"Fallen" (Frontiers; 2015)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Styper's new album, "Fallen," is one of my favorites from the band sound-wise. The band is tight and lean, and the riffs come hard and fast. This is an album that sounds like classic heavy metal and it's rock solid from beginning to end. Unlike "Murder By Pride," which I reviewed here before, "Fallen" never seems to slow down.

As I've said on these pages before, I don't care whether you're singing about God or the Devil, as long as you're rocking hard. "Fallen" does just that. Many of the lyrics here are about the Christian faith and the songs still kick ass. You'll find yourself singing along to lyrics about Jesus while you're pumping your fist in the air and banging your head. Whether you're Christian or not, the songs will grab you like that and take you for the ride.

I feel a little less enthusiastic about the song, "Big Screen Lies," an admittedly hard rocker with rather whiny lyrics about (in songwriter Michael Sweet's words) "how the film industry portrays Christians as complete buffoons one million percent of the time." Gee, Michael, generalize much? And I don't think "one million percent" actually works mathematically. I've always admired Stryper for their ability not to preach to me or to force their politics down my throat but this song comes close.

Regardless, "Fallen" is one of the heaviest Stryper albums in a long time and it proves the band was no flash-in-the-pan or novelty act. There's some serious hard rock/heavy metal musicianship here and "Fallen" will rock you hard.

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"Murder By Pride" (Big 3 Records; 2009)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Stryper was always surprising in the way they could kick your ass with killer hard rock tunes and still deliver their message without sounding like they were preaching to you. They were a real rock'n'roll band, not just a Christian band, and that's what made them stand out from the rest of the pack.

"Murder By Pride" starts out with three solid rockers, the kind of songs that made you like the band anyway, even with all those religious overtones. There are still some of those sickly sweet  ballads, however; the ones you always skipped over even when you only had the vinyl version of the album or the cassette. Track 4 is one of those and, like Stryper's other ballads, it isn't bad but it does slow things down just a little bit.

Still the band sounds good after all these years and they still have a unique sound all their own. The exception here, of course, is the cover of Boston's "Peace of Mind" which sounds like ... well, Boston. Not surprising really. Boston guitarist Tom Scholz guests on the track and Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet is the new lead vocalist for the veteran band and fits like the proverbial glove.

Despite a couple off too-slow songs, "Murder By Pride" is a very entertaining album and Stryper fans will be thrilled with the result.

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"Reborn" (Big 3 Records; 2005)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It's been a long time since Stryper recorded and released a new studio album -- about 14 years, in fact, since the undeserved commercial failure of 1991's "Against The Law." After touring successfully, and riding the wave of new religious fervor that has swept the country in recent years, the band decided to re-form (with a new bassist) and record "Reborn." The question, however, was how the band would weather an absence of nearly a decade and a half.

The answer is that they've weathered it just fine, thank you very much. "Reborn" is an album that sounds like Stryper never stopped performing and recording together. The CD is loaded with guitar heavy rockers, sweetened by the band's heavenly vocal style and is balanced nicely with the straight forward rock'n'roll songs and the ... shall we say, more Gospel-oriented ... songs of praise. Speaking of those types of songs, you'll hardly recognize "Amazing Grace," re-imagined here in the Stryper sound and re-titled "10,000 Years." It's one of the CDs highlights. Another re-make, a new recording of the band's classic "In God We Trust," isn't bad but is hardly necessary.

The bottom line here is plain and simple: If you were a fan of Stryper way back when, you'll like what "Reborn" has to offer. I certainly did. However, that consistency has its price as well. As good a record as "Reborn" is, there's no denying that it's pure, 80s style heavy metal. There are a lot of Christian oriented bands out there playing much more modern music with the same message -- the competition is fiercer than it was when Stryper was one of very few Christian metal bands out there -- and Stryper could get lost in the mix.

I hope that isn't the case, however, because I really like this band's clear, clean approach and melodic abilities ... something that most of the other bands in the genre don't seem to have.

Stryper: Michael Sweet - vocals, guitar; Oz Fox - guitar, vocals; Tracy Ferrie- bass, vocals; Robert Sweet - drums.

