Another Entry in the Stryper Saga| Posted October 28, 2013
Just about anybody who knows even a little about the history of Christian Rock music probably at least knows the name Stryper. Along with other bands like Petra, they were one of the forefathers of the genre, and their name is among the most legendary in the chronicles of Christian Rock. Furthermore, they were the first band to become a genuine "crossover" into the mainstream, gaining notable success on several mainstream music charts and getting massive airplay on MTV.
They were even among the first bands to get the now infamous criticism from many Christians for "selling out." They caused controversy when they departed from their Christ-centric lyrics with the release of Against The Law. Their 80s glam-metal appearance earned them accusations of not upholding the Christian standard of modesty. Stryper was a pioneer in so many areas that many of the Christians bands in the decades to come would come to learn very well.
Stryper disbanded in the early 90s and lead vocalist Michael Sweet pursued other projects for over a decade, including maintaining a strong CCM presence as a solo artist. But not content to remain merely a star of the early chapters of Christian Rock, the band had a comeback in the mid-2000's with the aptly titled Reborn. What could have been a one-off reunion turned into another extended chapter of the band's career. They've released albums fairly consistently since then, nearly doubling their discography in just the past 8 years. While their success is a lot tamer due to the dated nature of their sound and the increased competition from bands who owe so much to them, they've managed to once again make themselves a strong and relevant part of the current industry.
And so this brings us to the band's latest metal offering, No More Hell To Pay. From the title, to the album color, to the classic yellow and black logo, you can tell before you hear a single note that what you're about to get into is very much Stryper. I personally only had a modest exposure to their music growing up. They were more a name I knew well rather than an artist I heard regularly. Still, I was a little more than familiar with their style of glam metal and Sweet's iconic 80s metal vocals. And as the opening track pounded in, metal guitars blazing, it was clear that Stryper wasn't about to throw us a sonic curveball with this release. They know what their fans want, they know what their corner of the market is, and they know how to craft a well-rounded album in this genre.
"Revelation" is exactly what I'd expect from Stryper, and this feeling continues right through until the last track. At this stage in their career, it's likely unsurprising that Stryper isn't looking to reinvent themselves. They're doing what they've always done, and doing it well. The aforementioned "Revelation" carries a polished and rocking backing, complete with soaring chorus, nostalgic solos, and rousing choral vocals. Essentially, it's Stryper. "There's a revelation / it's coming down for you / without hesitation / it's gonna bring the truth" serve as quintessential Stryper lyrics. And then the title track comes in and the feeling starts all over again. Headbanging 80s metal sound, soaring choral vocals, and the lyrics that pointed many to Christ throughout the 80s: "When the night has stolen everyday / I'll follow You till there's no more hell to pay!" While the Stryper formula isn't going to win them fans outside their genre, there's something to be said for knowing your base and giving them exactly what they want. And on that front, this album goes out of its way to deliver.
This isn't to say the album has no variance at all. "Saved By Love" adds in a faster and slightly scream-heavy veneer to the Stryper sound. A cover of Arthur Reid Reynolds' classic "Jesus Is Just Alright" sounds exactly like you'd think a Stryper cover of the song would sound and offers some levity against some of the heavier themes present in the album. "The One" is the album's obligatory "slow song" and offers a good counterbalance to power metal chords dominating the rest of the album.
"Marching Into Battle" sounds exactly like its title implies and thematically, it fits right in with everything about Stryper. The song's chanted chorus offers an almost haunting vibe, contrasting with the soaring power choruses most of the other songs boast. "Te Amo" (translated, "I Love You") keeps the momentum going and stands as one of the more memorable tracks on the album. The chorus feels dated but in a throwback, exciting kind of way. Like most of the album, it would've fit seamlessly into 80's radio, but there's still plenty to enjoy for those willing to overlook the obvious era it's harkening back to.
"Sticks and Stones" makes a bit too much blatant use of the iconic statement, but puts it to good thematic use as only Stryper could. The last three tracks essentially continue the same feeling established throughout the album. There isn't really anything that stands out, but that can be a good thing as well since there's also nothing particularly weak either. The Stryper formula propels the album towards a satisfying finish, offering just enough diversity to avoid stagnancy, and never flinching in its polished delivery of a sound that serves as one of the foundation blocks of the industry we love.
It's good to see veteran bands still willing to get out there and rock, proudly donning the sound they made iconic and not trying to change who they are for profit. This might limit Stryper's appeal to those into the power/glam metal sound, but it's a sound that worked well for them in its heyday, and isn't entirely without merit now. With an album that still manages to check all the right boxes after all these years, it's hard not to root for these guys to keep on going. The rock hasn't died, and this album is proof that this industry icon still demands respect.
From start to finish, what you're getting here is essentially the picture of an ideal Stryper album. If you're familiar with them, you're about to be gifted with a solid offering from start to finish. Fans other bands like Theocracy would do well to give the power chords and guitar energy of Stryper a chance. Even those like me who only had a sort of acquaintanceship with the band can appreciate this release. It's definitely like a lost treasure out of a time capsule of another era, but it brings with it an energy and craftsmanship that should still be an example for many acts today.
