The early mid 80’s were a incredible time for metal music of any type. Mainstream acts were being signed and churning out hit albums at will. And I’m sure we all remember the “Tipper Stickers” that were slapped on these albums if they contained anything remotely questionable. For those who may not know, “Tipper Stickers” were warning labels promoted by the Parents Music Resource Center and former second lady of the United States Tipper Gore was a driving force behind that.
Enter Stryper. A group that joined two diametrically different elements; glam metal music and Christianity. Stryper’s story of success is triumphant as well as painful. The bands controversy was well documented throughout the 80’s with Christian groups boycotting concerts and rumors of substance abuse and groupies raising the eyebrows of believers and non believers as well. That being said, Stryper also paved the way for many other Christian metals bands such as Whitecross, Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Guardian, and Bride to find an audience of Christians and mainstream listeners as well.
Soldiers Under Command, the bands first full length album was released in May of !985. For me, it is the band’s most solid and consistant album, and just plays like a natural progression from their 1984 debut EP The Yellow and Black Attack. The record is full of melodic riffs and power chords, tremolo bending lead guitar solos, and four part vocal harmonies. Lyrically, it is heavy on evangelical and praise oriented verses and choruses.
The title track opens the album with tight riffs and driving verses. “Makes Me Wanna Sing” is pure power pop metal. “Together Forever” has a big bluesy guitar riff and bombastic drums. “First Love” is one of two power ballads on the album. I love the drums on this song. Basically, if its possible for a drummer to find “the pocket” in a song this slow, drummer Robert Sweet nailed it. The unison lead guitar solo truly expresses. the emotion of the song as well. “The Rock That Makes Me Roll” is a great heavy rocker complete with a double bass drum onslaught. “Reach Out” and “(Waiting For) A Love That’s Real” are more ultra melodic power pop metal. “Together As One” is power ballad #2 that I am sure was used in many wedding ceremonies, at least until “Honestly” was released the following year. Next is “Surrender”. This would have to be my favorite track. Michael Sweet starts his vocal with a signature high note and Oz Fox’s tremolo smacking lead solo makes me strap on an air guitar every time. Closing the album is a rock rendering of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
For me, Soldiers Under Command remains a highlight from this era. The songs truly convey the message that Stryper was trying to say and the playing and production are great.