SOLEDRIVER (Michael Sweet) – Return Me to Light (2023) *HQ*
“Return Me to Light” is the upcoming debut album from SOLEDRIVER, a collaboration between two extremely talented and prolific songwriters, musicians, and producers: Michael Sweet (Stryper, Iconic, Sweet & Lynch) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever, Hardline, Jorn).
In their studio work, both Sweet and Del Vecchio have a shared vision of very detailed productions, elaborated arrangements and both love crystal-clear production sound. But they never forget the power that a rock album needs to have – the music on “Return Me to Light” has a punchy delivery, however nothing overwhelms the vocals and beauty of the melodies.
To put it simply, the album is melodic rock in the style of Journey and Foreigner, but on steroids and with the unique Sweet and Del Vecchio sonic stamp on it.
“I’ve always been a metalhead at heart, but as much as I love metal, I love the melodic and “song” oriented side of music. Songs that move you and songs that touch your soul. So many bands from the ’70s/’80s did just that. I’m proud to say that as much as I listened to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, I also listened to Loverboy, Toto, Foreigner, Survivor, Journey, and many others. That’s what makes me who I am today. Diversity. So, I’ve always wanted to do an album that takes you back to those days and here it is!” exclaims Sweet.
I don’t know you, but we love great melodic vocals. One of the best voices out there is Mister Michael Sweet, or should I say Mister Busy? This dude keeps himself busy, his guitar and singing chops in shape – to say the least. This new project features great songs, which is as much of a trademark for this musician.
His partner in crime for this latest side project is fellow singer/songwriter Alessandro Del Vecchio. His resume reads like a blueprint for melodic hard rock. On this release he handles multiple instruments, like all of the guitars, bass, and keyboards.
Yes, you read that correctly. Michael ‘shredfast-shredfest’ Sweet handed off all the guitars to his more than capable friend. After hearing what he delivered, I can’t blame him. The dude is amazing and he doesn’t have to go overboard to thrill, wow, and give the songs just what they need. Del Vecchio also adds backing vocals, of course.
When mixing talent like this (along with drummer Michele Sanna), it’s no surprise that all 11 tracks shimmer with clean, melodic rock brilliance. I would hate the challenge of having to pick the first single to promote this album. They’re all so good.
“Rise Again” kicks things off with Sweet’s voice shining high and center in the mix. With choruses that beg sing-alongs, he is charting familiar territory with his familiar trademark and spot-on high quality vocals. “Anymore” has a handful of lyrical questions, seemingly in the context of a relationship, all wrapped by AOR melodies.
“Hope’s Holding You” starts off with quiet keys and piano playing, then kicks in with arena rock guitar rhythms and mid-tempo drums. It’s a feel-good anthem of sorts that features the goosebump-inducing melodies melded with lyrics to pull someone from the pit of despair.
If you miss the made-for-MTV melodic pop-metal sounds of yesterdecade, then “Eternal Flame” is yet another song that’ll whisk you back to those days of staring at the tv screen and hoping/waiting for Stryper, Heart, Kix, Night Ranger, Def Leppard, Firehouse, Steelheart, Mr. Big, Slaughter, and Bon Jovi. “Spinning Wheel” pulls on those same heart strings that Foreigner, Loverboy, Whitesnake (ballads), and Europe tugged on for years. It’s amazing to hear such excellent music from a massive musical movement but not sound derivative at all.
“To Be Saved” kicks off with loud and proud guitars before giving way to the kind of belted out vocals that’ll have karaoke singers using their hands to express each line and verse for their imaginary stage. Without preaching like a few Stryper songs, the lyrics seem to point heaven-ward.
“Soul Inside” pleads with the listener in a fun Jefferson Starship / up-tempo Journey way to “bring your fear into the light / save the soul inside.” A great example of keyboards and guitars coexisting for the betterment of our mood.
“Wounded” seems the perfect title to the emotional sounds of the piano setting up the plodding beat that leads to a confessional chorus that lets it all out.
To be blunt, Soledriver will absolutely make a bunch of us giddy with joy. Some might cry a few tears or make us grin from ear to ear, but most of us will at least feel like we’ve run into an old, familiar friend that we’ve known for years but never heard these songs.
To summarize, ‘Return Me To Light’ is a really strong melodic rock / AOR album in which two experts in their field show what they are capable of. And they’re capable of delivery some awesome songs here.
1. Rise Again
3. Pieces Of Forever
4. Hope’s Holding You
5. Spinning Wheel
6. Out Of The Dark
7. Eternal Flame
8. To Be Saved
9. Return Me To Light
10. Soul Inside
Michael Sweet – vocals
Alessandro Del Vecchio – guitars, bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Michele Sanna – drums