ICONIC: Second Skin


WARNING:  The following article was written with serious guitar players in mind. Some language and buzz words may not be suitable for certain audiences. 

Iconic is a new band that is a stunning body of work launched through Frontiers Music featuring Michael Sweet (Stryper / Sweet & Lynch, guitars), Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake, Trans Siberian Orchestra/guitars), Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders, The Dead Daisies, Journey, Twisted Sister/bass), Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne, Gary Moore, Ted Nugent, and Black Oak Arkansas / drums) and Nathan James (Inglorious/vocals). Not only is this an unbelievable supergroup, but it features a 72-year-old, yes, you heard that right 72 years young and still killing it! Rock Legend Tommy Aldridge whose thundering skin beating and double bass kick drums will probably leave Tourniquet drummer Ted Kirkpatrick with repeated night sweats. 

The initial idea of forming Iconic came from the genius mind of Serafino Perugino, President & Head of A&R for Frontiers Records, that he had for surrounding the incredible talent of vocalist Nathan James who is known as having a vocal style mirroring vocal legends of the 1970s. with established musicians (Sweet & Hoekstra) from the rock and metal world to play a musical style in the vein of Whitesnake. As Sweet puts it, ” if you like Whitesnake 1987 you’re gonna love this.” Sweet is 100% accurate! However, there are many different styles, and musical influences intertwined within this project. Co-producer Alessandro Del Vecchio and Sweet produced the album together) contributed vocal melodies and keyboards. James also contributed songwriting to two tracks.

Track #1 Run (As Fast As You Can)

Starting with the first Whitesnake 1987 similarity is Run (As Fast As You Can). James & Sweet share vocal duties and harmonies.

Lyric: Run as fast as you can. Keep fighting for the life you wanna live. Chase your fame and fortune. All this pain can give you everything If you gain eternity.

Run (As Fast As You Can) is a fast chugging chunky guitar style similar to Bad Boys, with Stryperesque Soldier style harmonies coupled with hammer-on and pull-offs, swirling through intense clean melodic lines, heavy muting and crunchy pick note pinches, and dominating scale patterns. Certain sections even copycat Sweet’s solo from Free. Which, let’s be honest this is his undeniable style, and even if he played on an AC/DC album you would instantly know that it was him, which is what we guitar players for the most part want to be recognized for our own musical identity. That’s not a bad thing! Like most of these songs on this project, is the lyrical recurring theme of unwavering resolve, persistence, self-sufficiency, perseverance, and unbridled determination, that frankly is EXACTLY what we ALL need to hear and APPLY these days! The timing couldn’t be perfect. Coincidence, I think not. 

Track #2 Ready For Your Love

Ready For Your Love is another Coverdale-style nod that flows perfectly as a second track. This seems like a perfect bar band track. James carries the seductive vocal lines perfectly and paints the picture of an homage to a former flame he hopes to rekindle again and realizes his downfall with due regret.

Lyric: I want your love. I want it now. Let me be the one you need. Now that I’m back for you.

Upbeat guitars carry the vibe flawlessly that they are trying to convey. It follows a bluesy sort of again Whitesnake 1987 feel, which then launches into a sort of an unexpected Metallica kind of riff which carries more of a hard rock tone and feel, then flows into a sweet Hamilton B3 organ swell that compliments the bluesy bar win the girl back vibe, which unleashes Hoekstra to shred it up then flow back to the chorus which brings it all full circle. Outgoing solos complete the circle.

Track #3   Second Skin (Title Track)

Second Skin is another hard rock slammer that James & Sweet share vocal duties and harmonies on. Following the positive energy-focused vibe with driving hard rock riffs and recurring crunchy pick-note pinches again, while creating a musical camaraderie type of team like” one for all and all for one” environment that rips into Hoekstra’s stellar not of this earth shred solos, approaching intergalactic territories. He and Sweet complement each other perfectly. And this reviewer’s opinion never has Michael had such semblance since first pairing up with Oz Fox. 

Track #4  All I Need

Upon hearing the fourth track All I Need, which is an 80’s style rock ballad, one is instantly reminded of the multi-platinum-selling hit by Stryper Honestly in the intro only. But, upon further inspection, it has been revealed that the lyrics and melody were written by Nathan James, and perhaps not by Sweet. I have to imagine that this was somehow written with Sweet, due to the obvious flavorings, but perhaps not. Also, if somehow James was directly inspired by previous Stryper classics, that would make this record so much cooler! The truth is, I could hear the late great singer of Warrant Jani Lane (R.I.P.) belt this out. No disrespect to James, that’s just what I hear. Nathan is an incredible vocalist that hits the perfect feel and high pitch screams that is just stunning. This is a typical ballad/love song, but it has some edge to it. Great job. 

