strypnomoreThis is a Stryper with more of a raw edge, more of a mature attack, and more of a solid-footing than ever before.

No More Hell To Pay
Frontiers Records
12 tracks / 51:07

It happens in early November. For the first time since 1990 we have a studio album of (mostly) new material from the original line-up featured on 1984's The Yellow and Black Attack. 1984 the math. It's three decades later, no spandex, the hair is smaller, and the make up is gone – but the rock remains (guys, you can file 'the rock remains' for a future album title – a freebie from your humble reviewer). If there is any doubt out there, Michael and Robert Sweet, Oz Fox, and Tim Gaines do the Stryper thing full-strength on No More Hell To Pay.

All of the things you want from Stryper are on No More Hell To Pay in copious amounts: piercing screams, anthemic choruses, locomotive drumming, precision harmony-leads, dueling guitar solos, powerful, driving bass, passionate vocals, tight back-up harmonies, and hooks, hooks, hooks. Oh – and did I mention that there are hooks? Once again, Stryper manages to combine the infectious qualities of pop with the driving power of metal and the broad appeal of arena-rock.

Starting off with the solid, sure, deliberate pace of the hard edged "Revelation," the band continues with the memorable title track (which features tasty bass licks from Mr. Gaines) before kicking into high(er) gear – and a more familiar Metal tempo – on "Saved By Love," which has a deliciously-nasty vocal attack by Michael on the chorus. By the time this track is over the claim, 'best they've ever sounded,' starts to gain validity. This is a Stryper with more of a raw edge, more of a mature attack, and more of a solid-footing than ever before. If there was ever any rust on these guys the first notes of "Revelation," blasted it away.

The one cover song on the album – interestingly, a song that's also been covered by pop hip-hoppers DC Talk – keeps its integrity, yet sounds as if it was written for Stryper to perform. "Jesus is Just Alright" is an explosion of energetic celebration and Stryper-ized pop with a bluesy center. Well done, and a surprising triumph. If you loved "Shining Star" this one will blow you away.

Following the well-known cover, Michael Sweet delivers one of his finest vocals on what just might be the best of Stryper's impressive collection of strong ballads. "The One" is big, strong and melodic and will stay with you for days after you hear it, the haunting wordless riff running over and over in your head. I did mention hooks, didn't I?

It's back to the hard stuff for the balance of the album, with song after song that will please any Stryper fan. "Marching Into Battle," in particular, not only continues the 'soldiers' spiritual warfare theme, but manages to be one of the heavier riff-driven songs on the album, as well as the most literally scriptural. And, yes – the songs are still explicitly Christian in nature.

If the sun has fallen from the sky / And the stars that shine begin to hide
When the night has stolen every day / I'll follow You 'til there's no more Hell to pay

These words from the album's title track pretty much sum up where the band stands, lyrically. Musically, they're continuing the Stryper tradition: not so big on the subtleties, heavy enough to rock you, hooky enough to get under your skin. Michael's guitar skills are still intact and his vocals astound, Fox's guitar work is still machine gun-like and manically stunning, Gaines' bass playing takes some intriguiing little turns as he holds the bottom down, and Robert continues to lay down a rock-solid rhythmic foundation.
Yes, the yellow and black are back.

-Bert Saraco


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