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Posted April 05, 2013
By Christopher-Long,

Mightier than Motley and prettier than Poison, God's own glam band, Stryper, was perhaps the most important act of the arena rock era. And if you missed 'em the first time around, stand by for the "second coming"...

It's a peculiar predicament indeed. Established music artists still produce new product, but for an audience that is buying fewer and fewer (and fewer) records. We now live in an iWorld where Martha Quinn is in her 50s and The Breakfast Club generation has become the parents, and in some cases (GASP!) even grandparents. And they face a host of life issues far more challenging than merely "wanting their MTV." Yes, dealing with the PTA, the IRS and the AARP now presents a greater sense of urgency than running out to the local record shop to score U2's latest. Uh, did I just say, "record shop?"

There's a reason why classic rock radio stations everywhere still play "Sweet Home Alabama" every hour, on the hour. The typical over 35 "John Q. music fan" clings to his comfort zone with white knuckles. Plus, for the most part, even the "John Q.s" have discovered the convenience of buying and stealing music digitally. So, what's a seasoned artist to do in the wake of this ever-changing iWorld? Simply appeal to that audience's comfort zone — even if it means producing only tribute releases, "Greatest Hits" collections and live packages, as said artist rides off into the rock and roll sunset.

Embracing this new industry standard, the original, platinum-selling Stryper line-up of lead guitarist Oz Fox, drummer Robert Sweet, bassist Tim Gaines and frontman/guitarist Michael Sweet return in 2013 with their latest offering, Second Coming. Simply put, Second Coming is what it is — a re-recorded collection of the band's 14 beefiest early classics, along with two new bonus tracks added for good measure.

The revamped nuggets maintain maximum skull-crushing freshness, while the musicianship remains as superb as ever. However, Second Coming is less polished-sounding than many of the band's previous records — feeling more like a live album with no crowd — an awesome board tape from a really good (and lengthy) soundcheck.
But Lo-Fi isn't necessarily a bad thing. Overall, the raw production works just fine here. 1984's "Loving You," 1985's "Soldiers Under Command" and 1986's "The Way" represent some of the record's stronger efforts.

However, a few tunes seem to fall flat. Although "Loud 'N' Clear" certainly still rocks musically, the re-recorded vocals pack less punch and conviction than the original. Additionally, "Reach Out" feels sluggish, and the signature Stryper back-up vocals sound as if they've been replaced with tracks recorded by NFL linebackers.

As for the new tunes, "Bleeding From Inside Out" and "Blackened" both possess elements of the band's trademark style while also pointing to what a full-length new Stryper record might look like.

For recent and casual followers, Second Coming serves as an appealing "Stryper 101" showcase. However, longtime diehards may find greater satisfaction in the band's original recordings.

In sum, the biggest, best and brightest news here is that Second Coming once again brings Stryper's "Good News" message of Jesus Christ back into focus. And for that, I offer the band heartfelt kudos and give the record an enthusiastic "thumbs-up." C'mon Rock!

-Christopher Long
(March 2013)


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