Stryper is best when they sound like themselves.| Posted October 30, 2013
And they do with this one. Time has been kind to the four members of Stryper, certainly regarding their musical prowess and Michael's ability to soar over the high volume blare with so much style and grace. Their message is important, yes, but without music this strong to back up, what would be the point? I found Stryper not long before their hiatus in the early nineties, but the impact their work had on me has never waned. I'm never not impressed by what Michael and Oz can do as guitarists, and the vocals are always perfect for the song, and this is coming from someone who appreciates Soldiers Under Command and Against The Law equally. No More Hell To Pay feels like the glue that held those two disparate presentations of Stryper together far more than anything they've done since their rebirth in 2003. It's a common compliment these days, but the truth is the truth - Stryper stand out when they do what they do best, holding their own against any hard rock act that's risen up in the last thirty years. I ADORE this album!
Classic metal will never die and Stryper is both destined and determined to prove that point. Stryper is having a busy year in the studio. March of 2013 saw the release of Second Coming, a collection of re-recorded Stryper classics and a pair of new tracks. On November 5th the band releases their latest album through Frontier Records.
No More Hell to Pay will be Stryper’s 11th studio album. Produced by frontman and guitarist Michael Sweet, the set features some of Stryper’s strongest and heaviest material ever. Sweet commented on the upcoming album:
The new Stryper album, No More Hell To Pay, is the record we needed to make as a follow up to ‘To Hell With The Devil’. Every song has a hooky guitar riff. Everything is in minor keys, so it’s a little darker sounding and a little tougher. It’s definitely our heaviest record and I think people will be pleasantly surprised. To reference, there is less songs like ‘Calling On You’ and more songs like ‘To Hell With The Devil’. It’s more in that vein than the poppier vein.
It’s been an astounding 30 years since Stryper’s first release, The Yellow and Black Attack , the album that introduced these lycra clad spiritual brothers to the masses. Musically, little has changed since that time. Fortunately, for all concerned, Stryper has steered clear of trying to bring the band’s sound and style into the current day by staying true to the past. And rightly so. Die-hard Stryper fans and new-comers alike are going to be abundantly satisfied with No More Hell To Pay.
Current day Stryper carries the original 1983 line-up, with Michael Sweet’s brother Robert on drums, the legendary Oz Fox on guitar, and Tim Gaines on bass. It seems amazing that over those years Michael Sweet’s voice shows no sign of aging. He still hits the high notes with the clarity, energy, and piercing wails found decades ago. Incredibly catchy hooks and lyrics drivesNo More Hell to Pay.
The album roars to life with the attention grabbing intro on “Revelation” and never lets up. Lyrically “Revelation” may also sum up the intention of this new release.
There’s a revelation
It’s coming down for you
It’s gonna bring the truth
The title track “No More Hell To Pay” carries what could be considered a lyrical anthem to Stryper:
I am taking it a day at a time
and I don’t care what the doubting voices say
I am lifting up the Name that will shine
and the light of heaven’s brighter everyday
The blazing guitar rifts and the extreme vocals on “Saved By Love” leads into a surprise on No More Hell to Pay, Stryper’s recording of the The Art Reynolds Singers “Jesus Is Just Alright”. This song has been covered by the likes of The Byrds, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, The Doobie Brothers, and dcTalk. Stryper’s styling stays true to past recordings of the song, but also introduces a wonderful blues inspired drift to this classic tune.
While Stryper has stated No More Hell To Pay is one of their hardest album’s they also included the solid ballad, “The One”. Stryper brings in a song that harkens back to the theme of Soldier’s Under Command on the new tune “Marching Into Battle”. The balance of the new songs carry on with a solidness that is superb, finishing with the amazing, “Renewed”.
Anyone could rightfully say that Stryper has done all that they have needed to do. Serving up incredible songs over the years and that now it is time for the band to take a rest. Wrong! Stryper continues to bring their distinctive sound and talents to our hearts. For Sweet to compare No More Hell To Play to the outstanding To Hell With The Devil may seem extreme, but the album does achieve this level. No More Hell To Play has the boldness and musical brilliance that has been seen over and over again from Stryper, a band that is rightly considered, and ever will be, iconic.
The One...this is the one fans of Stryper have been waiting for since the early 90's. New music that showcases everything that drew metalheads to this band in the first place. While listening to the new disc, words like amazing, incredible, spectacular, sensational, kept coming to mind. This disc is everything that a hard rock fan could want and more......incredible vocals, sizziling guitar work and catch hook after hook. Metal screams that we haven't heard in ages are spread throughout the disc. I have not been blown away by an entire disc like this is quite some time. Stupendous!!
Stryper - No More Hell To Pay| Posted November 04, 2013
Stryper is definitely back! Marking their 3rd release since coming back together (2nd with the original members), Stryper is back to it's old rocking self with some killer new tunes. Fans of Stryper will not be disappointed in this album. The boys are back with their hard hitting, in your face lyrics and of course their awesome guitar solos. Man, I feel 15 all over again. Great album.
