Stryper, the black-and-yellow clad metal band that screamed onto the scene more than thirty years ago, is back. The band released its 11th studio album, Even the Devil Believes, this month. I’ve spent the past week or so getting to know it.
Lead singer and guitarist Michael Sweet recently posted what amounts to a manifesto on social media: “If metal is about rebellion then we’re probably more metal than most other ‘metal’ bands out there. We’ve rebelled against the norm and we haven’t played by any rules when many other bands have basically followed the rules. We broke the mold and still continue to do so. We stand for holiness in a godless society and we have absolutely no regrets.”
Stryper has always had this counter-cultural edge, as much when they arrived in the 1980s and shook up Christian rock as now, when they stand as some of the clearest and most consistent musicians around. They are the same band they were at the start. But better. Much better.
Seriously, Michael Sweet’s vocals have never sounded better. His upper-register howl comes with a deeper growl that just rips through the new material. His and Oz Fox’s guitar work has never sounded better. Perry Richardson (bass, formerly of FireHouse) and Robert Sweet (drums) keep the grooves moving fluidly throughout. If this band wasn’t labeled “Christian” some of its work would be held up alongside the early work of Mötley Crüe and the more recent work of Disturbed as some of the best metal ever. They’re world-class musicians and producers and that’s evident throughout ETDB.
Even the Devil Believes is a potent record, full of memorable tracks, easily landing in Stryper’s top three (their best, in my opinion, remains No More Hell To Pay mainly for the brilliant title track). All that Stryper is known for is here: harmonic guitar solos, searing vocals, big power drums, metal from the 80s styles forward to now, and top-notch production, all gliding over popping bass. Several of ETDB’s tracks will likely land on lists of Stryper classics, including “Blood From Above,” “Make Love Great Again,” “For God & Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and “Do Unto Others.”
Being a Stryper record, and the band being known for provocative titles such as To Hell With the Devil and God Damn Evil, ETDB delivers another signature Stryper piece in the thumping “Middle Finger Messiah.” Think of it as a metal version of Michael Card’s “Scandalon” and you’ll have an entirely different song with a parallel message but sonically somewhere in the “Thunderstruck” zip code.
“Even the Devil Believes,” the title cut, is vintage Stryper. Medium-speed metal, layered guitars that weave and wind around Sweet’s vocal, a fiery harmonic guitar solo piece, all while older brother Robert delivers rolling power on the drums. “How to Fly” stands out as an ELO-inspired trip back to early 80s rock. “This I Pray” goes in more of a late 80s Bon Jovi direction. “Divider” pulls no punches as a more contemporary metal piece. Several cuts on ETDB will make live rock great again, once Stryper can get back on the road. “For God & Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Invitation Only” will be must-play tracks.
Even the Devil believes that Stryper’s Even the Devil Believes delivers some soaring, stirring, stinging metal.