Michael Harrison Sweet was born on July 4, 1963 in Whittier, California. He is best known as lead singer and guitarist of pioneering Christian metal band Stryper. Their debut album was 1984’s THE YELLOW AND BLACK ATTACK, and their latest album is 2015’s FALLEN. Michael Sweet released his self-titled, full length solo debut in 1994. ONE SIDED WAR is his seventh full length solo effort. It hit #1 on the Top Christian Albums chart and on the Hard Rock Albums chart, and #4 on the Rock Albums chart. It hit #77 on the Billboard 200 and CCM Magazine gave it 5 stars. Musicians Michael uses here are: Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra, Evanescence drummer Will Hunt, Ethan Brosh (guitar), John O’Boyle (bass), Charles Foley (additional background vocals), and Paul McNamara (keys/moog). Sweet wrote ten of the twelve songs alone and he also produced the album. In a press release he says: “I’ve been doing this my entire life and although it’s been a tough road at times, I’ve never lost my faith or my passion for music”. ONE SIDED WAR was released on Rat Pak Records in 2016.
‘Bizarre’ is a blistering heavy metal track that urges Christians to wake from their spiritual slumber: “Take me back when we gave a damn/Strength of a lion, kind as a lamb/Society has weakened our wall/Integrity was once in us all/We have the heart and the soul of a king/If we only knew who we are/We could move mountains and do anything/But we just stand back from afar/Bizarre”. The heavy metal title track, ‘One Sided War’, is a call for a ceasefire between opposing sides: “I found forgiveness and washed my hands clean/But you keep on pushing if that’s what you need/I don’t wanna fight no more/I’ve made my peace/It’s your one sided war/I’m layin’ all my weapons down/But you drag it out/It’s your one sided war.../I won’t fight, fight no more/This is your one sided war”. Michael co-wrote the song with Blair Daly.
‘Can’t Take This Life’ keeps things rocking and comes from a place of confidence: “You’ll never understand/That I have power far beyond what your dark, evil mind can comprehend/Cause I’m rooted in the ground/My seeds have grown/I am a tree of strength with many branches/I am sound/You can take this moment, but you can’t take this life”. ‘Radio’ is a rock song that pokes fun at rockers who go or try to go country. It’s a parody: “I’m gonna find me a big truck and drink beer from a bottle/Buy a house down in Nashville/And some boots that I can model/I’ll get a five gallon black hat and a big belt buckle/A shotgun and gun rack/And some scars on my knuckles/I’m gonna write a country song/And it won’t be long ‘til I’m on the radio/And when it goes to number one/Gonna fake the fun like a clown in a rodeo”.
Musically ‘Golden Age’ is influenced by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. It’s essentially a rockin’ praise and worship number: “Like lightning and thunder He’ll part the sky/The wind and the waves He controls/He owns the power to live or die/He is the collector of souls/Creator/Word after word, page after page/Golden Age/With just one breath He’ll blow away/The lies and deceit formed below/He holds the earth and the milky way/In the palm of His hands/Don’t you know?” ‘Only You’ is a co-write with Bruce Wallace. It’s a melodic heavy metal song that declares God’s faithfulness: “You’re that place I can go to/You’re always there/When I wrestle my demons You always care/With every struggle right here You stay/You take my fears and wash them all away”.
‘I Am’ is aggressive musically and vocally. It finds God speaking: “I’m the great Creator/I’m the Warrior/The sunrise and sunset that you need/I’m the resolution/The answer to be/I’m the owner of your destiny/So, fear me!/I am the beginning and the end/The measurer of all things/Impossible to comprehend”. ‘Who Am I’ is a rock ballad that serves as a great love song: “Don’t you know you’re everything/That this simple man will ever need?/And when I look into your eyes/I can see my destiny/Who am I to take your love for granted?/Who am I to make you feel obscure?/Who am I?.../Baby, don’t give up on me/I can see the land and the shore in sight”.
Next up is a rock love song, ‘You Make Me Wanna’. Here are some of the sentiments: “No one makes me feel the way you do/No one makes my heart and soul come to/Baby, but you do/Been dreamin’ day in and out of you/I see your face in the light of June/You make me wanna feel/Yes, you make me wanna kneel, yeah/I want to live every life with you/Heaven and earth and any other too/You make me wanna love/Yes, you make me wanna love”. ‘Comfort Zone’ is another song of romantic devotion: “I’d fight a battle, take a bullet just for you/And I’d fall a million times from the heavens to be with you/You’re my peace, my hiding place/The place to rest my head/And every moment spent with you is like rising from the dead.../I’m not alone/You always take me to the comfort zone”.
‘One Way Up’ looks back at one’s past: “I remember walking the wrong side of the tracks as a kid/Always looking for trouble in everything that I did/And there was right and there was wrong/But I just didn’t care at all/’Til I climbed so high and soon I began to fall”. Last up is a cool rendition of Track #3 ‘Can’t Take This Life’, but this time it includes the terrific vocals of the young and talented Moriah Formica as well.
In the liner notes, Michael Sweet writes: “My goal is to always inspire and to direct people towards God’s love and salvation with the gift of music. I hope that in some small way you will be moved, touched, and energized when you hear this music. God bless you all and let’s rock!!!” Musically, this is the heaviest Michael Sweet solo album I have heard! Heavy metal and hard rock sounds combine here for a very lively, passion filled record. The musicianship is top notch. I really enjoy the electric guitar playing here. Michael’s strong vocals and screams are also in mighty fine condition. Lyrically, the two most common themes are who God is and who we are in Him, and romantic relationships. If you appreciate Stryper’s bold Christian lyrics, you will applaud this album. I am encouraged to see Michael Sweet is still so devout in his faith after all of these years of musical ministry. I’m rating ONE SIDED WAR 98%. For more info visit: www.michaelsweet.com and www.ratpakrecords.com.