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Stryper – No More Hell to Pay [Review]

STRYPER nmhtp COVER

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

Saint – Hell Blade

Saint – Hell Blade (2009, Retroactive Records)

1. “(The Ascent)” … 0:39
2. “The Blade” … 3:37
3. “To The Cross” … 3:42
4. “Crying In The Night” … 3:45
5. “Hell Train” … 4:11
6. “Endless Night” … 4:16
7. “You & Me” … 3:49
8. “New World Order” … 5:01
9. “SinnerPeace” … 4:39
10. “Hell Blade” … 5:23

Band:
Josh Kramer – Lead Vocals
Jerry Johnson – Guitar
Richard Lynch – Bass, Backing Vocals
Bill Brost – Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: Richard Lynch

Spreading my metallic wings yet again, Saint is a band I’ve never tried before but I kept reading so many positive words about Hell Blade, I picked it up in early 2010. The printed words that grabbed me most about this group were “Judas” and “Priest”. I read more than one review comparing Saint to the Metal Gods, and it’s not as if this band is a clone and set out to out-Priest Priest, but you can certainly hear the influence. For example, “Crying In The Nights” sounds like some lost piece of cheese Priest might’ve recorded for Turbo. Other than the music, the main similarity between these two bands is the vocals. Josh Kramer’s delivery comes off very much like Rob Halford even if he does not display the same piercing cries.

So I’m told Saint is a Christian metal act but you wouldn’t really know it. Religion, evil, Hell, end of the world, etc. has always been heavy metal fodder and the album cover is pretty darn heavy metal and doesn’t tip you off to this band being a Christian act at all. They don’t beat you over the head with their beliefs like some Christian acts do.

If anything, when I first heard of Saint, I thought their name was meant to be ironic and I had the idea that the played a much more darker, heavier type of metal. Luckily, they don’t. It’s good ol’ traditional heavy metal through and through! Good metal is good metal and Saint’s Hell Blade is entirely comprised of it! This album is a solid addition to any metal fan’s collection and I plan on checking out their earlier stuff as well.

Highlights: “The Blade”, “Crying In The Night”, “Hell Train”, “Endless Night”, “New World Order”

www.saintsite.com
www.myspace.com/saintmetal

LEGACY – Legacy

Legacy (2010, Eonian Records)

1. “Salvation is Law” … 4:47
2. “It’s Real” … 3:42
3. “Cross the Line” … 3:30
4. “Forever In Your Arms” … 4:55
5. “Don’t Run Away” … 3:16
6. “Red, White, and Blue” … 6:00
7. “Change of a Broken Heart” … 2:56
8. “Comin’ Along” … 4:28
9. “Soldiers Unite” … 3:47
10. “One Way or the Other” … 3:26
11. “Live It” … 4:06
12. “What a World” … 2:51
13. “Model Citizen” … 4:39
14. “Vision Of Perfection” … 4:01

Band:
Doug Meacham – Lead Vocals
Fred Blanchard – Guitar
Matt Rice – Guitar
John Rice – Bass
John Jenkins – Drums

Producer: Legacy

Legacy was a Christian hard rock/metal band that formed in 1987 and was based in Ohio. In 1992, the band fall apart but this Eonian release is now here as an official documentation of Legacy’s legacy (sorry, I had to say it). As is the case with many Eonian releases, I don’t think the band ever had an official album release. These songs were recorded between 1988 and 1990 and the liner notes mention the band had released singles within the Christian metal scene but there’s no mention of EPs or full-fledged albums. Either these songs were distributed by the band itself or perhaps many of these songs were recorded so that they could shop themselves around to record labels. As a result of these random recording sessions, the sound quality wavers but not by a whole lot.

Their influences are pretty obvious — Stryper and Dokken (they also cite Scorpions but I don’t hear them as much). The album is okay but I really feel that the first four songs are the best. After only hearing them a few times, they stayed in my head. Other favorites are the enegetic “Soldiers Unite” and “What A World” (which is the hardest rocking song on the album). Most of the rest comes across as bland to me. These songs were produced by the band so maybe that’s the problem. If the band had a legit producer in the studio with them to point them in the right direction for these sessions they probably could have turned out higher number of quality songs.

Fans of Christian hair metal will probably find this an interesting release because of their similar sound to Stryper (Dough Meachum does NOT sound like Michael Sweet though) and the fact that they don’t try to hide their faith in an effort to make themselves more accessible to the secular crowd.