Stunning. GREAT job, guys!! Musically ON FIRE.| Posted November 03, 2013
First: THANK YOU to MICHAEL, ROBERT, TIM and OZ!!! Your hard work is evident.
I have to say, I was OBSESSED with Stryper growing up. I had black and yellow stripes doodled everyhere, from as soon as I first bought and heard The Yellow and Black Attack back in 1984. But what I once thought was merely a passable substitute for the "secular" music I loved, I eventually discovered that Stryper was legit--the real thing! Michael has among the best chops in the Industry (if not arguably now THE best--having tremendously matured over the years), the guitar playing is sizzling and spot-on (just see them live, and you'll know), and Robert Sweet's drumming just COMPELS.
While I love everything they did in the past (including the critics' most-hated In God We Trust--which I thought was marred only by the production), it wasn't until the decidedly UN-preachy "Against the Law" that Stryper FINALLY showcased their true talent. That album SIZZLES with earnestness, energy, and undeniable musical showmanship. Unfortunately nay-sayers prevented that album from reaching all the ears and hearts it ideally might have--Christian and non-religious alike. Its fun-loving AND world-unifying message could have gone a long way had it not received so much unfair judgment and scorn from too many directions.
Enter 2013 and "No More Hell to Pay". If previously a fan, but un-inclined to listen for yourself, imagine an album that could have landed easily between Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With the Devil--but with all the accumulated talent of all the years since. Or, if you must--imagine Against the Law with slightly less swagger, and slightly more "hot steel"--but with a return to form in their original message. Now, I don't personally don't prefer the decidedly evangelical lyrics of this album (my own beliefs have changed and evolved entirely over the years--more in line with those of a "Jesus" who probably more resembles the Buddha), but for a band whose peers have mostly retired, I can put up with what is said for the sake of witnessing (and relishing!) a band that has never been more on fire in their passion, creativity, and musical delivery.
With No More Hell To Pay (the album), the screams are back (ten-fold!), the riffs climb ladders in your ears, and the hooks and melodies drive you to places you've never been in song before--even 30 years later! I am duly impressed. This is genuinely quite possibly Stryper's best album ever. My only complaints might be (slightly) the production quality, the (again) over-Christianized message--and (get this!) the fact that it starts and JUST NEVER LETS YOU CATCH A BREATH before it ends!! The screams are so well-placed and so surprising that at times I can't help but to laugh with glee, and I marvel at the song-craft over all.
Again, having been a life-long fan no matter what I've spiritually come to believe, I can only say GREAT JOB GUYS!!! FANTASTIC!! Very well done!! After hearing it on preview through NewReleaseTuesday online several times now, I can only say just how grateful I am that you're back, and in more than fine form!! KUDOS--and THANK YOU!! I'll be listening to this one for quite a long time. --Kevin B, Lifelong fan!
I was driving in the country with my wife and we were listening to a Christian Rock Radio show from a tiny radio station our of Minneapolis. Suddenly, the usual tones of Rez, Petra etc, were shattered by a band out of California called STRYPER and the song was "From Wrong to Right." I litterally had tears in my eyes as I listened and finally heard music that was as good as any arena band out there, and I knew Christian music would never be the same.
I was hooked. Up to that point, I was just a rocker and I didn't really even like metal music. Too much screaming for my tastes. I was a guitarist and singer when I got saved in 82, and up to that point, I played Styx, Journey, Kansas, etc in a local bar band. After my conversion, I put the equipment away to seek the Lord and "see what he wanted me to do." After several months, songs began to come to my mind, and I started to write.
My style was drastically changed from 3 chord rock when STRYPER hit the airwaves and my record player..(now there's a blast from the past,) to melodic Christian metal. Go to MySpace and do a music search for "Kings N Priests" and you'll get the idea.
Fast forward to No More Hell To Pay. This album starts out fast and never lets up. Some highlights are Saved By Love, and Water to Wine, but this album is filled with hits. Nearly every song is classic STRYPER at it's best.
There are no words to describe how awesome No More Hell To Pay is. Every song on this CD has power, huge vocals and amazing guitar riffs. There is not one song that doesn't hold up to the high standard that Stryper has achieved. No More Hell To Pay will finally get Stryper the recognition that they so rightfully deserve.
Another Wonderfully Epic Album| Posted November 01, 2013
I will start by saying that due to the inconvinience of internet streaming (for me, I use an iPod) and the wide variety of genres of New Album Previews, I usually don't listen to a whole album here on NRT.com. BUT, this album is one of the few exceptions.
I absolutely loved it! It rocked (obviously). It was true to Stryper's old sound while still staying current. This album is on my list to buy, and should be on yours too!!
Stryper 'No More Hell to Pay'| Posted November 01, 2013
I am blown away with this new release!!! It has incredible guitar work and Michael's voice is strong and sounding better than ever. Every song is well written and the melodies stay with you long after the sound is gone. Thank you Stryper for this awesome release!!!
The boys are back in town| Posted November 01, 2013
You hear the term 'taking it to the next level' used alot whether its a sports team, a business,etc. Stryper has taken it to the next level and beyond. To me true greatness in an album is when you have multiple songs that different listeners will say they like or love the most. This is one of those albums.