STRYPER – Second Coming

Stryper - Second ComingFor every rocker that grew up or was young during the 80’s, Stryper needs no introduction. This christian combo rode high in the US charts and were on the verge of making it real big. If it wasn’t for their christian beliefs, that was sort of in the front room all the while and for grunge, then I’m sure they could have become one of the biggest hard rock bands of that era. However, in the mid nineties, guitarist / lead singer Michael Sweet left the band and released a bunch of solo records, the rest of the band in their turn toured for a while as a three-piece, but no one was interested anymore so they split shortly after. But in 2004 Sweet reunited with two of the other original members, his brother Robert Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox together with new bass player Tracy Ferrie, for some South American shows, and things turned out so well that the guys decided to bring Stryper back to life permanently and with this album they have reached to number four after the reunion. Bassman Ferrie, however was outed / left the band in 2009 when it was clear that their original bass player Timothy Gaines decided to return.

The fact that the band has released four albums in eight years makes it a little weird to say that it’s time for the boys to come up with something new. But they really do, because although this album is new, it only consists of old Stryper material re-recorded. And their last album, The Covering (2011) was a cover album. And on the album before that, the brilliant Murder By Pride, they had one cover (Boston’s “Peace Of Mind”) and two re-recordings, “My Love I’ll Always Show” from The Yellow And Black Attack and “My Love, My Life, My Flame” from Sweet’s solo album Truth. And on their reunion album Reborn they included a new version of “In God We Trust”. So there you go. On the other hand they had one new song, “God”, on the cover album and on this one there are two newies included. But more on that later. In their defense, a lot of their older stuff really needs a touch up and their really early stuff would probably not be helped by only a re-mix / re-mastering. In my book, The Yellow And Black Attack (E.P. 1984 / re-release with extra tracks 1986) was never any good. But after listening to the re-recordings of the two tracks included here “Loud N’ Clear” and “Loving You”, it wasn’t the songs themselves that faltered, but the production. On this album, these songs shine and I am struck by how heavy metal they were in those days. Those songs have more in common with Judas Priest than the melodic rock they later grasped. They should probably go in and re-record the whole album as I can guarantee it would benefit from that. Soldiers Under Command (1985) is represented with six songs here and even though that album is superior to its predecessor, both song and sound wise, I believe that a re-recording was also the right thing to do here. You can hear that the boys had improved as song writers and tried to be more catchy, but the overall sound is still very much metal and the songs here like the album’s title track, “Surrender” and the ballad “First Love” has really gotten a great facelift. I would have loved my favourite Stryper-ballad “Together As One” to be included here, but it wasn’t to be this time.

If Soldiers Under Command was the album that made them a name around the world, it shipped gold in the US, it was with the follow-up To Hell With The Devil (1986) that broke them big. It quickly went platinum over there and it was much to the fact that Stryper had found their niche here, mixing heavy metal with both hard rock, pop songs and ballads, some of them ultra cheesy, also sporting a commercially slick production. That album don’t need to  be re-recorded, a remix / remaster would have been enough, but the fact is, the songs from that albums sounds awesome here, so it certainly didn’t hurt. Their big hit and poppiest song so far in their career, “Calling On You” has grown more ballsy and lost some of its original cheesiness, “The Way” has always sounded like something Ozzy could have written in the early 80’s and on here its a gut puncher and “Free” has also gotten heavier. The only song that raised a question mark in my head is “Sing Along Song”. It’s a good song, no doubt, but a bit ridiculous, to be honest. Then there are the two new tracks: “Bleeding From Inside Out” is a heavy, but very melodic number with a killer melody and “Blackened” that can only be described as melodic metal, no more no less – a great song. Both of them bodes well for the future.

But what happened to In God We Trust (1988)? If there is one album in Stryper’s catalogue that is in hard need of a re-recording, it’s that one. The songs are killers, all of them, but the production is so lame that it’s doubtful that even Ron Nevison could have done a worse job. No songs from that album are included here, but maybe they want to re-record the whole thing later. Also, the underrated and brilliant record Against The Law is absent here, but on the other hand, that album doesn’t need to be re-recorded. So, where most bands fails miserably when they’re trying to re-record their early stuff, Stryper succeeds. This album is a golden opportunity for everyone out there who used to be too hard, cool and heavy-metal-dammit-in-the-night to dare to check out this band because of their religious convictions, to do just that. You don’t have to be a christian to dig them just as you don’t have to be a Satanist to dig King Diamond. Stryper writes great songs, they are all fantastic musicians and singers and if hard rock and metal that comes with a broad variation is your thing, then you’d be a fool not to give them a break.

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Track list:

01. Loud N’ Clear
02. Loving You
03. Soldiers Under Command
04. Makes Me Wanna Sing
05. First Love
06. The Rock That Makes Me Roll
07. Reach Out
08. Surrender
09. To Hell With The Devil
10. Calling On You
11. Free
12. The Way
13. Sing Along Song
14. More Than A Man
15. Bleeding From Inside Out (new track)
16. Blackened (new track)

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