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A Brief History of Stryper
STRYPER has returned in a BIG Way...
Over the past several years the Christian hard rock veterans in Stryper have been maintaining a schedule that would be the envy of bands half their age.They kicked off a flurry of recent activity by releasing two (!) new studio albums in 2013 - Second Coming in March and No More Hell To Pay in November of the same year. Second Coming featured newly re-recorded versions of fourteen classic Stryper tracks like "Loud 'N' Clear," "Soldiers Under Command," "To Hell With the Devil," and "Reach Out," plus two new songs, "Blackened" and "Bleeding From The Inside Out," while No More Hell to Pay featured all brand new material. The harder/heavier vibe of the Second Coming re-recordings got fans excited and set the tone for the dozen new tracks on No More Hell to Pay, which quickly became Stryper's most successful release since their '80s heyday. No More Hell to Pay debuted at #35 on the U.S. Billboard charts and garnered ecstatic reviews from both the Christian and secular hard rock communities, where it has been compared favorably to Stryper's best-selling album, 1986's mighty To Hell With the Devil. No More Hell to Pay included a cover of the Arthur Reid Singers' 1966 gospel classic "Jesus is Just Alright," which has been recorded by a diverse group of artists including The Byrds, the Doobie Brothers and DC Talk.
Stryper's eleventh studio album, Fallen, was released by Frontiers Records on October 16th, 2015. It contained 12 all new tracks plus a cover of the Black Sabbath classic "After Forever."
Frontman Michael Sweet has also been extremely busy outside of the Stryper bubble, releasing his sixth solo album in 2014 (I'm Not Your Suicide) and publishing his autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, that same year. Sweet & Lynch, which is his side-project with former Dokken guitarist George Lynch, has also released two studio albums - Only To Rise (2015) and Unified (2017) - via Frontiers Records. Does the guy ever sleep?
"After Forever" from FALLEN (2015):
A Brief Stryper History...
Though the band enjoys a measure of respect nowadays as trailblazers in the Christian hard rock genre, Stryper weathered their share of controversy when they first blasted into the Southern California metal scene in the early 1980s. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Sweet and his drummer brother Robert both grew up in a religious household, but their band (originally known as Roxx Regime) began as a straight "secular" hard-rock outfit, struggling to find its direction. Legend has it that the Sweet brothers became inspired to use their musical talents for the Lord while attending a Van Halen concert, where they realized that Christian evangelism and Marshall amplification could work together. With lead guitarist Oz Fox and bassist Timothy Gaines in tow, the band changed its name to Stryper (the intentional misspelling was meant to imply the word "hyper" as a nod to their high-energy live shows), inspired by the Biblical passage Isaiah 53:5 ("But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed"). The buzz was on, and by 1984 the band had inked a deal with Enigma Records and released their debut six-song EP. The Yellow and Black Attack! quickly garnered a fervent following amongst Christian youth and "secular" rockers alike. 1985's full length debut, Soldiers Under Command, solidified the band's fan base but also made Stryper a popular target amongst conservative Christianity's anti-Rock mindset. Many "Church people" were suspicious of the band's true motives due to their big-haired heavy metal image, which had long been associated (at least in the minds of the Church) with Satanism. Fortunately, the shouts of the nay-sayers only strengthened the loyalty of Stryper's fans.
"Soldiers Under Command" (1985)
The Mainstream Breakthrough...
Stryper crashed into the mainstream head-on with their third release, 1986's To Hell With The Devil. Released at the height of Glam Metal Mania in the U.S., Stryper received heavy MTV support for the hard rocking single "Calling On You," and the power ballad "Honestly" (which peaked at #23 on the Billboard singles chart) propelled the album to platinum status. To Hell With The Devil was the first Christian rock album ever to achieve such lofty sales heights. Stryper toured relentlessly with many popular "secular" hard rock bands of the day including Loudness, White Lion, and Hurricane. 1988's In God We Trust continued the band's winning streak, achieving Gold record status and featuring the hit single "Always There For You."
