Suffice it to say that most fans familiar with the work of George Lynch and Michael Sweet were at least a little intrigued when they heard that the two artists had joined forces on a new project. Indeed, given the fact that the legendary ex-Dokken axe man, Lynch, is a self-professed free thinker/atheist, and Sweet, of course, has fronted one of the most iconic Christian metal bands in the history of the genre, one couldn't help but wonder just what sort of thematic perspective the joint collaboration between the two would ultimately take.
Admittedly, any alliance between artists with such wildly divergent world views runs a greater-than-average risk of coming across as combative, confusing or, arguably worst of all, a watered-down compromise on the parts of one or both of the parties involved. Fortunately, though, the wording on Only To Rise turns out to be anything but a stumbling block, regardless of which direction the given listener's spiritual inclinations tend to run. Realizing that love is the universal middle ground, Sweet, who wrote the lion's share of the lyrics, turns his attention to the subject of romantic relationships on the barreling title track ("The beauty in your smile/ The way you hold yourself/ Yeah, it moves me") and the melodically-rich "The Wish" ("You're the sunlight/ Lighting my skies"), the latter of which should delight anyone who fell in love with Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" during the waning days of the summer of 1988.
Like those two entries, "September" foregoes the overtly religious, focusing instead on the 9-11 attacks in New York City. And even when Sweet & Lynch shift their attention to spiritual matters, as they do on "Strength in Numbers" ("We never communicate/ We always tolerate/Where two or more are gathered/Pride only encumbers/The Strength In Numbers") and the equally splendid "Time Will Tell" ("Time will tell/ If I'm caught between heaven and hell/ Is my life an empty shell?/ Time will tell"), they do it in a way that not only honors the stances of all concerned, but also proves both thought-provoking and challenging to those on both sides of the Christian/non-Christian fence.
Of course, a good portion of the target audience is looking less for the deeper meaning of life and more for something to simply toss in the player, crank up to eleven, and rock out to. Those who happen to fall into that camp will almost surely find the S&L effort an unqualified delight. The stellar leadoff cut, "The Wish," takes over where the soaring, melodic rock-meets-metal of Stryper's landmark 2013 undertaking, No More Hell to Pay, left off. "Dying Rose" follows with a slower, blusier groove that loses nary an iota of the first song's momentum. "Love Stays" offers irrefutable proof that a well-done ballad needn't sacrifice beauty for power, and vice versa. And if Skid Row and Warrant had plied their trade in '67 at the height of the Summer of Love, they probably couldn't have turned out anything more engaging than the marvelously neo-psychedelic "Divine."
While Lynch and Sweet are certainly the stars here, it should be noted that the record wouldn't have nearly the same ingratiatingly funk-filled rhythms if it weren't for drummer Brian Tichy and bassist James LoMenzo, whose combined resumes include stints with Foreigner, Whitesnake, Billy Idol and none other than Megadeth. Of course, many a fan will be hesitant to label the foursome a supergroup, for fear that the band, like most other outfits who have been tagged with the label, usually manage to eke out only one or two albums before internal squabbles cause them to pack it in and go their separate ways. But, even if the quartet laid down their instruments tomorrow and never played another note, most folks in the listening audience would be hard-pressed to complain too loudly, given the results of their brief, but fruitful, union.
Impressive though it may be, Only To Rise isn't completely devoid of drawbacks. As probing and sincere as the majority of Sweet's lyrics are, a small portion of them find the ever-passionate front man employing language that is either awkward or overused - or, in the case of the title track ("You've brought me from my knees/Like a rare disease/ So I decompose"), a bit of both. And, while there aren't any out-and-out clunkers in the bunch, a small handful of the cuts tend to favor sheer speed and volume over texture and restraint, the sum of which renders them less memorable than their more subtly-layered counterparts. That said, even with its shortfalls factored into the equation, the release is still a hands-down winner. And even though it hardly seems destined to convince legions of dyed-in-the-wool pop or alt-rock lovers to wipe their mp3 players clean and start from scratch, fans of Sweet and Lynch's previous band-based work, those who appreciate powerhouse vocals and consummate guitar work - or, really, anyone who wants to pretend the '90s never happened - will undoubtedly discover that Only To Rise is just what the good doctor ordered.- Review date: 2/5/15, written by Bert Gangl of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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