Category Archives: Stryper

Stryper – Fallen [Album Review]

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Stryper – Fallen
2015, Frontier Records

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  1. Yahweh
  2. Fallen
  3. Pride
  4. Big Screen Lies
  5. Heaven
  6. Love You Like I Do
  7. All Over Again
  8. After Forever
  9. Till I Get What I Need
  10. Let There Be Light
  11. The Calling
  12. King of Kings

Band:
Michael Sweet – lead vocals, guitar
Robert Sweet – drums, percussion
Oz Fox – lead guitar, vocals
Tim Gaines – bass, vocals

Producer: Michael Sweet

Michael Sweet and the rest of Stryper continue their break-neck pace of releasing albums. Given the steady stream of content they’ve been delivering, you’d think the quality would be quite spotty though that hasn’t been the case. BUT… Fallen is a bit of a step down from the very heavy and anthemic No More Hell to Pay.

I must admit, I’ve given this album multiple spins but it’s not grabbing like recent previous efforts from the band (or solo Sweet) have. In fact, I’m struggling to even come up with anything to say about this album because it’s neither terrible or great. It’s a solid  but ultimately nothing sticks with me after having listened to it.

It’s almost sounds like tracks that couldn’t make the cut for the previous album. “Heaven” is easily the best song here and their cover of Black Sabbath’s “After Forever” is good but there’s not much else worth mentioning.

Highlights: “Heaven”, “After Forever”

Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide [Review]

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Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide
2014, Big3 Records
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1. Taking On the World Tonight
2. All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)
3. The Cause
4. This Time
5. I’m Not Your Suicide
6. Coming Home
7. Miles Away
8. Strong
9. How To Live
10. Heart of Gold
11. Anybody Else
12. Unsuspecting
13. Heart of Gold (Duet with Electra Mustaine)

Musicians:
Michael Sweet – lead vocals, lead guitar
Kenny Aronoff – drums
John O’Boyle – Bass
Paul McNamara – Piano, B3, Moog, Keyboards
Pete Adams – Steel guitar

Guest Musicians:
Tony Harnell – Vocals (“Taking on the World Tonight”)
Kevin Max – Vocals (“This Time”)
Electra Mustaine – Vocals (“Heart of Gold”)
Chris Jericho – Vocals (“Anybody Else”)
Doug Aldrich – Guitar (“Anybody Else”)
Robert Sweet – Backing Vocals (“How to Live”)
Tim Gaines – Backing Vocals (“How to Live”)

I don’t know how Michael Sweet gets any rest. Stryper is constantly releasing albums (not that I’m complaining), he has a side-project with George Lynch and he continues to also pursue a solo career as evidenced by the release of I’m Not Your Suicide. Sweet’s powerful vocals are pretty recognizable so it’s hard to hear his voice and not think this is Stryper. The truth is that many of these songs could’ve ended up on a Stryper album. Sure, there’s nothing here that’s anywhere near as heavy as No More Hell to Pay but a good number of these tracks would fit in with Stryper’s typical style melodic rock. Michael even branches out a bit with a song like “Coming Home”, which sounds like an obvious play for the country stations. The result? Eh. The least liked song on the album for me. One of my favorite tracks is “This Time”, which I can’t help but getting a feeling of Electric Light Orchestra from.

There’s a number of interesting appearances on this album such as TNT’s Tony Harnell, Fozzy vocalist/WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, ex-Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and Electra Mustaine, Dave Mustaine’s daughter (How’d that come about about?).

The first half of the album is very strong. I found a lot of the second half didn’t strike the same chord with me that the first half did but overall this is a very good melodic rock/pop album that really wouldn’t sound too out of place as a part of the Stryper discography. Michael Sweet continues to show that he is one of the most gifted songwriters and vocalists in the world of rock today.

