STRYPER – Fallen

Stryper - FallenBack in the mid / late 80’s when I was a teenager / in my early 20’s, Stryper were the most uncool band you could ever lend an ear. Why? Because they were Christians, of course. To listen to a band that could hardly play or write songs, like Venom was much cooler, they were Satanists, see, hard as Hell and no boring God-fearing wimps. Duh! Well, back in the 80’s (and still) I loved my melodic hard rock and metal and I loved great musicians who could write killer tunes and I also loved bands that looked the part – cool clothing and big hair – and Stryper were all of that – and then some. So, I was a Stryper fan since a friend threw Soldiers Under Command (1985) on me and I didn’t give rat about their religion, bible throwing on stage or any of that. I have never been – and I probably will never be – a religious man. I’m not an atheist per se, I believe there is something bigger than us out there, but I don’t believe in God or Satan, but what I do believe in is the right for everyone to do so if they choose to and I will never judge anyone because of their beliefs, no matter what they might be. And I will never ever diss a band or an artist because of that either. So, I’m a happy camper with my Stryper records and my Dimmu Borgir and King Diamond ones as well. But to me, back in the day, Stryper were a great hard rock band among others that I liked. But they were never in my top ten section, among many other bands that I liked then. But in later years my respect and love for the band has grown a lot and I am really impressed by how main (well, only, actually) song writer Michael Sweet manages to pour so much music out of him without giving in on the quality. Be it with Stryper, his solo career (I’m Not Your Suicide reviewed here) or with Sweet & Lynch (debut album Only To Rise reviewed here), what comes out is always amazingly good. Stryper’s reunion started a little shaky with the dark and alternative sounding Reborn in 2005 and it would take them until 2009 to release the follow-up, the very underrated Murder By Pride, an album that were great, but sounded more like a Michael Sweet solo album than a Stryper record. Their brilliant cover album from 2011, The Covering (reviewed here) and their album of re-recorded Stryper oldies, Second Coming (reviewed here) were both great, but it wasn’t until their last album, the fantastic No More Hell To Pay (2013, reviewed here) came out that Stryper began to gain the respect they deserved. It’s been a long road for them but with the release of No More Hell To Pay, they have finally got some well desreved respect from both fans and critics and even though it will probably never be cool to be a Stryper-fan, they aren’t looked upon as geeks anymore and many of the people who had dissed them in the past are now able to admit that this band isn’t so bad after all. This means that a lot of people – me included – had some big expectations for their new record Fallen.

Opener “Yahweh” was the first song to be shared in public by the band and it floored me from hello. It was clear that Stryper wouldn’t let us down this time either. The tune is a modified classic Soldiers Under Command sounding Stryper track. The “angelic” sounding chorus makes for some cool contrast over the heavy music. The title track is also classic Stryper, but when they go all heavy metal on us. It’s a heavy as a ton of bricks and it goes for a knock-out right away. Still very memorable, though. First single / video “Pride” is magnificent. The Judas Priest-like riffing goes hand in hand with the very melodic melody and builds a wall catchy melodic metal. “Big Screen Lies” is a monster, the verses reminds me of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath while the over all sound and chorus sounds like it could have been from the last album’s sessions. “Heaven” – isn’t it a bit strange that Stryper hasn’t already used this title? – is a hard rocker with a groovy beat and the very catchy and memorable refrain makes this single material – awesome! The same can be said of “Love You Like I Do”. The extremely catchy vocal melodies sticks immediately and there are hooks all over the place which makes the song perfect as a single. That said, it’s not as obvious as, say, songs like “Always There For You” or “Calling To You”. “All Over Again” is a country smelling power ballad and a really, really good one. But to be honest, this sounds more like a Michael Sweet solo song. When I was a teenager and a rookie Sabbath fan, the lyrics to their song “After Forever” really puzzled me. Now, I always knew that Sabbath weren’t Satanists, but a Sabbath song with a Christian lyric? I just couldn’t get that together. I have always loved the song and it wasn’t until a year or so ago that I got the explanation to what the lyrics really meant. Apparently, Geezer Butler didn’t write it from a Christian point of view as such, no the whole lyric is a word by word speech Geezer’s very religious dad had given him as a teenager, pointing out to Geezer how wrong his lifestyle was. Well, now Stryper have decided to cover it and no matter the lyrics’ original meaning, this song fits this band like a glove. In the hands of Stryper, the lyrics means exactly what they say and Stryper makes a fantastic version of it. They stay true to the original in many ways, but at the same time, they have Strypered it, just like the way they did on their cover album. Thumbs up! “Till I Get What I Need” is a fast metal track, built on speed like it was done in the early 80’s and bands such as Saxon, Judas Priest, Accept and Iron Maiden comes to mind. Some may raise an eyebrow to Stryper doing such a song, but the fact is, listen to the early Stryper records and what you find is a heavy metal band that got a bit more hard rock and even pop with the years. On the later albums, Stryper has become more of a metal band than a melodic hard rock one. “Let There Be Light” is another killer, a melodic metal jawbreaker with melodies that hits you right between the eyes. The vocal arrangements are amazing as well. “The Calling” takes us back to the heavier parts of To Hell With The Devil (1986), but with a more up-to-date sound, sound wise it lies somewhere between heavy metal and hard rock, but no matter what you call it, it’s a great song. The closer, “King Of Kings” is as classic Stryper as it can be. The vocal arrangements, the melody, the guitars, the backing vocals. This is a song that could have been written in 1985 when they were recording Soldiers Under Command. What a brilliant way to close a record.

As I wrote earlier, I have always been into Stryper, but since their last album, I now hold them as one of my favourite bands. This is very much a sister album to its predecessor and I really can’t decide on which album I like the best of the two, but what I do know is that Stryper have never sounded as good as they have done with their latest two albums. Gone are the pop hits and the – at times – too cheesy ballads (even though I really love those songs…) and The sound scape today is much heavier and not as radio friendly – which, I must state, becomes them. But the most important thing – the quality of the songs – is high, very high. Add to the fact that all the members of Stryper are amazing musicians and singers and the production – signed Michael Sweet – is great, bombastic, hard and in-your-face and there is actually no reason at all for a hard rock / metal / music lover not to buy this. Only a narrow-minded rock fan would diss this brilliant piece of music just because he/she don’t agree with the message and lyrics. With Fallen, Stryper is going for the throat, all guns blazing and all you can do is surrender. An Album Of The Year contender without a doubt!

9/10

Tracklist:

01. Yahweh
02. Fallen
03. Pride
04. Big Screen Lies
05. Heaven
06. Love You Like I Do
07. All Over Again
08. After Forever
09. Till I Get What I Need
10. Let There Be Light
11. The Calling
12. King Of Kings

 

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