutes, the hours/And the days I’m not with you-but then there’s/Coming home and thinking bout tomorrow/When I’ll be holding you/And I’m coming home/A smile breaks the sorrow/Dark skies are turning blue”.
‘Miles Away’ finds Michael longing for intimacy with God: “This life’s taken the heart that once beat within me/I’ve said from the start that You’re gonna save me/But my doubt conceives/That You’re miles away/That You’re in another place and I’m lost without a trace/What I would do to know You/What I would give to run to You/I’m crumbling from deep within/These miles away”. ‘Strong’ is a rock ballad of great encouragement: “A storm can hit you with fury/And you know that it’s coming soon/What good does it do to worry/When in the end there’s a sky with a moon?/In the end there’s a summer with June/Cause you are strong in every way/Don’t say it’s over now, believe in every day/Your strength isn’t gone/Don’t say it’s over now/There’s hope beyond this play”.
‘How to Live’ features the talents of Stryper’s Timothy Gaines and Robert Sweet. It is a beautiful love song: “You’ve shown me how to live/Encouraged me to try/Inspired me to give/And reach beyond the sky.../I don’t want to be without you/I could never see my world without you/I believe God has a plan/That He holds in His hands/It’s not hard to understand/You’ve shown me how to live”. Next up is a decent cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’. It includes these iconic words: “I’ve been to Hollywood, I’ve been to Redwood/I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold/I’ve been in my mind, it’s such a fine line/That keeps me searching for a heart of gold/As I’m getting old/It keeps me searching for a heart of gold and I’m getting old”.
‘Anybody Else’ is a groove-laden rocker that includes the talents of Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and Fozzy frontman and professional wrestler Chris Jericho. The song seems addressed to Michael’s critics: “I’ve seen the middle, the ups and downs/I’ve been a targeted man/It’s been hot and colder than hell/And just for making a stand/I’ve learned to shake the dust from my clothes/As I get back on my feet/I’m here to tell you, nobody knows/Just how to fight like me”. ‘Unsuspecting’ begins and ends with signature Michael Sweet screams. This fast-paced heavy metal gem is a strong statement of faith in God: “You’re unsuspecting/So I’ll put my trust in You/You’re resurrecting/Every bit of good I failed to do/I hear Your voice and I am taken/To a land that’s built on mercy/You are the pinnacle of why/I once was blind/But now I can see/I never thought/That I’d be glorified and everything in between/But now I know/That I’ve been bought and I was washed beyond pristine”. Last up is a bonus track. It is a duet version of ‘Heart of Gold’ with Electra Mustaine, daughter of Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine. I prefer this version to Michael’s solo version earlier.
Michael shares: “I’m extremely thankful to have the greatest fans in the world. God has blessed me with this talent and I plan to continue on this path as long as I can draw breath”. There are a few songs on this CD that would fit nicely on a Stryper record with heavy electric guitars and strong vocals. That being said, Michael experiments with a variety of musical styles here and does them all quite well. The album sounds contemporary and relevant. This is a very well thought out, cohesive album, giving the listener glimpses into Michael’s relationships with both God, and his wife Lisa Champagne-Sweet. These songs are delivered with passion and are fun to listen to! I’m rating I’M NOT YOUR SUICIDE 90%. For more info visit: www.michaelsweet.com and www.big3records.com.