Highlights: “Taking On the World Tonight”, “All That’s Left (For Me to Prove)”, “The Cause”, “This Time”, “I’m Not Your Suicide”, “Miles Away”

Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life [Review]

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 Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life
2014, Rhino Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Neon Knights – Anthrax
2. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
3. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
4. Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
5. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
6. Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff Byford
7. The Temple Of The King – Scorpions
8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
9. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch The Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
11. I – Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light In The Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill The King) – Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio
Bonus Track:
15. Buried Alive – Jasta

Well, there certainly hasn’t been an absence of Dio-related releases since Ronnie’s passing. In the 4 years that Ronnie has been gone there have been two compilations, two live releases (a third is due shortly) and at least three tribute albums by my count. Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life is the third tribute album that I am aware of. The first two tributes were Jorn’s Dio (which Wendy Dio gave her blessing for) and Joey DeMaio’s Magic (which Wendy did not approve of), though I’m sure there’s probably more out there.

As far as star power and  talent goes, you won’t find a better Dio tribute: Anthrax, Halestorm, Metallica, Scorpions, Rob Halford, Motorhead, Biff Byford, Vinny Appice, Doro, Doug Aldrich… the list goes on and on.

Most these songs are played fairly straight and faithfully but it’s still interesting to hear Dio covered by other well-known artists and the songs cover his years in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and the Dio band. The majority of these tracks range from good to excellent. Even Tenacious D (who I normally can’t stand) do a decent job.

There are a few tracks I do have an issue with though. For one, Killswitch Engage’s “Holy Diver”. I don’t like metalcore and never needed to hear a metalcore version complete with unnecessary pinch harmonics that would make Zakk Wylde proud. I give them credit for trying to make the song their own, but it doesn’t make it a good cover.

Then there’s the cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. There’s a good line-up of musicians on the track and Oni Logan is a good singer but he lacks the power to really put that song over the top like Dio did. He doesn’t sound bad, but I don’t think he’s the right fit for a song like this, if that makes any sense.

Then there’s “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Again, great musicians here. It’s Rob Halford backed by a collection of former Dio band members. Doug Aldrich’s presence is felt throughout the song and while he was in Dio before he joined Whitesnake, the song is given a slight makeover and comes across like a modern Whitesnake song. Halford sounds fine, but again, he doesn’t have the proper voice to be covering songs sung by Ronnie James Dio. Or songs sung by Ronnie James Dio that have been given a Whitesnake makeover. I’m liking this take on the song musically, I just think Halford’s vocals are out of place.

Glenn Hughes turns in a fantastic soulful performance on “Catch the Rainbow”. He is also backed by a collection of former Dio players. Motorhead & Biff Byford do a great job on “Starstruck” and I initially thought that was the Glenn Hughes track when I first heard it. “The Temple of the King” by Scorpions is wonderful as well. It’s a faithful cover of the original but it’s very cool to hear Klaus Meine on vocals.

The track that is garnering the most attention, obviously, is the Metallica track. I’m glad they are on this project because there’s no doubt they have brought eyes to this album that might not have given it a look otherwise. They do a good job covering four of Rainbow’s best songs.

The physical CD closes the album with the ballad “This Is Your Life” which is pulled from Dio’s 1996 album Angry Machines. The song is given extra weight considering the circumstances. Jasta’s “Buried Alive” is a digital album exclusive bonus track and is actually pretty good. Once again, Japan gets more material than North America because Stryper’s cover of “Heaven and Hell” and the Dio Disciples’ take on “Stand Up and Shout” appear on pressings over there. Seriously, what’s up with Japan always getting bonus tracks that never see the light of the day in the United States? I’ve never heard anyone actually address why that happens so often!

A few minor quibbles, but this isn’t a better Dio tribute album out and there probably never will be. Must have for Dio fans!

Highlights: “Rainbow In the Dark”, “Straight Through the Heart”, “Starstruck”, “The Temple of the King”, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, “Catch the Rainbow”, “Ronnie Rising Medley”, “This Is Your Life”

Stryper – No More Hell to Pay [Review]

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Stryper – No More Hell to Pay
2013, Frontiers Records

Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Revelation
2. No More Hell to Pay
3. Saved by Love
4. Jesus Is Just Alright
5. The One
6. Legacy
7. Marching into Battle
8. Te Amo
9. Sticks & Stones
10. Water into Wine
11. Sympathy
12. Renewed

Band:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Oz Fox – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tim Gaines – Bass, Backing Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums

Producer: Michael Sweet

Stryper has done very well for themselves since releasing their comeback album, Reborn, in 2005. They’re one of the few “hair” bands that has remained relevant by successfully tweaking and modernizing their sound instead of trying to write songs that remind you of their 1980s albums. With this release though, it seems like they’ve taken quite a bit of inspiration from classic metal and decided to leave the lightweight sappy stuff at home.