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"7 Weeks: Live in America, 2003" (Fifty Three Five Records/Deep South; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I've always admired Stryper because - until near the end - the band never veered away from their straight-forward Christian lyrics and because they never let their message tell them they couldn't play hard and loud. Whether you agreed with their beliefs or not, it was easy to get caught up in Stryper's unique brand of heavy metal.

Now, after the band's worldwide 20th anniversary reunion tour that took them around the world, Stryper has released a document of that tour: "7 Weeks: Live in America 2003."

I wasn't sure that a live CD was the right forum for Stryper to return to recorded form. It seemed that the band's unique vocals would be difficult to recreate in a live setting, especially after twelve years of wear and tear on the bandmembers' voices. In addition, twelve years is a long time to not perform as a band. There was every chance that the band would be rusty and would need the full tour just to get their rock'n'roll legs back.

"7 Weeks" proves that there was no need for concern. The CD begins with the "Sing Along Song," the best song to indicate whether the band's vocals were in shape or not. Hitting the highs and the lows (but especially the highs), with only the occasional sign of rough spots, the "Sing Along Song" was solid evidence that Stryper was back in more than just spirit. 

As far as performance rust is concerned, there was no need to worry in that department, either. The musicianship is excellent throughout with the guitars sounding great and the drums thundering along. The songs themselves remain as powerful and as strong as they did when first recorded and it's great to hear classics like "Free," "Soldiers Under Command" and "To Hell with the Devil" performed live.  

The only time the band goes just a little bit overboard religion-wise is with track 14, "Closing Prayer" which is exactly what it's title promises - a five-and-a-half minute, spoken word prayer. Great for the band's hardcore fans, but a little too righteous for the rest of us.

In the end, however, what "7 Weeks" does is make you want more Stryper. Let's hope that that's coming sometime soon.

Stryper: Michael Sweet - vocals, guitar; Oz Fox - guitar, vocals; Timothy Gaines - bass, vocals; Robert Sweet - drums.

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"To Hell with the Devil" (Hollywood; 1986)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

When Stryper hit the scene in 1984 they had a lot of competition. Heavy metal was breaking out everyplace and, although it was “devil rock” per some people, Stryper brought a new direction that hadn’t been marketed: Christian heavy metal. I’m sure most people thought it was some sort of gimmick but being into heavy metal I researched these guys and found out they were the real deal.

Their name is an acronym: Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement, and Righteousness. The Bible verse Isaiah 53:5 also has something to do with their name. 

Listening to this release today, you know it’s from 1986 just from the production, the sappy ballads (only two), and the guitar solos between Fox and Sweet. But the songs are well crafted, and not too preachy. 

Michael Sweet was born to sing hard rock and can scream with the best of the 1984 vocalists. The guitar of Oz Fox is timeless, and even though their follow-up CDs still had that 80s metal sound, you knew who Stryper was because of their yellow and black outfits. In short, it may have been marketing that got them out there but it was the message that kept them going strong.

There were two CD covers for this release. The first showed the devil with a guitar and angels pulling him apart. Some found that cover offensive and it was changed. The original cover is now a rare find. 

I was fortunate enough to see Stryper on their “To Hell With The Devil” tour in 1986. I was in the front row and rushed the stage after the folding chairs were removed when opening act Hurricane (who blew) left the stage. I watched Oz Fox rip out a guitar intro that led into Van Halen's “Eruption.” Fox played it note for note and then flicked his guitar pick into the crowd. We all had our hands in the air and it bounced off my hand and hit the floor -- nobody knew it but me. I quickly reached down, picked it up and shoved it in my pocket. I still have it and I have that memory recorded for ever.

During their set Michael Sweet and Oz Fox would trade off vocals. Personally, I think Fox can sing better than Sweet although it isn’t widely known.

The best songs are “To Hell With The Devil,” “Free,” “The Way” and “More Than A Man.”

Stryper: Robert Sweet – drums; Michael Sweet – vocals; Tim Gaines – bass; Oz Fox – lead guitar.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2015 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05 Sep 2023 21:55:31 -0400.