Worth the Price of Admission| Posted August 11, 2014
The place? The Whiskey A Go Go club on the sunset strip of Sunset Boulevard. The music? The shredding guitar metal that defined a genre in the 80's. The band? One of the forefathers of Christian music who still know how to rock and roll. The hair? Larger than life. The voice? Iconic.
Not only did Stryper blast open sonic doors for what Christian artists could do with music, but they paved the way for the "crossover" into the mainstream for countless future acts. There's a lot of broken glass surrounding them already from all of the ceilings they shattered. But not content to be confined to the prologue of the Story of Christian Rock, the band reunited in the early 2000's and have since regularly toured and released new material. While newer acts claim the dominant spots of the industry, Stryper has proved themselves anything but a tired nostalgia fest. This release finds them offering yet another live album mixing quintessential classics with highlights from their newest studio smash, No More Hell To Pay. Live albums are a risky endeavor as it's hard to capture a band's live presence in just an audio recording, but the results here are largely successful.
From the opening metal riffs of newer hit "Legacy" to the classic metal ballad goodness of "Calling on You" to the iconic "The Rock That Makes Me Roll" to the soaring melodies of title track "No More Hell To Pay" from their last studio release to the rousing anthem "Always There For You," it's a full metal show packed with excitement. There's even the anticipatory thrill of the "one-more-song" effect before two of the band's signature songs close out the set as an encore. "To Hell With The Devil" and "Soldiers Under Command" are definitely highlights, and their militant themes make for a fine conclusion to a solid show. The energy seemed to build to these numbers, and the band was firing on all cylinders as the classics exploded out of the speakers.
Some live albums attempt to capture the feel of an arena rock show, but Stryper is content to capture the intimate feel of a small club. The guitars balance power with clarity and simplicity. They're crystal clear and drive most of the songs to their fine finishes. Michael Sweet is still at the top of his game vocally, delivering a sharp yet smooth performance for most of the show. Only a few songs find the vocals sounding a bit on the strained side, which doesn't particularly detract from the show. With minimal talking between the tracks, the songs mostly can be played alone as well. And at a healthy and generous 16 tracks, this concert is overflowing with everything Stryper. This album is well worth the price of admission.
It's truly a treat to hear such iconic veterans still play with a youthful energy. There's definitely a dated sound to the music, but it's played in such a fresh and vibrant way that it almost serves as a bit of a portal to another time. This is a band that shaped an industry and while they may not command it commercially like they once did, they still know all the rules for putting on an engaging metal show.