Evil and Divine
Guitar World|September 2021
The story of an unlikely pairing — L.A. Guns’ Tracii Guns and Stryper’s Michael Sweet — and their doomy new side-project, Sunbomb
By Brad Angle

ON YOU GUYS BOTH AGREE WE SHOULD HAVE NAMED the band Guns N’ Moses?”

Stryper’s Michael Sweet is asking this question, straight-faced, to Guitar World over Zoom. But the singer-guitarist isn’t referring to his long-running Christian metal crew. He’s talking about Sunbomb — the new side-project from L.A. Guns’ main man Tracii Guns. Before we can parse Sweet’s deadpan delivery, Guns, who’s also on the call, bursts into laughter: “I agree with that!”

Jokes aside, the question does highlight a seeming paradox surrounding Sunbomb: How in the world did a nice guy like Sweet find himself singing over Guns’ heavier-than-ever exploration of black metal-tinged doom and classic heavy metal?

The Guns/Sweet pairing makes a bit more sense when you learn how much the two musicians have in common. They both grew up in SoCal during the heyday of the Seventies hard rock. Each guitarist was deeply influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as well as six-string greats like Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker and Randy Rhoads. L.A. Guns and Stryper rose to international fame out of the raucous Eighties Sunset Strip scene, and both outfits are still going strong today. The guys also shared a guitar tech — who was the matchmaker that led to their relatively recent friendship. They even tried to get an L.A. Guns/Stryper tour off the ground, but “it was very difficult for promoters to swallow,” Guns says.

The music for Sunbomb first started to take shape a few years ago. Guns had been working on songs initially intended for a solo outing for his label, Frontiers Records. He sent one of the unfinished tunes to his new friend Sweet to get his thoughts. “He dug it,” Guns recalls. “So I asked if he wanted to sing on it. That was the very innocent beginning of us working together.”

That track — a ripping cut called “Life” that features Guns unleashing a swarm of black-metal-style tremolo picking — kicked off a wicked collaboration that ultimately resulted in Sunbomb’s full-length debut, Evil and Divine. Besides the Nineties Norwegian extremity of “Life,” the hard-charging 11-song album unfolds like a love letter to the favorite acts of Guns’ youth: from Sabbathian doom (“Take Me Away,” “Better End”) and Led Zeppelin blues–meets– crossover thrash (“Born to Win”) to Randy Rhoads-Esque dynamics (“No Tomorrows”) and beyond.

Sweet proves a capable accomplice throughout Evil and Divine, which also features performances by drummer Adam Hamilton and bassist Mitch Davis (with a guest shot by L.A. Guns’ bassist Johnny Martin on “They Fought”). Guns handled all guitar duties, allowing Sweet to solely focus on vocals and channel some of his favorite frontmen, including Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford. “I sound nothing like them,” Sweet qualifies, “but I tried to draw a little bit more from them on this album.”

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