After releasing an albums of covers and then an album re-recording their own songs, I was beginning to wonder if an album of all new original material would surface. Arguably, No More Hell to Pay is their heaviest, darkest and hardest album to date. Recently songs like “God” (from The Covering), “Blackened” and “Bleeding From the Inside Out” (both from Second Coming) were great indicators of exactly where Stryper was going with this release and the band has not disappointed me!

“Revelation”, “No More Hell to Pay”, “Legacy” and “Saved By Love” are absolute molten epic metal tracks. “Revelation” is my favorite song of the bunch with “The One” coming in second. “The One” is the album’s lone ballad, but I’m not sure if you could even call it that because it’s still pretty heavy for a ballad! Even the band’s cover of “Jesus Is Just Alright” features a very metal guitar solo!

Another highlight of the album of Michael Sweet’s vocals. He’s never really gotten the credit he deserves. He sounds phenomenal and is one of the better vocalists to come out of the glam metal era. What a great job he does on the rifftastic “Saved By Love”.

It’s great to see this band continue to evolve. No More Hell to Pay seems to be one-part Murder By Pride and one-part classic heavy metal. Even if you’re not a Jesus freak, there’s plenty to enjoy here if all you want is to do is bang your head.

Highlights: “Revelation”, “No More Hell to Pay”, “Saved By Love”, “The One”, “Legacy”, “Te Amo”, “Sticks and Stones”, “Renewed”

www.stryper.com
www.facebook.com/stryper

Stryper – Second Coming [Review]

Stryper – Second Coming
2013, Frontiers Records

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 Inside Out”
16. “Blackened”

Band:
Michael Sweet – Vocals, Guitar
Oz Fox – Guitars
Tim Gaines – Bass
Robert Sweet – Drums

Religion aside, Stryper is one of the few successful bands that I never got into when I was discovering the wonderful world of hair bands and glam metal. Despite owning a few one or two albums from their original run, it’s actually their later albums that pulled me in and converted me (no pun intended) to a fan. Despite the fact that Second Coming is the band re-recording their own material from their peak years, it has further solidified Stryper’s status with me as one of the best and most relevant hair bands in modern times.

I won’t even pretend to know how some of these songs compare to their original versions but it’s safe to say the production is greatly improved and these songs just sound so HEAVY now. Classic metal songs with a modern twist. These oldies are definitely beefed up to match the power and sound the band has been displaying on their recent albums.

When the band released The Covering (an album of covers… what else?) they included one new track called “God”. It’s one of my favorite songs from the last few years so I was definitely looking forward to the two NEW tracks that were included on this album. Both continue on in the fine tradition of modern Stryper. Another major standout for me is “To Hell With the Devil”. It finally sounds exactly like it always deserved to (okay, that is the Stryper song I’ve always loved)!

Die-hards are probably all over this already but casual Stryper fans should give it a shot to hear some of the band’s classic material with updated production and to check out the new tunes.

Highlights: “Loud ‘N Clear”, “Soldiers Under Command”, “Makes Me Wanna Sing”, “Surrender”, “To Hell With the Devil”, “Bleeding from the Inside Out”, “Blackened”

http://www.stryper.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Stryper

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Stryper – The Covering

Stryper – The Covering (2011, Big3 Records)

1. “Set Me Free” … 3:45
2. “Blackout” … 3:58
3. “Heaven and Hell” … 6:11
4. “Lights Out” … 3:44
5. “Carry On Wayward Son” … 5:16
6. “Highway Star” … 5:45
7. “Shout It Out Loud” … 3:15
8. “Over the Mountain” … 4:21
9. “The Trooper” … 3:53
10. “Breaking the Law” … 3:02
11. “On Fire” … 3:08
12. “Immigrant Song”  … 2:18
13. “God” … 4:55

Band:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Timothy Gaines – Bass, Backing Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Charles Foley – Keyboards, Organ, Piano

