I am not a religious fanatic. I am not a devil worshipper (although I have partaken in many of his sanctioned activities). I’ve been deemed a gift from heaven (never mind that the person was very drunk). I’ve been called the Anti-Christ (which may be a bit more accurate, but I had just terminated that person’s employment). You could easily hear me singing at the top of my lungs (in my car… in the key of Q flat) “More Than A Man” lyrics (my all-time favorite Stryper song) or the infamous Motley Crue “Shout At The Devil”. None of that matters to me because I just appreciate good music. Whether it’s Theocracy (Christian metal band that is a MUST listen for all) or our friends in Knights In Satin’s Service (aka KISS), just give me a great melody, smokin’ guitar, and outstanding vocals and you got me for life. Michael Sweet (vocals, guitar), Robert Sweet (drums) and Oz Fox (guitar) have been supplying that for over 35 years.
God Damn Evil by Stryper (Released April 2018, Frontiers Records)
Produced by Michael Sweet
We start with “Take It to The Cross” which immediately turned heads when the video was released. The song starts with the modern Stryper sound, the verse is very “Michael Sweet” and then comes the chorus. Fans were losing their minds that the chorus wasn’t “classic Stryper”. My thoughts…. For years these same “fans” complained that Stryper wasn’t “heavy” enough to be called hard rock or heavy metal. Now what? Mic drop!
“Hit Single” came to mind when first hearing “Sorry” which is in Stryper’s musical bang zone. Catchy chorus, hummable and memorable melody, driving guitar riff, perfect guitar solos, and perfect production. You really can’t ask for much more. This will be a staple in your 2018 iTunes playlist, guaranteed.
Next, Robert Sweet starts the straight-ahead rocker and continues (throughout the album) as the glue of everything that is happening. “Lost” has a unique chorus that only Michael Sweet can pull off. Can you believe this guy is about to turn 55? Trademark harmonized Michael and Oz lead guitar solos only enhance this incredible track.
The patented Sweet scream cues up “God Damn Evil” an anthem that will be in the live set for quite some time. Michael shared on Classic Rock Drops Podcast: Episode 28 about “God Damn Evil”: “It’s a prayer…. astonishing that people don’t get it, even after we explain it…”. My opinion… for 35 years, Stryper has gone out of their way to share a positive message with music fans. Walmart not carrying this album in their stores, just because of an album title… is just plain STUPID!
The mid-tempo track “You Don’t Even Know Me” addresses the issues that social media is causing in this world. This track is reminiscent of work from their most popular album To Hell With The Devil. Honestly (that’s not a pun… diehards get the joke), I have been humming this song for the last 4 weeks. Easily my favorite song on the album, I can’t get it out of my head.
“The Valley” seems to bring out a different level of passion in Sweet’s voice. The lyrics are based on Psalm 23 (yes…I had to look that up, it’s not like I have that stuff memorized) but any hard rock fan will appreciate the melody and will instantly connect to the message. Can’t wait to hear this one live.
The guitar riff “Sea of Thieves” feels a little Van Halen to me. Probably not surprising since Michael has professed his love for the band. The lyrics… which is mostly true for the entire album… aren’t in your face Jesus preaching. They are subtle. If you heard this album playing somewhere you wouldn’t really know that the songs are written by a Christian hard rock band.
Thunderous floor toms start up the mid-tempo “Beautiful”. I was listening to this with a friend and he says “Man, Stryper got heavy!” Got heavy? Where have you been? Stryper has had this modern heavier sound for the last 10+ years. C’mon dude… keep up!
“Can’t Live Without Your Love” is a classic power ballad. The song has an 80s flavor that would’ve been in regular rotation on MTV. Michael if your reading this…. do an all piano or acoustic version and you’ll have the most popular wedding song of the year.
“Own Up” surprised me a bit. Stryper blended heavy guitar riffs, funky bass lines, Robert’s groove drumming and sonically created a unique song. “You’re gonna have to own up, you’re gonna have to take the heat. You can’t just phone up and say that it wasn’t me.” I guess Michael doesn’t believe in the deny, deny, deny theory ?
At times, bands make a huge mistake and end their brand new rockin’ album with a thud, throw away track. Stryper does NOT have this problem on God Damn Evil. “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here” is an energetic closing track. Anthemic in nature, the melody of this fast-paced onslaught is perfect, and the guitar solos will blow you away.
In this musical ADD world (check out Growin’ Up Rock Podcast: Musical ADD episode), the hype of a new album only lasts a couple of weeks. So, I wanted to wait about a month before releasing my review for the new Stryper album to recreate the hype. If you are a casual fan, forget what you think you know about Stryper and BUY THIS ALBUM TODAY!!!!!! THE YELLOW & BLACK ATTACK ARE BACK!!…. actually, who are we kidding, THEY NEVER LEFT…
Thanks for reading. Pooni out!
Buy: God Damn Evil
Also check out: Growin’ Up Rock Podcast