Back in 1984 reading through a copy of Campus Life magazine I saw a photo and read a blurb about this new band from
California called Stryper. The article mentioned that their first
release would be out later that summer on Enigma Records. The accompanying
photo was in black and white so I wasn’t able to really see the Full Monte as
far as their attire. I wondered what could they possibly sound like?
One day about four months later it came to my astute attention that the Yellow and Black Attack had been released two weeks earlier. After a cross town ten speed ride I found one copy of said 6 song EP at my local Record Factory (now defunct). Two things caught my attention (well actually three), first was that it appeared that the bottom part of the cover was trimmed off (a printing defect corrected in subsequent pressings), second the big thank you to Jesus Christ The Boss Man (wow maybe this was for real), third was their absolutely nuts yellow and black outfits!! Not too mention all that hair!
When I got home and spun the original six song EP I was completely blown away and proceeded to play it…. Over and over and over and over again… for just about anyone who would listen, Ad infinitum Ad nauseam! That just started a rather long love affair with Stryper, who weren’t always my favorite band but one I always would gravitate to.
With all that being said it now brings me to their latest release entitled The Second Coming. Lots of folks were very vocal about a new Stryper album, hoping for new stuff and then finding out that only two new tracks would be present. However 14 classic tunes would be re-recorded. 6 songs from To Hell With the Devil, 6 songs from Soldiers Under Command and 2 tracks from that original EP. (No Writing on the Wall from In God We Trust??)
If you’re not a fan of re-records then you might as well stop reading right now, because if done right I’m a HUGE fan! The Second Coming was done right!! The spirit of the originals have been captured without simply being a rehash. The quality of the performances is world class as we have come to expect from Stryper. Truthfully Michael has never sounded better, one of the defining voices in rock n roll today period. Oz has continued to show that he is an underrated talent on guitar, not to mention the contribution that Michael brings as well. One of the best one-two punches in heavy metal from the six string point of view.
On this album the drumming of Robert Sweet is amazing. He brings such a groove and meter, his style has blossomed and it shines throughout this album. He delivers that underlying energy which drives it all. However on The Second Coming we can say authoritatively that Tim Gaines bass guitar is present and delivers a lock in step with Robert. And in some instances without that bass guitar (Calling On You, Free) those new versions would fall.
The overall feel of this release is one of energy and punchy power. The guitars are more upfront than on the original recordings, and because of that the edge has increased rather dramatically. Just listen to Calling On You the guitars are stronger, Gaines bass guitar pushes things along and Robert’s drums smack of authority.
(Alright I will admit I never was a big fan of the original, way too bubblegum
for my tastes).
Throughout this release the biggest change is that Michael sings in a lower register, just listen to Reach Out for an example. Yeah it was weird the first time or two, but to accomidate a lower register (the guy isn’t 25 anymore.) However don't make the mistake that Mike can't cut loose anymore, that would be a mistake. The drums embellish a lot on this album, but to these ears that’s part of this releases charm.
Some of the song highlights include The Rock That Makes Me Roll, Soldiers Under Command, The Way, More Than a Man and To Hell With the Devil.
Don’t expect a simple rehash of what was on the original releases. That would be boring. If anything this album has reminded me what was so exciting about Stryper to me in the first place; high energy music that glorified God and was top tier through out. It was music that I would not be ashamed to play for my friends.
Heck with all that said there are even two NEW songs! Bleeding From the Inside Out and Blackened, both of whom are fantastic bits of heavy rock whimsy. Of the two I’ll take Blackened as my favorite, a much harder and faster tune. Bleeding From the Inside Out has more of a commercial vibe, but I’ve always been a bigger fan of Stryper’s heavier stuff.
The Second Coming is great album of melodic heavy metal. If you’ve never bought a Stryper album before than this might be the best place to start and if you’re already a fan then be prepared to remember why you loved them in the first place.