Producer: Michael Sweet

And Stryper continues their trend for having AWFUL album covers. =P

Luckily, the album art is not a good indicator of the music itself because this is seriously one great album of covers! When I first heard it was going to be a cover album, I kind of rolled my eyes. That’s usually a sign that a band is slowing down and/or giving up on new material but then they started releasing all these samples and they sounded amazing. I guess the band has caught some flack from their Christian fanbase for having the gall to cover secular music and evil bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and KISS but whatever. Get over yourselves! Christian acts don’t need to be singing about God & Jesus in every single song. Just because you want to cover Van Halen and Scorpions it doesn’t mean you’ve turned your back on the Lord.

Anyway, what a great line-up of bands to cover! In order, they are: Sweet, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, UFO, Kansas, Deep Purple, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. The only original song of the bunch is “God” which is a fantastic hard rocker that just doesn’t let up and gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year.

It was Murder By Pride that pulled me onto the Stryper bandwagon. That was a very good album. Sometimes a veteran act seems to be going through the motions even when they release new material but that wasn’t the case then and even though the band is covering songs here, they still sound energetic and on fire. “God” gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year because they are on a roll.

The band stays pretty faithful to the source material only making slight alterations here and there but these are some killer covers. “Blackout” and “Lights Out” are pure fire and it’s interesting to hear Michael Sweet vocals on these songs. I think he’s got a unique singing style and it’s interesting hearing him find some middle ground between his own style and the styles in which these songs were originally sung.

One of the better cover albums I’ve heard. Essential pickup for 2011.

Highlights: “Set Me Free”, “Blackout”, “Lights Out”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “On Fire”, “God”

http://www.stryper.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Stryper

Buy ‘The Covering’ at Amazon.com

STRYPER – Murder By Pride

Stryper – Murder By Pride (2009, Big3 Records)

1. “Eclipse For The Son” … 4:04
2. “4 Leaf Clover” … 3:42
3. “Peace of Mind” … 3:58
4. “Alive” … 3:36
5. “The Plan” … 3:10
6. “Murder by Pride” … 3:18
7. “I Believe” … 3:43
8. “Run In You” … 4:15
9. “Love Is Why”  … 4:07
10. “Mercy Over Blame” … 4:07
11. “Everything” … 4:26
12. “My Live (I’ll Always Show)” … 3:14

Band:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Oz Fox – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tracy Ferrie – Bass, Backing Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Tom Scholz – Guitar (“Peace of Mind”)
Kenny Aronoff – Drums
Paul McNamara – Piano, Keyboards
Danny Bernini – Percussion

Produced by: Michael Sweet and Danny Bernini

Murder By Pride is my very first Stryper album. I don’t know how it compares to the “classics”, but I’m enjoying it. There are a few spots where it borders on getting very cheesy (“Alive”, “I Believe”), but the songs are good enough to be guilty pleasures for me. The guitars on “I Believe” sound very much like Creed, but I still enjoy the song.

“4 Leaf Clover” and “Murder By Pride” are my favorite tracks and they do a great job of blending 80s hard rock with a modern sound. The rest of the album is full solid hard rockers, which is more than I was expecting. I had it in my head that the chance of some lame pop rock/”Honestly” songs were going to be pretty high, but it just wasn’t the case.

Like I said, I don’t know if this holds a candle to old school Stryper, but it’s got me interested in taking a listen to find out.

The band does a faithful cover of Boston’s “Peace of Mind”. It had better be faithful since Tom Scholz plays on it! Of course, Michael handles co-vocals & guitar for that band following the passing of Brad Delp.

I could not find any info on why, but for whatever reason, founding member and drummer Robert Sweet (Michael’s brother) did not play on this album and a session player filled in. At least that’s what I’ve read online (even though the album credits list both Sweet and Aronoff on drums). He is scheduled to tour with the band though.

Highlights: “Eclipse For The Son”, “4 Leaf Clover”, “Alive”, “The Plan”, “Murder By Pride”, “Mercy Over Blame”, “I Believe”, “My Love (I’ll Always Show)”

www.stryper.com
www.myspace.com/stryper

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