Stryper kill it live. This is evident right from the starter’s gun on the band’s 2014 album Live at the Whiskey. Pulling no punches, they tear immediately into the Priest-like “Legacy” from the acclaimed No More Hell to Pay. Anybody who showed up that night expecting frills and lace hasn’t been paying attention.
Another newbie, “Marching into Battle”, which sounds as if it could have rolled off the same assembly line as Soldiers Under Command, wields riffs like swords. Vocal sweetening is unfortunately obvious. Most fans would prefer to hear bum notes or missed words over two Michael Sweets singing at once.
The first oldie is a goodie for sure: “You Know What to Do”, followed immediately by “Loud N’ Clear”, both from the original Yellow and Black Attack. As if trying to cram all their best early hooks into this one segment of the show, the trinity of “Reach Out”, “Calling to You” and “Free” are rolled out one by one. Robert Sweet (Stryper’s “visual timekeeper”) is far heavier live, imbuing the songs with more tonnage.
Heavier metal returns on “More Than a Man” which could have been Iron Maiden if the lyrics weren’t about receiving Jesus in your heart. After “The Rock That Makes Me Roll”, Stryper returned to their present day with the awesome “No More Hell to Pay”, riffy and slow, like soaring Dio-era Sabbath. “If the dawn reveals the end of days, I’ll follow You till there’s no more hell to pay.” It’s a catchier chorus than it reads, and it’s followed by “Jesus is Just Alright With Me” which is basically all chorus and guitar solo!
Stryper didn’t ignore their most pop album, 1988’s In God We Trust. The hit single “Always There For You” is stripped bare of its keyboards and re-arranged for blowing speakers. Even Against the Law, from a brief period when Stryper dropped religion from their lyrics, is visited. “One For All” was one of the heavier tracks from that great LP, and the lyrics maintain a positive outlook. Focus then returns to the first cluster of albums with “The Way”, “To Hell With the Devil” and of course “Soldiers Under Command”. No more mistaking the message now! “Oh, oh, oh, what did you say? Oh, oh, oh, Christ is the way!” In the early days, Stryper were far less poetic, but they sure were heavy.
As is the norm, Japan received a bonus track for their pressing of Live at the Whiskey, and it’s actually a studio song. “All of Me” is the only ballad on the album, a spot-on re-recording from To Hell With the Devil. Aside from the lower key, it’s almost identical. One has to assume it’s an also-ran from 2013’s Second Coming album. Can’t have too many ballads on one album, of course. Valuable bonus tracks are always appreciated. This one came as a bit of a surprise.