Track #5  Nowhere To Run

I am going to get in some serious trouble here. This is totally a Dokken-influenced song. No doubt about it. Now don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a blatant rip-off, because it’s metal, but I am sure no one will disagree with this assessment. Maybe Mr. Scary himself rubbed off on Sweet during their time together? The truth is Michael was probably influenced by George in his early years of sharing local stages before they had their “big breaks” This is a great fast-paced song, featuring Tommy Aldridge’s double bass kick drums that are pure heaven! I dare not listen to this while driving on the interstate, unless I want a hefty speeding ticket. 

These lyrics again are dead-on, and perfectly sums up what we are going through and have gone through together.

Lyric: There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The world is getting crazy, we’re blinded by lies.

Great harmony leads and scale patterns.  

Track #6 Worlds Apart 

This is another 80’s style rock ballad with a Stryper-style intro, which perfectly compliments James’ vocals. This has overtones of a Journey style balled with James utilizing a slower style ala Steve Perry. The melodies carry great Stryper-style harmony leads, which turn into crunchy pentatonic rock solos and more hammers and pull-offs. While the guitars are stellar. The truth is, this is James’s baby. He totally owns this song!

Track #7 All About

Now this one is fun! This one fades in with driving open chords, Wah, and pure energy with a loud snare pop right into the vocal, which is perfection for this type of song! ! This is that song that wants to make you learn how to play guitar, and spend hours, and hours perfecting it! It’s that MTV Headbangers Ball (Ok, boomer) sound that we have ALL missed. Tell me I’m wrong! This song drives with such emotion. All About also carries that Dokken feel, but it’s certainly original with the quick breaks and changes. This flows into a monster pentatonic wah-laden solo that merges into a slow vocal riding snare drum with a typical rock style buildup on the four-count back to the one. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. This carries the exact dynamic needed in terms of creating sonic space. Then ripping into a monster chorus. Such a Kick-Ass song! Cranking solos fade to an abrupt ending. Not for the faint of heart, or old people. 

Track #8 This Way

This as well is reminiscent of the Stryper/Whitesnake 1987 vibe. This is one of those upbeat 4×4-time rock ballads. It starts with the typical 80’s guitar melody line that follows the song directly into the lead vocal that flows into shared harmony vocals. This is that song that your girlfriend will play over and over in her car, and expect you to dance with her on. It does buildup which leads into shredding 1980’s style harmony guitar solos. It’s the typical sappy ballad that we all eventually love. Even if we won’t admit it.  

Track #9  Let You Go

This is one of those I’m in love with you, you’re in love with me 4×4-time rock ballads. With a good hookey chorus with harmony background vocals in unison with Sweet that pulls at your heartstrings, just a tad.

Lyric: I will let you go if your heart says so. But I won’t leave you alone. I can’t let you run away if my heart won’t heal from these wounds I have.

The guitar then shreds into a melodic pentatonic scale utilizing a few hammers and pull-offs. Ending with a chorus that abruptly goes into a slow ending fading guitars with an unexpected well-thought-out tag before ending, and slowly fading. 

Track #10   It Ain’t Over

It Ain’t Over flows in with a harmony guitar line that perfectly mimics the chorus line. This one has another Dokken-flavored feel, driving quick rhythms, with feel-good melodies and Don Dokken style vocals. The guitar solo is a harmony blend between Hoekstra & Sweet that rips into unbridled pentatonic shredville and could quite possibly be heart-stopping. This solo is absolutely stunning, fades into a faster beat, and really takes off ending abruptly. 

Track #11   Enough Of Your Love

Enough Of Your Love is probably the bluesiest track on this record. The vocal line is undoubtedly reminiscent of Lynch Mob and Oni Logan’s vocal. This song should have been on the Wicked Sensation album. Oddly enough, this was written by Nathan himself, not sure of who and how they contributed with him. This also has a very Whitesnake feel. Great harmony solo that Joel breaks into and just rips the lid off of. Fantastic hammer and pull-offs again, with very tasty Yngwie style Pedalstops with insane scale lines. It flows back into the chorus, and also abruptly ends. 

Summary: This album is outstanding. It is certainly a great hard rock record, containing many different styles of all of our favorite rock bands. The cool thing is these are not ripoffs, these are obvious interpretations of their musical heroes, who have inspired Iconic to be who they are! Pretty darn cool! It’s quite possibly the best hard rock record that I have listened to in several decades. The overall theme is positivity and not giving up, picking yourself up by your bootstraps, which is so, so refreshing. The skill, experience, and reputation, also go without saying. These are some of the best musicians in the world, no doubt. They are not only growing in their crafts but seem to be certainly centered and humble. 

It’s obvious that they just want to make the world a much, much better place, using their musical talents and gifts. If you are a hard rocker, do not hesitate and go buy this CD, or for audiophiles, go pick up the beautiful gold vinyl! 


This record is an absolute marvel. It is certainly a great hard rock record, You did make one HUGE mistake. Why no BGV, appearance, or a cameo from the Legend himself David Coverdale, that would have been the absolute perfect cherry on the top!  Please consider that for the next record. 

Lee Haley

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