In the 80s, Stryper were an OK pop metal band with a gimmick, and an amazing singer. Dokken were a third tier hair metal band with a shredding guitar player. So, on paper, the pairing of Michael Sweet and George Lynch makes a lot of sense where, say, a pairing of Don Dokken and Oz Fox would not. This is, of course, their second album together and largely follows on from where the last one left off.
The sound here is really nothing like either of the bands these guys come from. The opening track starts off with a riff reminiscent of ‘Communication Breakdown’, and a high pitched scream brings in the vocals. The album starts off sounding like a classic rock/metal album, but soon changes direction.
From there the album takes all sorts of twists and turns. For every track like “Heart of Fire” (very commercial, almost like Lynch Mob), there’s a “Live to Die”, with it’s very modern sounding riff and vocals. For everyone “Better Man” (straight up pop metal with strong vocals, including a vocal breakdown), there’s a “Find Your Way” (which sounds for all the world like a left over Living Colour track, from the riffs and feel right through to the solo). If you like this album or not really depends on your expectations. If you hoped for something between the two 80s bands these names represent, that does happen, but more often than not, it’s other avenues being explored and other sounds created. In terms of sounding like the 80s, the stronger tracks include “Tried And True”, which is an emotional blues ballad that really pulls out the strongest in both the vocals and the guitar playing, “Bridge Of Broken Lies”, another ballad that almost sounds like it could have been recorded by Great White, and “Make Your Mark”, with a stop/start riff and big chorus that probably evoke the 80s more than anything else on this CD.
Songs like “Unified” and “Heart of Fire” sound particularly commercial, but the truth is, half of this album is quite commercial and half is not. As a result, it’s likely to be immediately satisfying and also reward repeat listens, but the end result doesn’t feel coherent as a result.
Song titles like “Promised Land”, “Afterlife”, “Find Your Way”, “Heart of Fire”, and “Live To Die” might leave people wondering if Michael has converted George and turned out another Christian rock album, but looking past the titles, there’s no evidence of that. In fact, overall, this is George’s album, the sounds of Stryper are largely absent from this album, and the best touchstone really is the breadth of George’s career, with all the styles he has experimented with. Not that they are all here, but it seems obvious that George wrote all the music and that the album walks through many of his influences, as opposed to sticking to one recognized sound. Ultimately, this is a strong album from two great musicians, and the only thing that could let it down is false expectations of what it is they are doing. But if you’re ready to hear a diverse set of sounds, this could be the album you’re looking for.