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SOLEDRIVER Return Me To Light

By George Dionne, Podcaster
Thursday, November 30, 2023 @ 10:06 AM

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Return Me To Light

Frontiers Music

SOLEDRIVER is the latest project by STRYPER frontman Michael Sweet and EDGE OF FOREVER mastermind Alessandro Del Vecchio. While the two have collaborated on prior Frontiers Music projects ICONIC and SUNBOMB, this is their first collaboration that features the duo exclusively.

Return Me To Light is best described as an AOR/Melodic Rock affair. Sweet and Del Vecchio sought out to channel their Rock Radio heroes such as JOURNEY, LOVERBOY, TOTO, FOREIGNER, and SURVIVOR.

Soft synths and subtle guitar licks kick off the opening track "Rise Again". It's an inspiring track about overcoming defeat and doubt. Sweet seems a little bit stuck in STRYPER Metal mode as he delivers his lyrics full-tilt throughout. Michael and Alessandro harmonize well on the chorus.

Heartbreak and toxic relationships are the focal point of "Anymore". Sweet breaks away from his iconic high pitched wails, and dials in his voice right where it needs to be for the style of music the duo is trying to achieve.

Alessandro Del Vecchio is not really known for his lead and rhythm guitar work. He's usually a bass and keyboard guy. Sweet encouraged him to handle the guitar work on this album, and Ale is quite impressive. "Pieces of Forever" is one of those tracks that display his guitar talents best, from the opening licks to the fiery solo section.

The opening bars of "Hope's Holding You" encompasses everything you remember from those '80s Rock songs you recorded off the radio to listen to over and over again. Sweet's delivery is certainly passionate, but seems a little over the top for the music accompanying him.

"Spinning Wheel" has a dark, bluesy feel. Sweet is at perfect volume and pitch for this style of music during the verses, then punches it up like he should on the choruses. Lots of emotion here and a song that is sure to stick in your head long after you stop listening to it.

"Eternal Flame" is another track where Michael hits the vocal 'sweet' spot from the verses to the choruses. This track could have easily found itself in the closing credits of a classic 80s comedy or rom-com. From a lyrical standpoint, "To Be Saved" mirrors material found on Sweet's solo albums, and could also pass for a STRYPER tune if the distortion was pumped up.

"Soul Inside" is an encouraging song about not giving up on yourself and your aspirations. Driving riffs and dynamic vocals work those inspirational parts of your mind. The album closes out with the somber track "Wounded". The song blends dark times with lights of hope.

I have the utmost respect for the work of Michael Sweet and Alessandro Del Vecchio in the world of music. I've enjoyed a lot of their albums and songs over the decades, but I'd be lying if I didn't say there has also been some productions of theirs that I didn't really care for.

Now, I'm not leading up to saying that Return Me To Light is a bad album. It's not. Michael Sweet is in good voice, he hits the high notes correctly, and he sounds as good as he ever has. Del Vecchio plays his instruments with ease and finesse. However, this debut album by SOLEDRIVER is just okay.

For me, there are parts where Sweet is singing like this is a STRYPER album. The best way to describe it is, if his voice had a volume like an amplifier, he's at an 11 with his STRYPER vocals. That totally works since STRYPER is a Heavy Metal band and the instruments are as in your face as he is.

There are times on Return Me To Light where Sweet dials it back, and it's perfect, right where he needs to be. However those times are far and few between in my opinion. With the exception of "Spinning Wheel" and "Eternal Flame", I didn't really find the songs sticking with me either.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that the debut album by SOLEDRIVER is just okay. Those bands I mentioned earlier that Sweet and Del Vecchio are paying homage to on Return Me To Light (JOURNEY, LOVERBOY, TOTO, FOREIGNER, and SURVIVOR), their first albums were also just okay. There's room to grow for SOLEDRIVER, and I'm interested in hearing how they develop over the years.

3.0 Out Of 5.0

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