Review by Brian McGowan
Release date: 6 May 2014
The rediscovery of romantic love seems to have rekindled Michael Sweet’s creative fire. First there was Stryper’s No More Hell To Pay in November last year. Written and produced by Sweet, the big, broad, colourful brush strokes of yore became streamlined, turning into sharply focused hard rock weapons, detonating on impact. And now his fourth solo album, an eventual (everything’s eventual) follow up to 2000’s magnificent Truth, which was written and produced with the multi-talented Bob Marlette.
And again, and even moreso, Sweet creates a distance between his vocals and the guitars. They’re there to serve a purpose, to tailor themselves to the needs of the song. In doing so, he creates a powerful dynamic. Because of this, songs like ‘Anybody Else’ (with Doug Aldrich) and ‘The Cause’ – the album’s flagship tune – have much more of a visceral impact. On the latter, when the guitars swell and fade, and a gospel choir arrives, late to the game, it’s genuinely stirring. What you witness is a crescendo of voices lifting the song to its climactic – and indeed, ultimately inspiring – moment, probably the album’s highpoint. But maybe it isn’t, there are plenty of contenders.
Not many artists would attempt a cover of a Neil Young classic. On ‘Heart Of Gold’ Sweet captures the yearning tone of the original, but cleverly, seamlessly spikes it with surges of heavy guitars and Hammond organ, giving it a contemporary feel. There’s a great version here where Sweet duets with Electra (daughter of Dave) Mustaine and an even better solo version.
‘How To Live’ stakes out familiar territory, an affecting, irresistibly tuneful ballad, sketched around a melancholy piano. It’s soon fleshed out with singing strings and an emotional confession, with Sweet baring his soul and articulating his gratitude to a) a heavenly power or, b) an earthly power. It’s not clear, but it doesn’t matter, you can fit it into your own profile.
On the beautifully underplayed, yet sturdily melodic ‘This Time’ you can envisage the string quartet in one corner of the room and Sweet in another, darker corner, sat at the harmonium, warbling through a lilting verse and a ringing chorus, adding little Fab Four touches to the music as he sings. An unassuming song, and one of the album’s magic moments.
It’s clearly an album that resolutely refuses to conform to any one particular style – Sweet has stretched himself artistically, like he’s walked out of the arena into the light – and is all the better for it. Yes, Sweet’s patented primal scream opens magnificently apposite album closer, ‘Unsuspecting’, and the title track fires a booming broadside of well-directed anger, but it’s that very familiarity that sets the other stuff in relief. Hard to believe that Sweet’s solo career could still be in an upward trajectory, but I’m Not Your Suicide is the very proof.
9 out of 10
- Taking On The World Tonight
- All That’s Left For Me To Prove
- The Cause
- This Time
- I’m Not Your Suicide
- Coming Home
- Miles Away
- How To Live
- Heart Of Gold
- Anybody Else
- Heart Of Gold (bonus track w/Electra Mustaine)