Highlights: “Salvation is Law”, “It’s Real”, “Cross The Line”, “Forever In Your Arms”, “Soldiers Unite”, “What A World”

www.myspace.com/legacycolumbus
www.eonianrecords.com

HOLY SOLDIER – Holy Soldier

Holy Soldier – Holy Soldier [Brazil Import] (2007, Silent Music Records)
Original Release: 1990, Myrrh Records

1. “Stranger” … 3:27
2. “See No Evil” … 5:29
3. “The Pain Inside of Me” … 6:32
4. “Cry Out for Love” … 3:30
5. “Tear Down the Walls” … 3:59
6. “When the Reign Comes Down” … 5:19
7. “Lies” … 4:59
8. “Eyes of Innocence” … 3:57
9. “Love Me” … 4:13
10. “We Are Young, We Are Strong” … 5:10
BONUS TRACKS
11. “Virtue And Vice” (live) … 4:32
12. “When The Reign Comes Down” (live) … 5:22

Band:
Steven Patrick – Lead Vocals
Andy Robbins – Bass, Backing Vocals
Michael Cutting – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jamie Cramer – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Terry Russell – Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: David Zaffiro

I had heard of this Christian hard rock band and this album for the first time back in 2006 and loved what I heard. Patrick’s vulnerable vocals (similar to White Lion’s Mike Tramp) and songs like “See No Evil”, “The Pain Inside Of Me”, “When The Reign Comes Down”, “Eyes Of Innocence”, “Love Me” and “We Are Young, We Are Strong” had me fixated on this band for a while. Unfortunately, this album has been out of print for quite awhile in the United States (unless you count iTunes as making an album “in print”).

I can’t remember why but for whatever reason I never bothered buying a used copy off eBay even though I remember searching for it. Jump to 2010 and someone off a metal message board I frequent had this album up for auction on eBay. I didn’t win the auction but I was inspired to search for this album once more and came across another seller on eBay who had a number of new copies available under the “buy it now” option. The catch? It’s a Brazilian reissue featuring two bonus tracks (taken from their live album Encore). Well, that works for me!

This CD is marked as one of those “Enhanced CD” editions and according to the eBay listing, there’s also a video clip of “See No Evil” plus wallpapers somewhere on the disc but I can’t get my computer to recognize this disc as anything but an album. Oh well, they aren’t really important to me anyway.

For the life of me I can’t find any info on this particular release other than a passing note on Holy Soldier’s outdated website about their albums being reissued in Brazil. This bit of news seems to be from 2007, so that’s the date I’m going with until someone else says different because even the label that reissued it seems to have gone out of business since then.

I’m no church goer. I got into this album because I just really love the music here. Upon examination of the lyrics most but not all of the songs have references to God an dJesus Christ but I never get the feeling like I’m being preached to as other so many other Christian acts can make me feel. This is just great ’80s glam rock and if there happens to be a pro-Christianity slant to it, then so be it. I’d rather listen to pro-Christianity lyrics than anti-God garbage that Slayer or Venom or Marilyn Manson would spew out.

Holy Soldier from what I’m told had a fairly decent following in the Christian rock realm and were often compared to Stryper just for the fact that they were both Christian hair metal. That’s about where all the similarities end though. Holy Soldier is slightly less preachy than Stryper and aren’t as flashy and polished but they still delivered a great debut. Again, I’m reminded of White Lion due to less in-your-face and over-the-top approach both bands had and because of the thoughtful and sincere lyrics that tackle serious issues (“See No Evil” seems to be about abortion and I’m assuming “Lies” is about having sex?).

As I alluded to earlier, I love Steven Patrick’s vocals. He doesn’t have pipes of steel but he does well with what he has and packs a lot of emotion into these songs. I think he gives a great performance and the album would definitely not be as good as it is without his participation. There’s really no wild solos to speak of. The band is competent but doesn’t aim to compete with the rest of the hair metal genre in terms of showmanship. They really play for the song and it pays off because there’s nary a filler track to be found really.

I suppose if you really don’t like religion, you won’t enjoy this album but I love it and it’s one of my favorites now that it is in my collection.

Highlights: “Strange”, “See No Evil”, “Tear Down The Wall”, “When The Reign Comes Down”, “Eyes Of Innocence”, “Love Me”, “We Are Young, We Are Strong”

http://www.holysoldier.com/
http://www.myspace.com/holysoldier

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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