A few gigs led to a greatest hits CD and two new songs. That led to a tour and a live album. That in turn finally gave way to a new studio album by Stryper. The aptly titled Reborn was unlike any prior Stryper album: Detuned and heavier than hell, Reborn shocked pretty much everybody that heard it! Drum loops, chugging riffs…this was Stryper? There was also a new bassist on board — Tracy Ferrie, from Michael Sweet’s solo band.
“Open Your Eyes” begins abruptly, as if to further surprise the listener with the new Stryper sound. It bears no resemblance to old Stryper whatsoever. It is stripped down, heavy, droney, with emphasis on the riff, and no screams! Stryper appeared to go very “2000’s” with their new sound, but unlike Metallica, they hung onto the guitar solos! Then “Reborn” is stuttery and chunky. It takes some getting used to, because melody takes a back seat to heavy here. It’s good — but there are few hooks. Overall, the CD reminds me of mid-90’s Dio. I must say that drummer Robert Sweet seems particularly in his element on this heavy stuff, but his snare drum sound is a bit stuffy.
Some understated and cool guitar harmonies help out “When Did I See You Cry” on the chorus. It’s also the first song to present those uplifting Stryper harmonies. “Make You Mine” is a slow rocker with a melodic vocal and a highlight. It’s remarkable how Michael Sweet’s voice has grown to have so much character while retaining its power. “Live Again” steals the riff from “Shout at the Devil” and shakes it up a bit. “Shout” was stolen from “Foxy Lady” anyway, so who cares? The song sounds nothing like “Shout” otherwise, but it’s back to that heavy detuned Stryper sound.
“If I Die” is a slow, heavy burner with a great chorus. That’s followed by “Wait For You” which is a simple pop rock song but recorded heavy, complete with “na na na” backing vocals. “Rain” is a bit of a ballad, and Sweet really reaches for it on the chorus. Solid song albeit a tad generic. “10,000 Years” is stuttery and rhythmic but doesn’t have a lot of hooks. Album closer “I.G.W.T.” is a much heavier, much better remake of the title track from 1988’s In God We Trust. This version kills the original in every single way possible. Michael even nails that final scream.
The best song on the album, by a fair shake, is the mighty “Passion”. Not only does it possess a chorus that will shake the foundations, but it’s also the most blatantly in your face about their faith. “Jesus Christ, I wanna serve you, I want what you want for me. Sacred voice, I don’t deserve you, through your Passion I am free.” That chorus will not be for everybody obviously, but damn it sure is catchy when Sweet lets it all out! Give it a listen and see what I mean. You don’t have to sing along if you don’t want to.
When originally released, the CD came packaged in a semi-transparent yellow cellophane wrap. I found it as such when it first came out at a nearby Christian book & CD store. They wanted $24.99 for it, and I couldn’t justify paying that much for yellow shrink wrap, when I could wait for a used copy to come in at the Record Store at which I worked. I ended up with the used copy, but boy I sure did like the way it looked with the yellow cellophane. The image on the cover of the band ripping the yellow ooze from their bodies is meant to represent how Stryper felt “reborn” individually and collectively. Of course the yellow and black are a return to Stryper’s original trademark colour scheme which they dropped on Against the Law.
Since Reborn, Stryper have zeroed in on the “perfect” sound, sort of a cross between this and old Stryper with loads of melody and power. Their albums continue to impress. Reborn was a necessary first step back, and it takes some getting used to. It doesn’t have the longevity of their classic work, but it definitely ain’t shabby.
I hope you enjoyed Stryper week here at mikeladano.com! Tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled instalment of Getting More Tale.