Career musician, Michael Sweet, seems to have a lot on his plate lately, not the least of which has been establishing what’s been billed as a “supergroup” by the name of Iconic. Traditionally, a supergroup consists of individual or collective members of other popular or successful bands. Like Power Station and The Firm in the ‘80s or Damn Yankees in the ‘90s, supergroups are an important element in the anthropology of music as a whole.
This particular supergroup, Iconic, is an epic collaboration between Michael Sweet (Stryper) on guitar and vocals, Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) also on guitar, Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Twisted Sister, Black Star Riders) on bass, Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne) on drums and Nathan James on vocals. James and Hoekstra shared time in the critically acclaimed Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Sweet had become a fan of James’ vocals so it seemed a natural fit.
Their first release dropping on June 17, 2022, ‘Second Skin’, is an 11-track homage to all of the collective influences of Iconic’s members. Considering the backgrounds of the individual players, it’s logical that the album has an overwhelming ‘80s aura about it. It also doesn’t hurt that James’ vocals sound vaguely like David Coverdale which could be why the key players felt they fit so well.
Having such celebrated musicians on-board for this project gives ‘Second Skin’ a leg up in all aspects, solid musicianship and a love for the music rooted in their hard rock beginnings. It’s no mystery why the overall offering is riff-heavy, solo-heavy, catchy chorus-y and generally upbeat. The album opens on a strong note with “Run (As Fast As You Can)” which features Sweet and James weaving their vocals deftly around a basic drum line and riff. James’ vocal tone is audible and reminiscent of many important metal vocalists and also blends well with that of Sweet. There is an exceptionally long and intricate solo between the two guitarists which is exceptional in itself. Did I mention it’s long?
“Ready for Your Love” has a heavy ‘80s influence with a unique time signature change mid-song leading into the second complex and somewhat lengthy solo. The title track of the record, “Second Skin”, much like all the songs here, is a downright anthem. The set of vocalists together absolutely takes the track to great heights. There is a mid-song slow down that brings a certain nostalgia, between the vocals and the underlying guitar work, that takes you back to a few of Sweet and Hoekstra’s previous bands. You, as the listener, will decide which band that may be.
“All I Need” is the record’s power ballad and is also acutely nostalgic. It conjured several older ballads in my head space. I couldn’t pick just one on which to comment. “Nowhere to Run”, “Worlds Apart”, “All About”, “This Way”, all follow in the same vein with interwoven vocals and dueling guitars that truly work well together. Aldridge’s drums are solid and fit into the mix seamlessly.
‘Second Skin’ is beyond a doubt a top-notch collection of music by equally top-notch musicians. While the album is heavily ‘80s influenced, the lyrics are slightly more advanced than the “party all night, sleep all day” type of thing for which ‘80s bands were known. This album is not just for fans of the players’ former/current bands or “day jobs”. This album is for anyone who loves contemporary music with the nostalgia mixed in. A lively combination of old and new that rocks pretty hard!