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Back in the Ring - Stryper's Second Coming
Posted April 04, 2013
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer


In 1983, an era when "Christian rock" was still considered by most to be a contradiction of terms, a band called Stryper took the stage equipped with metal riff sensibilities, bombastic classic rock vocals, and a uniform of black and yellow spandex.

The glam rock four-piece would spend the next decade fighting for the cause of music that boldly declared the Gospel without losing any of its rock-and-roll flare. A decade after calling it quits, the guys took the stage again in 2003. The band's hard-won position as one of the definitive acts who paved the way for the next two decades of Christian hard rock artists hasn't stopped them from holding their own in the present as well. Stryper's latest effort is Second Coming, a collection of 14 re-recorded classics and two new selections.
 
The advent of significantly better recording equipment would be enough in itself to justify the re-recording of some of these classic tracks--a venture further justified by the fact that frontman Michael Sweet's stirring vocals only seem to have grown stronger over the years.

Old school Stryper fans will enjoy a slightly updated take on classics such as "Free," "Soldiers Under Command," and "To Hell With the Devil." Rather than reinventing or altering the original songs, Stryper sticks to what they do best, keeping the songs infused with a solid dose of classic glam metal riffage soaring from the foundation of Robert Sweet's intricate drum work.
 
"First Love" breathes life back into the classic monster ballad sound of '80s rock, crafting a poignant call for those who have thrown God's love away to come back. The heart of each of the songs is laid bare in their unabashed presentation of gospel truths, choosing accessibility above complexity.

Classic track "The Rock that Makes Me Roll" make their mission just as clear now as it was at the song's release nearly three decades ago: "They say that rock and roll is strong, but God's the rock that makes us roll. Don't need no drugs to help us push on, we've got His power in our souls."
 
The first of the new tracks, "Bleeding From the Inside Out," makes it immediately clear that the musical style is going to stay true to the heart of Stryper both musically and thematically. The lyrics do bring a more mature perspective to the table, using slightly more poetic language to describe the state of a soul deeply needing redemption. Guitarist Oz Fox churns out a classic complex metal solo in the bridge, toning it down just enough to meet the slightly melancholy vibe of the song without losing any of the ferocity.

"Blackened" takes a similar approach, highlighting a desire to remain focused on God's light rather than being blackened by the heartaches and vices encountered in life. This song has a darker sound to match the imploring nature of the song's thrust, ending with some of Michael Sweet's signature soaring falsetto.
 
Closing Thoughts:
Although some may question Stryper's decision to stick to their roots instead of conforming to contemporary conventions, this collection certainly establishes relevance of a different kind. The first generation of Christian rock fans will enjoy these cleaned up releases of the songs that shaped an era of their faith journey, while younger listeners will be get a chance to connect to the forerunner of the Christian metal and hard rock genre.

The truths about the saving power of Christ and the work of redemption and sanctification are just as valuable and encouraging now, and it's probable that no other band has or will capture those truths with the same massive classic metal intensity that Stryper achieved. This is a worthwhile addition to the collection of any old school Stryper fan as well as any modern hard rock listener looking for something a little different.

Song to Download Now:
"Bleeding From the Inside Out" (Get it on iTunes here.)
 

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