It'd be tacky to grab an easy pun and say here's a match made in you-know-where, yet an alliance between STRYPER's Michael Sweet and guitar hero George Lynch is most definitely a match. This pairing only seems awkward upon first glance, but there's a perfect logic to these guys hooking up.
Michael Sweet himself has stated on record he'd considered Lynch a "bucket list" musician to work with and lo, straight outta the eighties, SWEET & LYNCH was born. Bringing along with them Brian Tichy (FOREIGNER, WHITESNAKE, Billy Idol, PRIDE & GLORY) on drums and James LoMenzo (WHITE LION, MEGADETH, LYNCH MOB) on bass, the unit's debut album, "Only to Rise", is, well, pretty durned cool.
"The Wish" rings precisely like you might expect, an amalgam between STRYPER and DOKKEN with a hair more toughening up. As a mid-tempo power jam, Michael Sweet pounces upon the straight-laced lines and for the most part soars overtop George Lynch's steady riffs. The song is written in standard verse-chorus rock format, hitting Lynch's solo precisely where expected and the tune wraps up nice 'n' tidy as "Like a Dying Rose" struts out from it. This tune carries more DOKKEN and LYNCH MOB influence than STRYPER as Lynch chucks some bluesy plugs amidst the bobbing bass and floating organs. Michael Sweet sounds relaxed as he molds his pitch to fit the lowdown groove of the cut. The same can be said of the dirtier blues rawker "Rescue Me".
"Love Stays" could've been a predictable power ballad, but there's a heavier swing to this track even as it tails at a leisurely pace. There's an elementary structure to the chord patterns on "Love Stays" that's conjured from both the modern era of rock and that from where these dudes first made their reps. This song is louder and chocked full of George Lynch's peals and rips where he can get away with them, but otherwise, it has far more oomph than meets the eye. "Me Without You", features a gorgeous intro and threading melody by Lynch to compliment Sweet's harmonious croons. Sounding a bit like the SCORPIONS as the would-be ballad winds along, "Me Without You"'s biggest strength is the stellar vocal harmonizing aside from George Lynch's stress-free solo.
"Time Will Tell" changes the pace as Lynch and James LoMenzo ride hard upon Brian Tichy's crashing march. Reverberating chords and a determined bass channel thickens up this stout tune that carries an eighties action film verve about it. Accordingly, Michael Sweet reserves his best octaves for this one and the song blazes. The backing vocals are particularly great on "Time Will Tell", one of the most uplifting songs Lynch or Sweet has ever put his name behind.
As much as this album stays in a low-rolling tempo, "Recover" finally steps on the gas with James LoMenzo's bass driving what becomes a STRYPER-based rocker with more of a blues base to it. Sweet lets his falsettos fly free with "Recover"'s banging groove and lofting choruses. Appropriately, George Lynch, who delivers mostly tempered solos on the preceding tracks, cuts loose on this one. Taking "Recover"'s energy level while dipping back to mid-tempo, the band jams like beasts on the crawling "Divine". Only on the appositely sugary choruses does this song ease up, and Michael Sweet seizes those opportunities to remind his listeners to avoid letting the sins of the world swamp their lives.
It's going to be hard not to think of IRON MAIDEN's "Wasted Years" during the intro and choruses of "September", but the song turns a different corner on the verses and pounds away agreeably. "Strength in Numbers" and "Hero-Zero" gimp more than move, but all that's come before them is enough to compensate, and the title track closing the album has enough sweat and hump (including a quick, bitchin' drum solo by Brian Tichy) to call it a good day in this camp.
Whether you get the soundness of this union or come to it with a glaring question mark, Michael Sweet and George Lynch answer their own call and "Only to Rise" is a lot of fun. One gets the impression this is strictly for kicks, but the professionalism of SWEET & LYNCH's ensemble makes this album more than a discretionary ride.