By the time Stryper released 1990's Against The Law, however, the strain of being Christian rock's standard bearers was beginning to weigh heavily on them. The band had made it known to the rock press that they wanted to be known as more than just "that goody-goody Christian group," therefore Against the Law marked a sudden, radical change in the band's image (they said "goodbye" to their trademark yellow-and-black striped spandex; and "hello" to leather jackets and cowboy boots) and their musical presentation. Against the Law was Stryper's most mature and musically adventurous album to date (aside from the goofball cover of Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star," which proved to be a poor choice for a single), and showcased a tougher, bluesier sound. Initial reviews were positive, but the lack of overtly Christian lyrical themes on Against the Law caused the more devout portion of their fan base to accuse the band of "turning their backs" on God. The rise of the Grunge music scene in the U.S. and a jump from the sinking Enigma Records to a new label (Hollywood Records) shortly after the album's release didn't help matters, and the album soon slid off the charts. After a 1991 best-of album (Can't Stop The Rock), Michael Sweet announced that he was leaving Stryper to pursue a solo career. The band briefly attempted to draft a new lead singer - Dale Thompson of fellow Christian rockers Bride was reportedly a serious contender for the position - but nothing panned out and Stryper officially called it a day in 1992.
"Calling On You" (1986)
The members of Stryper remained active in a variety of projects throughout the 1990s. Michael Sweet found success as a solo artist, achieving numerous #1 singles in the Christian rock market and garnering a Dove Award nomination (the Christian equivalent of the Grammy) for his 1996 solo album, Real. Oz Fox and Tim Gaines released several records with the Christian bands Sin Dizzy and King James, while Robert Sweet became an in-demand session drummer working with a number of hard rock bands including Shameless, Blissed, Titanic and Final Axe. The constant fan demand for a Stryper reunion finally resulted in the 2005 studio album Reborn, which found the band updating their sound to reflect the "modern rock" of the 21st century. Michael Sweet then spent several years as a touring member of classic rock legends Boston before he returned to the Stryper fold for the more traditionally-themed fan favorite Murder By Pride release (2009) and 2011's The Covering, which featured Stryper-ized renditions of tracks by hard rock legends that had influenced the band, such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, the Scorpions, and Van Halen.
In late 2017 Stryper announced that long time bass player Timothy Gaines had left the band and his replacement would be Perry Richardson, formerly of fellow 'hair metal' act Firehouse. Their next studio album has been written and is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2018.
"Yahweh" from FALLEN (2015)
Can't Stop The Rock!
It's now been more than 30 years (!) since Stryper first hit the scene, and they have once again become a dependable touring and recording machine, working just as hard as they did back in the day to share their music and their message with the world. It's been a great couple of years for them, with No More Hell to Pay and Fallen showing the band at the peak of their prowess. It looks like Stryper has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. The Yellow and Black Attack is definitely back!!
STRYPER select discography
The Yellow and Black Attack! (EP) - Enigma, 1984
Reason for the Season (single) - Enigma, 1984
Soldiers Under Command - Enigma, 1985
Live In Japan (video) - Enigma, 1985
To Hell With the Devil - Enigma, 1986
The Yellow & Black Attack! (remixed/expanded) - Enigma, 1986
In God We Trust - Enigma, 1988
In the Beginning (video) - Enigma, 1988
Against the Law - Enigma, 1990
Can't Stop The Rock - Hollywood, 1991
7: The Best of Stryper - Big3, 2003
7 Weeks: Live In America (live) - FiftyThreeFive, 2004
Reborn - Big3, 2005
Extended Versions (live) - Sony, 2006
Greatest Hits: Live in Puerto Rico (live) - Immortal, 2007
The Roxx Regime Demos - FiftyThreeFive, 2007
Murder By Pride - Big3, 2009
The Covering - Big3, 2011
Second Coming - Frontiers, 2013
No More Hell To Pay - Frontiers, 2013
Icon - Hollywood, 2014
Live at the Whisky - Frontiers, 2014
Fallen - Frontiers, 2015
© 2013 Keith Abt