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Stryper | Second Coming

by Mark Allen
– Senior Columnist –

StryperSometimes giving old things a fresh twist can generate renewed excitement. That ’82 Camaro rusting in peace behind the shed suddenly seems fun to drive again when spruced up with some spiffy new paint. Jacking some jalapenos into your mother’s tasteless meatloaf recipe juices it up with some extra kick. Introducing a new toy into your carnal escapades can turn bedroom dullness into bedroom delights. But when it comes to tinkering with their beloved tunes, fans tend to get a little testy …

Re-recording songs or albums has become a tolerable but not entirely welcome trend in hard rock circles. Sometimes it makes a certain amount of sense (Whitecross’ debut definitely benefited from sonic enhancements) but other times it’s a real head-scratcher (did Firehouse actually think they could improve their stellar debut?). KISS, Scorpions, L.A. Guns … all have trotted out revamped versions of their early stuff; even Harem Scarem is hopping on the bandwagon later this year. The reasons cited often have more variety than a pharmacist’s medicine cabinet, but the primary purpose is usually mercenary in nature. In other words, it’s all about business, with creativity generally taking a back burner.

Now it’s time for one of the most famous bands in Christian metal to touch up the yellow and black stripes on some of their early output, and while singer Michael Sweet is candid about this release being mostly about licensing and catalog control, Stryper did not just crank out some cut-rate crap and call it a day. Instead, they took the opportunity to correct some of the issues with their earlier albums; namely, the thin production, lack of bass, and absence of Tim Gaines’ on To Hell With the Devil. They were also cool enough to grace Second Coming with two new studio tracks, both very much vintage Stryper.

The band took two songs from their debut, then six each from Soldiers Under Command and To Hell With the Devil. Inexplicably, they ignored In God We Trust like a redheaded stepchild. Omissions aside, while this may seem sacrilegious to the Stryper stalwarts, these retooled incarnations are superior to the originals. The bulked up bass, upgraded production, and thickened harmonies empower the songs with the rich metal fullness they previously lacked. Granted, the original tracks possessed a pure, primal hunger that only a young band can bring, but the loss of that raw edge is amply compensated by the inclusion of more bottom end muscle. Stryper boldly proclaimed they were going to improve these tracks and to quote Yoda, “Lie, they did not.” Classic Stryper tunes like “The Rock That Makes Me Roll,” “Free,” and “More Than a Man” have never sounded better.

But what about the new songs? Well, “Bleeding From the Inside Out” is pretty solid. No, it doesn’t compare to the band’s best … more like a B-side from Soldiers Under Command. “Blackened,” on the other hand, hearkens more toward some of the heavier tracks on To Hell With the Devil, loaded with slashing guitars, powerful rhythms and head-banging beats. It’s indisputable proof that Stryper can still craft a killer commercial metal tune and should whet everyone’s appetite for the new studio album due out later this year.

All too often these re-recording projects turn out to be a case of the Emperor’s new clothes. But Stryper have performed a miracle by remolding some of their most beloved compositions into upgraded versions that are better than the originals. Nobody could have seen that coming. Long after so many others of their era have faded into oblivion, Stryper continue to show that they have the chops to keep on rockin’ for the Rock. And for that, Christian metal fans should say, Amen.

Genre: Christian Metal

Band:
Michael Sweet (lead vocals, guitar)
Robert Sweet (drums)
Oz Fox (guitar, vocals)
Timothy Gaines (bass, vocals)

Track Listing
1. Loud N’ Clear
2. Loving You
3. Soldiers Under Command
4. Makes Me Wanna Sing
5. First Love
6. The Rock That Makes Me Roll
7. Reach Out
8. Surrender
9. To Hell With the Devil
10. Calling On You
11. Free
12. The Way
13. Sing Along Song
14. More Than a Man
15. Bleeding From the Inside Out (new track)
16. Blackened (new track)

Label: Frontiers Records

Webpage: www.stryper.com

Hardrock Haven rating: 8.5/10

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