As far as this writer is concerned, Stryper are the reunion kings. Their 80s output featured fantastic singles like “Calling to You” and “Free”, but many of the albums were uneven and not as rocking as you knew they wanted to be. Since their heavy-as-hell (pun intended) comeback album Reborn (2005), Stryper have been off the leash. It seems they gave up trying to fit in to any specific mold and are just trying to be true to themselves through their music. 2016’s incredible Fallen could be the pinnacle of the reunion era.
Unabashedly Christian, the opening track “Yahweh” happens to be one of the most potently epic slices of rock I’ve heard. A choir sings “Yahweh, Yahweh…” while lead wailer Michael Sweet spits out of his words as few singers in metal can do. His range is still remarkable and he has lost none of his lung capacity. There are Maiden-esque riffs, latter-day Metallica grooves, and some seriously epic solo work by Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox. And that’s all in just the first 6:21 of the album. It’s strange to say, but you could compare “Yahweh” to similar epic tracks by Ghost.
“Yahweh” may be the most impressive track on a very good metal album, but it’s certainly not the only one. The cool descending riff that accompanies “Fallen” bites into your flesh, while Sweet’s chorus lifts the ceiling. There is also material that sounds like old school Stryper, such as “King of Kings”, “Big Screen Lies” and “Pride”. These songs boast big and classic sounding choruses and riffs. Stryper even snuck in a Black Sabbath cover (not their first) of “After Forever”. The words fit Stryper like a leather studded glove:
Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone,
Open your eyes, just realize that He is the one,
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate,
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes, I think it’s too late.
A lot of people forget how Christian that particular Sabbath lyric is! Very amusing how much flack metal took from the church in the 80s, all the while “After Forever” dated back to Master of Reality in 1971! Granted, I’m certain that most Catholics wouldn’t appreciate the line “Would you like to see the pope on the end of a rope, do you think he’s a fool?”
Whether you are a believer (it’s not a requirement) or just a worshipper at the altar of St. Halen, Stryper serves up plenty of hot metal on Fallen. The modern grooves of “Heaven” and “Let There Be Light” are two that should appeal to many, and long time fans of Stryper will go bananas for the emphasis on melodies and choruses. And Stryper didn’t forget their ballad fans, either. “All Over Again” is a typical bombastic Stryper ballad, but not with the extra saccharine they used to utilize in the 80s. And if that is too bombastic for you, check out the acoustic version included as a Japanese exclusive bonus track. I think I prefer the bare acoustic version, but I’m also getting tired of getting acoustic versions as my Japanese bonus tracks. It seems the go-to bonus track lately has been the acoustic version.
Rest assured, Stryper have not Fallen. Quite the opposite. They continue to soar on mighty wings of metal.