Re-recordings? Who needs ’em? Well, in Stryper’s case, you might!
Let’s be blunt. There are some 80s bands who sound better today than they did when they were the most popular. Voices change, skills improve, but production values have also evolved. Stryper’s early albums were great but they don’t have the gut-punch sonics of Stryper today. What’s wrong with some older, wiser and heavier versions? It’s not as if Stryper were foisting these upon the fans instead of writing new music. They never stopped writing and releasing new albums. Second Coming is a nice treat, and also a way to get consistent versions of the old songs that can sit on a mix CD with the new ones.
Second Coming begins with the first EP (The Yellow and Black Attack), and the songs “Loud N’ Clear” and “Loving You”. They’ve never sounded heavier, and Michael Sweet’s voice is still a powerful one. Shame “You Know What To Do” wasn’t updated as well, since that’s such an awesome song.
Get in line, you soldiers, for up next is “Soldiers Under Command”. Sure, the voices aren’t as high as they once were, but sometimes an older voice has more character. That’s certainly the case for Michael Sweet, who is twice the singer now. “Soldiers” can stand proudly next to the original as a slightly different but no less excellent monument. There are a generous number of songs (six) from Soldiers Under Command, including a stunning “Reach Out”.
The beloved To Hell With the Devil album gets five more inclusions, including “Free” and “Calling On You”, though not “Honestly”. Second Coming is light on ballads, with only “First Love” representing them. In one way it’s cool that Second Coming is kept heavy. In another, it’s too bad we didn’t get new versions of tracks like “Honestly” or “I Believe in You”. There is also nothing from In God We Trust or beyond. (Granted, they already re-recorded that title track on 2005’s Reborn.) In essence, Second Coming collects some of the best and heaviest material from the first EP and two albums.
And new songs too! Since their triumphant reunion, Stryper have scarcely slowed down, releasing a constant stream of acclaimed heavy metal albums. The two new songs here are “Bleeding From the Inside Out” and “Blackened” (not the Metallica song). The heavy vibe continues. “Bleeding” has a solid, groovy riff and an adventurous arrangement including piano and patented harmonies. “Blackened” just slams. Robert Sweet’s one of the hardest hitting drummers out there, and that’s what he does on “Blackened”. Tim Gaines gets a bass groove going off that and it’s a slamdance from there. Count on melodies, solos and harmonies to help soften those jagged guitars.
Japan always gets the bonus tracks, and they got a good one this time. Second Coming needed more ballads; Stryper’s success always had a foot in ballads. “Together As One” is the added bonus track, a simple version with Michael accompanied by piano and strings. Lucky, lucky Japan!