Unified is the sophomore release from Sweet & Lynch, the collaborative partnership centered around the talents of Michael Sweet (Stryper) and George Lynch (Lynch Mob).
The powerful combination of Sweet’s high-octane vocals and Lynch’s instantly recognizable guitar work, along with the propulsive rhythm section of James Lomenzo (bass) and Brian Tichy (drums), gives Sweet and Lynch a unique musical palette. The result is an album of traditional heavy metal grooves, hook-laden melodies, tasty guitar wizardry and positive messages.
I recently spoke to Michael Sweet about Unified and working with George Lynch. He also gave me an update on the new Stryper album and their new bassist, Perry Richardson.
Before we begin, I’d like to get your thoughts on the recent passing of AC/DC guitarist, Malcolm Young. How much of an influence did he have on you?
Like any other teenager and aspiring musician at the time, AC/DC was the pinnacle. Not so much from the sense of me trying to sound like Malcolm or Angus, but I played those songs in cover bands and to this day we still break into AC/DC songs at sound check.
There's just something amazing about their power and simplicity, and Malcom was the driving force behind it. He was such an incredibly tight and responsive guitar player. He didn't make a lot of noise in terms of his persona or stage presence, but if you closed your eyes and listened you would hear Malcolm above all.
Let’s discuss the new Sweet & Lynch album, Unified. How does it compare to your first release, Only To Rise?
For this album, George and I branched out a little and tried a few different things. It’s got some songs on it that are stretched a bit more in terms of creativity, particularly with songs like “Walk” and “Afterlife”. There’s nothing like that on the first album. The first album was comprised more of three and a half to four-minute songs geared toward hard rock/metal heads and radio. For this one, we had less of that in mind and made the album we wanted to make.
Was the writing process similar to Only To Rise, where George would send you musical ideas to work from?
Yes. Once we got down to it, George would send me ideas that were music only. The first time around they were less complete, but this time it was a complete song from start to finish. George is a guy who writes with a melody in mind, so it makes it easy for me to find them. George wrote all the music on this one and I wrote all the lyrics and melodies. It was a compete co-write.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Unified, beginning with the title track.
That song is based on our world today and what we watch on the news. Whatever side you’re on. And that's the sad part when I say that we have “sides”, especially in America where we've become so divided. It makes no sense to me, so I wrote a song about it. Keeping in mind the hope that it might bring people a little closer together. That's the whole point of “Unified."
That's a song about people you've known and have been close to and put so much trust in who let you down. They break trust and you’re left there in the dust thinking 'what just happened?' It's based on a biblical view about not hanging out with fools but to walk with the wise and to be wise. If you hang out with bad company and are encouraged to do bad things, you'll have a much tougher life. But if you walk with the wise and do good things, you’ll have a better life and be a smarter person for it.
People who know who I am and what my faith is all about know that heaven is often referred to as the Promised Land. That's exactly what the song is about. How we struggle through life yet through it all, we need to stay strong and focused. Eventually, we'll see the Promised Land.
Stryper recently added a new bassist, Perry Richardson. How did he come to join the band and how has his addition changed the dynamic?
Perry was in the band Firehouse and then did the country thing and eventually made the decision to get back into rock, so we had him come out and jam with us. I remember he walked in with the biggest smile on his face and was just so grateful and honorable. He had such a joy about just being there. Then he starts playing and singing and it’s like, 'wow!' We gave him five songs to learn and he tore up all five. Then when he started singing, he just nailed the harmonies. It was this perfect blend. In that brief moment, we knew he was the guy.
You’re currently working on a new Stryper album. What can you tell me about it?
It's got this incredible combination of metal and a little bit of a pop/radio sense. Oz [Fox] sent me a few ideas that I wrote melodies and lyrics to that was very similar to the way that George and I wrote. The rest of the songs I put together here at my house. We have a song that's almost in line with “Yahweh”. It's a heavy song that borders on thrash. We got Matt Bachand from Shadows Fall to come in and do some vocals on the choruses. This album is going to surprise a lot of people in a really good way. It's 100 percent Stryper and is going to blow open some doors.
What are Stryper’s tour plans for like for 2018?
We're planning on doing a lot of U.S. dates and festivals along with some European dates. I’ll also have a few solo dates sprinkled in as well. I just want to get out and perform and do some cool stuff and the band wants to as well. It's going to be a fun year.
Of all the highlights of your career what stands out to you as most memorable?
For me, it would be all those times when we were young and doing things for the first time. Not knowing what to expect yet receiving something off the charts in return. I’ll never forget when we got off the plane in Japan for the first time and went to get our bags. There were literally thousands of people screaming, and then we went and performed, it was insane. I look back on those times and think how good God has been to us and all the things we've done that others only dream of. We're blessed guys, for sure.