Frontiers Records [Release date 16.10.15]
Few bands can have been subject to such misconceptions as Stryper. The overt way they wore their Christian faith on their distinctive yellow and black sleeves divided opinion when they emerged in the eighties and, worse still, their breakthrough American hits were sickly ballads.
Not being a man of faith myself, I barely gave them a second thought yet when they headlined the Frontiers Rock Festival last year friends begged me to give them a chance and it is fair to say I was blown away by the power of their performance.
With singer Michael Sweet having already collaborated with George Lynch on one of the albums of the year, I therefore approached this album, their first of new material since 2013’s ‘No More Hell To Pay’ with some interest.
While they have toned down their image they are still unapologetic about their faith as evidenced by six and a half minute opener ‘Yahweh’ which begins with some choral chanting. Both that and the second song ‘Fallen’ have loads of shredding guitar solos from Michael and co-guitarist Oz Fox. ‘Pride’ may surprise people with some riffery worthy of Metallica or Megadeth and remarkably there is even a faithful cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘After Forever’.
However the big choruses of ‘Big Screen Lies’ and ‘Heaven’ will appeal to more traditional Stryper fans as will ‘Love You Like I Do’ where the wall of harmony vocals makes the chorus even bigger.
Throughout the vocals of Sweet are crystal clear yet soaringly powerful and though ballads are in short supply ‘All Over Again’ is a perfect showcase for them. ‘Till I Get What I Need’ is another highlight with searing solos over a powerful riff and ‘Let There Be Light’ again sees them swapping solos.
‘The Calling’, whose opening verse reminds me of Sammy Hagar’s ‘Only One Way To Rock’ is another with a massive hook-laden chorus.
I would thoroughly recommend this album including to some of the people who may previously have given the yellow and black attack the widest berth. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year Pete Feenstra presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Tuesdays at 19:00 BST (GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon. This show was first broadcast on 14 July.
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