Stryper is a band that probably needs no introduction, at least for those old enough to remember the 1980s when the music was loud and the bands’ getups were doubly so.
But for sake of the younger generation that doesn’t remember the world prior to the internet, this outfit was one of the greatest curiosities to come out of the Sunset Strip. Originally dubbed Roxx and then a little later Roxx Regime, a band that was treading on lyrical territory fairly similar to the likes of Motley Crue and Dokken had a sudden change of mind and took to rocking out for The Lord. To be fair, frontman Michael Sweet has subsequently expressed distaste for the “Christian rock/metal” label, and one can’t help but sympathize with his sentiments on the matter given that much like the glam rock/metal label, it doesn’t really convey much about a band’s musical proclivities apart from their outward appearance and lyrical pursuits.
In truth, Sweet and company were much closer to the metallic side of the SoCal coin, often exhibiting a heavier edge after the mold of Judas Priest, Dio, and Iron Maiden, with the vocals of metal’s answer to Dennis DeYoung being the lone outlier in this respect. Nevertheless, following their 2005 reunion the band’s metallic character has become far more pronounced than their older, teased hair days, with their latest studio excursion Even The Devil Believes being among the heaviest things to come out of their creative arsenal. They haven’t fully abandoned the sonic aspects of their 80s heyday per se, as the hard rock fanfare and massive, almost musical theater-tinged vocal choirs are on frequent display, along with some of those bluesy rocking hooks that have also been a continual staple of Dokken’s post-90s repertoire, but between a rougher vocal display out of Michael and a crunchier bite to the guitar tone, there is little doubt as to this album’s metal credentials.
From right out of the gate, this album pulls no punches in establishing itself as a sonic descendant of the days of denim and leather. The opening cruiser “Blood From Above” rages on with about the same degree of intensity as something heard off of Defenders Of The Faith, with Sweet often belting out some glass-shattering shrieks with enough gusto to rival Halford, and a lead guitar interchange flashy enough to stand toe to toe with some of the classic Tipton vs. Downing battles. The closing romp “Middle Finger Messiah” also showcases some solid speed metal proclivities, though with a bit more of a riff happy, almost thrashing character at times; while the swift swagger of “Let Him In” has a solid Saxon-tinge to its riff work. Even when things are pulled back to more of a mid-paced groove, the chunky bottom-end of crushers like “Do Unto Others” and “Divider” has a vibe and attitude that could satiate any junkie with a need for an early 80s Accept fix.
Naturally, all is not fire and bluster with this 46-minute collection, though even the lighter fare on this record wants for little in the impact department. The AOR-tinged, uber-infectious anthem “Invitation Only” mixes an array of consonant guitar harmonies after the spirit of Brian May with a spacey synthesizer theme and a massive gospel choir backdrop. The lazy rocking trot of “How To Fly” trades in the metallic thunder for something closer to the radio oriented saccharine of late 80s Def Leppard, while the sappy acoustic ballad “This I Pray” could almost be mistaken for a W.A.S.P. ballad, save the recurring harmonized guitar theme and a super smooth vocal delivery. Nevertheless, the more technically restrained material does give way to a duo of masterful anthems after the spirit of Dio-era Black Sabbath in “Make Love Great Again” and the title track, with the former recalling the epic stride of Heaven And Hell, infused with a heavier demeanor and a few modern twists.
As previously noted, the Christian rock/metal label doesn’t really do justice to the elaborate and traditionally metallic character for album, though this album makes no apologies for its obvious Christian lyrical message. It possesses enough grit and grandeur to appeal to the metal rank and file, and has enough technical flair and atmospheric pomp to likely appeal to the younger power metal crowd. It hearkens a bit closer to the early days of The Yellow And Black Attack and Soldiers Under Command than most of their recent material, yet has a very current presentation that doesn’t lend itself to the label of an overt throwback. For those that may have lost track of Stryper since their decade-long hiatus following the early 90s, this will play well to those who have welcomed the more Christian material that has come out of W.A.S.P. since around the same time as the former’s reformation, though this icon from the days of wild riffs and wilder hair leans a little heavier into the metal paradigm.
Stryper – Even The Devil Believes
Verdict Summary: Following their mid-2000s musical rebirth, this iconic staple of the Sunset Strip’s heyday has been on a continual winning streak in the studio, and their most recent studio outing strikes with an old school brand of metallic heaviness while also maintaining a sizable remnant of their 1980s AOR character.
Released By: Frontiers Music Srl
Release Date: September 4th, 2020
Genre: Hard Rock
- Michael Sweet / Vocals
- Oz Fox / Guitar
- Perry Richardson / Bass
- Robert Sweet / Drums
- Paul McNamara – Organ, Keys, Moog
- Additional Background Vocals: Keith Pittman
“Even the Devil Believes” track-listing
- Blood From Above
- Make Love Great Again
- Let Him In
- Do Unto Others
- Even the Devil Believes
- How to Fly
- This I Pray
- Invitation Only
- For God’s Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Middle Finger Messiah