Stryper makes metal great again - maybe they’ll make a believer out of you...
Even The Devil Believes
11 tracks / 46:55
Some 37 years after the yellow and black first attacked, Stryper proves that they’re still alive and well and ready to rock with full-strength heavenly-metal on their new release, Even The Devil Believes. With relentless momentum and driving metal riffs, Even The Devil Believes unapologetically carries on the Stryper tradition of head-banging tempos, soaring twin guitar riffs, fiery solos, jack-hammer bass, thunderous drumming, and - of course - Michael Sweet’s astonishingly still-intact extreme vocals. Sounds a little over-the-top? Then I guess they’re doing it right because that’s pretty much what you’d expect from the iconic band. Combine all of this with signature Stryper harmony vocals, clean, vivid production, the expected hooks and an unerring pop sensibility and you have not just another classic Stryper product, but an album that can stand up as one of the band’s best efforts.
The first track, “Blood From Above,” starts like it’s shot out of a cannon, setting the stage for a pop-metal fest that continues with the slow, heavy, deliberate pace of “Make Love Great Again” - a song that gives ‘new’ bass player, Perry Richardson (he’s already toured with the band but this is his first in-studio work) some impressive moments, especially in the song’s opening. Aside from some great vocals and guitars, “Make Love Great Again” boasts an interesting arrangement. This project delivers everything a Stryper fan would expect, including a strong ballad in “This I Pray,” the only song here that starts out with an acoustic guitar - although the entire band does get involved by the time the chorus comes around. There’s also a better-than-average ‘God-rock’ song, “For God and Rock & Roll,” with Sweet vocally channeling Edgar Winter and proclaiming, “The rock! The Roll! Never let the Devil claim your soul! Make it loud / take it slow - raise your hands for God and Rock and roll!” Makes me nostalgic for the early days of the Jesus movement *sigh*.....
To answer the usual question, yes - Stryper’s message is still intact, and in a big way. “Let Him In” has as evangelical a lyric as any in the band’s history, starting out with a pretty obvious paraphrase of John 3:16. “Do Unto Others” and the title-track are clear enough just by reading the song titles. Of course, this is Stryper, so you’d expect some controversy - so there’s “Make Love Great Again” and (gulp) “Middle Finger Messiah.” I can’t say I’ve deciphered all of the lyrics to that last one, but I understand it’s a song about a street preacher who inherited certain derogatory ‘nick-names’ for his efforts. As far as “Make Love Great Again” goes, there’s really nothing controversial at all about the song, although the title itself has bothered some people - controversy, like beauty, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder...
With furious tempos and powerhouse drumming from Robert Sweet, lightning-fast soloing from Oz Fox and Michael Sweet, rich, solid bass work from Richardson, and those aforementioned signature vocals, Even the Devil Believes should take its place among the best of the Stryper catalog. Although this is vintage Stryper, the band is flexing some creative muscles within the genre with surprising moments like an ELO-like harmony phrase in “How to Fly” and some very inventive soloing over a “Hotel California”-like progression in “Do Unto Others.”
Metal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. But Stryper certainly knows how to do it right - in a way that’s palatable to the casual listener and yet authentic. Maybe they’ll even make a believer out of you.
- Bert Saraco
You can see Bert’s concert photography - including pictures of Stryper - at www.facebook.com/express.image